Before you read the title of this blog post and think that I spent the week ingesting only pickled lamb’s tongues, let me just say, it’s not like that.
The experimental diet in question isn’t so much strange as an ongoing test of what works best for my body and I am happy to say that it has been quite the success. For those of you wondering what the heck I’m talking about, here is some backstory.
I have always been fairly healthy, minus a few bouts of anxiety in college and a strange year of high blood pressure that has never since recurred. That said, I sit at a computer for 40-50 hours a week and I don’t get out to exercise as much as I’d like. So I don’t always feel as “on top of the world” as I’d like. I’ve been gluten free for almost four years now and in that time I’ve managed to avoid most major junk food categories by default but of late, I’ve been relapsing.
So, there were many chips, beer on weeknights, and a new habit for borrowing from my wife’s candy stash. It wasn’t good. In April and May I packed on a healthy 12 pounds – at first muscle as I have a gym membership, but as work increased and gym-time decreased, it was clearly not muscle.
To top it off I had developed a habit for drinking coffee almost every day – not unheard of considering my son is 11 months old and doesn’t know that he’s supposed to sleep alone yet, but it was taking its toll. So, I was tired, not always excited to be awake and less productive than I wanted to be in many cases.
End of Backstory
So, last week, I took action. A friend of mine from a PLR seller’s forum shared a book she had written about the Paleo diet with me and I was very impressed. The actual Paleo diet isn’t for me because I’m a pescatarian, but that said, I was thoroughly impressed with the way the diet cut out unwanted processed foods, caffeine, sugar and alcohol without apology. This diet didn’t focus on replacement like so many do; it just removed the bad.
I liked that idea. Replacement is a slippery slope. It’s easy to replace one vice with another and as a result, I start eating things I shouldn’t again very quickly. Flat removal tends to last longer and when you feel so much better, you find it much harder to cheat (at least I do).
Thus began my dieting experiment. Here’s what it looked like:
- No Processed Foods – Period. I cut out the potato chips, candy, frozen taquitos from Trader Joe’s and anything else that was processed or contained processed ingredients. It’s a long list, but when you only buy whole ingredients, it’s not that big of a change. You can still make all the stuff you enjoy; it just takes longer than microwaving. Simple enough.
- No Sugar, Alcohol, or Caffeine – Much harder. So much harder. My wife showed me an article the other day about how sugar actually creates and addictive response in the brain. People who eat a lot of sugar become resistant to dopamine releases and therefore need to eat more sugar to get the same rush. It was interesting because it showed a possible addiction-link to obesity and may change how such cases are treated. For me, it outlined just how serious a sweet tooth can be. I have gone on sugar-free diets before in my life and always felt awesome, and the slope back down was always steep and fast. Caffeine is the only area in here I’m willing to compromise on – I mean come one. I have an 11 month old kid who wakes up every 2 hours.
- LESS Bread and Grains – I can’t go grain free. I’m sorry, but that’s just not an option for me. I lived four years of gluten free purgatory and just now it’s getting easier to find foods I can eat and I won’t let it go. BUT, the days of eating toast for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and bread with my soup are gone. I’m limiting bread intake to 1 serving per day and replacing refined flours and grains with whole options like brown rice and quinoa. Same carbs; much healthier shape.
- No Snacks – I stopped snacking on “snack food”. A funny thing has happened though. I’m friggin’ hungry ALL THE TIME. I eat a meal and two hours later I’m starving. My body is quite literally forcing me to eat 5 meals a day and in the last week I lost 3 pounds of fat – coincidence? Maybe, but it’s still cool. Better yet, I am starting to really look forward to carrots and hummus or almond butter and apples as my post-lunch, pre-dinner meal.
- Flexibility – This is just me, but the stricter the rules I set for myself, the more likely I am to break them. I need to go in with a very clear idea of what is and isn’t allowed. Not just a blanked “NO”. Black and white dieting doesn’t work for me. Heck, dieting doesn’t work for me. It needs to be lifestyle – complete and 100% change to how I live and eat. When I do that and allow that when I go out of the house, I will probably eat stuff I shouldn’t and when my son has a bad night I’ll probably snag a coffee, life is much easier.
It’s been one week, but let me just say that I feel really good. Like really, really good. I woke up today at 5:30 am…without an alarm clock. I just knew I needed to wake up then and so I did. Holy crap, that’s awesome. Plus, I am staying active longer with my son (who is a holy tornado of energy), going to the gym more often and getting more work done in less time.
Yeah, this was a really good idea.
As for weight loss and all that, the goal of this diet was not to lose weight. Yes, I had packed on a couple extra pounds in recent weeks, but I’m not an overweight guy. In fact, my last two doctors and my mom have pointed out on more than one occasion that I am a little too skinny for my build. So, that’s not what I’m doing. This is about health and energy and giving myself the nutrients and energy needed to not only get more done and enjoy life better, but to ALSO go to the gym and build muscle and gain weight as I’ve been instructed to do 🙂
The Bottom Line
While I can’t recommend this lifestyle highly enough, the point of this post is to say that you need to do what works for you. I don’t know if what I’m doing is an actual diet – probably. But, I do know it makes sense for my body and I feel great. In my eyes, there are three very important things that make up any good diet.
- No Processed Foods
- No Refined Flours as Snacks
- No Addictive Foods like Sugar, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Alas Cheese (sigh…)
Do those three things and I guarantee you’ll feel like a million bucks, whether you eat nuts, beef and chicken, or you stick to salads and vegetable stew.
After reading through this article about your diet experiment it’s clear to me that my diet is pretty horrible. While I do my best to stay away from the processed foods and make homemade meals nearly every night, I rely heavily on grains, and cheese in most of the meals I put together.
I may have to reevaluate my diet and see if it makes me feel any better during the day.
I don’t know Ben – I’d say you’re doing pretty well if you make your own meals and avoid the processed stuff. That’s where I always have the biggest problems. I was a cheese fiend and frankly have been unsuccessfully completely removing it from my diet (though I feel I did pretty well at cutting down on it this last week). It’s crazy how much better you can feel though – it’s like a 24/7 energy boost.