So on June 30th I decided I was going to make a change in my life. A few days prior I’d been at the doctor for a 6 month follow up (I was told to lose weight and lower my cholesterol). I had not only not lowered my cholesterol but my triglycerides had spiked as well, oh and I weighed exactly the same as before. I didn’t know what could have caused it, I mean I was eating lots of things I had been told were healthy like fruits and whole wheat instead of white versions of things like bread and pasta. I had also joined
crossfitX-train about 6 weeks prior so I was working out doing heavy cardio/weight lifting 4 or 5 times a week. So I was doing a lot more excercise than the average person.
I’m the type of person who likes to understand why things are the way they are rather than follow blindly (I was probably a REALLY annoying student in elementary school). I have seen my mom and countless others struggle with diets of different kinds over the years, and figured I wanted to know why some worked and others didn’t. Around the same time I picked up the 4 hour body book by Tim Ferriss, since I see this as a personal experiment, and he is all about hacking life. I also picked up the book Why we get fat by Gary Taube around the same time. So I read and read and took notes as to why each author speculates we get fat from a physiological perspective. Interestingly enough many people seem to think obesity is a PSYCHOLOGICAL problem rather than a physiological problem (i.e. all in your brain, and you can will yourself to not be obese, as if it were that easy).
One key theme from both books is that calories in vs calories out is bogus. Think about it for a second, if you were to eat 20 calories extra per day for a year you would gain 2 lbs of weight. 20 calories is like 4 peanuts; no one can that accurately track their day to day dietary intake vs burn rate. Its ludicrous to think that. They both also suggest calorie depravation is impossible to sustain (you’re basically starving yourself)
The other key theme is that fat accumulation is caused by sugar, and more specifically the hormone response to sugars. Sugar rich diets trigger an insulin response which tells your fat cells to store fat instead of burning it for energy. The key to fat burning is almost teaching your body to burn the food its consuming and not go into starvation mode and shift incoming food to fat reserves (remember fat = energy, and if the body thinks it is going to be in a deficit, it will shift food from muscles to fat cells).
So I decided to start with my own variation on 4HB’s slow-carb diet. The key points of slow-carb are high protein levels, high fiber (veggies/greens), normal fat levels, and low sugars/carbs. Similar to the paleo diet, which is actually even more strict in many ways, I tried whenever possible to eat grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, and other more holistic proteins. I cut out all sugars from my diet. Paleo diet discourages legumes, but I didn’t find enough scientific evidence to support this, so I didn’t cut it.
My diet was previously loaded with sandwiches, pasta, potatoes, rice, and fruits (juices as well). I didn’t give up milk products even though both Paleo and Slow-carb suggest you not touch them. I like cheese, and milk, and figured it was crazy to go completely cold turkey (though I might have lost more weight in the end).
I never passed up a beer that was offered to me either, beer is delicious who am I kidding. This one was surprisingly easy to give up actually. The hardest thing to give up was chocolate chip cookies. I LOVE cookies.
So this is what my diet consists of now
- Breakfast (every day within 45 min of waking up – one of following)
- 2 Eggs + 1 or 2 egg whites scrambled + bacon, or turkey sausage
- 2 eggs hard boiled (discard half the yolks) + sliced turkey or lean ham or chicken (if I don’t have time I boil the eggs the night before, bought a container to hard boil the eggs in microwave too)
- Mid morning snack (2 hours later – one of following)
- nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, brazil nuts) lightly salted
- piece of sliced turkey
- carrots with hummus
- Ostrim ostrich+beef jerky snacks, or low-fat beef jerkey (small amount).
- Lunch (one of following)
- salad with protein on it (tuna, chicken, or steak)
- protein with veggies (chicken or steak or fish if available)
- soup (if lentil or bean soup or a non-cream based soup is available)
- Afternoon snack (3-4pm)
- peanut butter – natural kind only peanuts + salt (by spoonful, probably 2 tablespoons) 6-8 oz of milk to wash it down
- nuts – handful
- hummus (sometimes i eat w/carrots, other times straight, prefer garlic hummus)
- Dinner (post workout – veggies or beans are usually combined with others)
- grilled chicken- usually marinated in herbs or chimichurri style sauce and flattened to cook evenly (on george foreman style grill)
- steamed veggies – string beans, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms
- turkey meat sauce – made with ground turkey, sugar free tomato sauce, mushrooms, peppers.
- grilled fish (though not very often)
- canned tuna or salmon on spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette
- red, white, or black beans with salsa (sugar free) – i often save half the beans to eat w/the eggs the next morning.
- Snack after dinner (occasionally)
- sugar free jell-o
- sugar free jell-o chocolate mousse
Note on 1 day a week I eat whatever the heck I want. Usually its on saturdays. Occasionally I have a glass of red wine with dinner or while cooking dinner. Key things that have helped: my cuisinart grill has made preparing food much simpler and quicker, storing food in ziploc portions ready to toss in a pan or grill or microwave has also made life more convenient.
So what have I experienced? My starting weight was 191lbs, and its now 180lbs (this was on August 1st, 2011). My waist I’ve lost 2 inches at my belly button and 1.5 inch around my waist (where my pants sit). All my clothes fit looser than before. So 6% body weight reduction in 1 month, and reduction in pant and shirt size as well. I’ve maintained my crossfit regimen and am improving steadily in strength and endurance.
Most people have asked me if I’m tired more often due to the lack of carbs, and honestly it hasn’t been an issue. I think I’m probably eating more calories now than before, just a better combination of calories. I have also begun to think more analytically of food from a chemical standpoint than before, I look at food to see what is likely to spike my blood sugar or insulin levels (I’m not diabetic, but think that insulin levels are the key source to obesity).
Would I do this again? Yup, I’m still doing it. My goal is to refine my diet a bit more in month two and see if I can reduce another 10lbs. I’m shooting for a total of 20lbs lost by my birthday on September 23.
If you’re interested in my recipes, please post a comment and I’ll follow up. Also please post comments on your experiences with the diet or weight loss in general.
You can also save some money with a Barnes and Noble coupon for Gary Taubes’ book.