I’d like to start the deep dive in this series with discussing the biggest change I’ve made (and likely what has created the biggest impact to date), my change in diet. I would not say that I’ve “gone on a diet”, as that generally implies a short term change made in an effort to lose weight. Instead, I’d say I’ve permanently changed the way I eat, as well as the way I plan to eat in the future. I firmly believe that if I went back to eating the way I ate in 2010, it would only be a matter of time before I came back to previous health, weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure (all to be documented in a future post), et cetera. So what’s the big change?
Over the years, I’ve heard of many people discussing low-carb diets, Atkins diets, et cetera, and never game them much credence. I had subscribed to the principles taught by my Junior High and High School Health teachers (who I don’t remember in hindsight being particularly healthy, but I digress), which basically stated that you should eat lots of grain, lots of fruit, lots of vegetables, and a little bit of fat – the traditional food pyramid. I had assumed this was all science which had been tested and proven true over the years, and was generally inarguable.
In hindsight, many years later, I realize that a lot of the things I was taught in school weren’t necessarily true, and in time, I finally came around to realizing there’s more to diet than the food pyramid, and that the food pyramid could indeed be fundamentally flawed to the point that it’s a significant cause of a lot of the health problems today (along with fast food, soft drinks, energy drinks and such).
Though I’ve read a lot about food over the past year (Michael Pollan, Andrew Weil, Bill Phillips, and others), the majority of the information I’ve taken to heart and implemented has primarily come from two authors: Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman)
and Gary Taubes (Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It
and Good Calories, Bad Calories). Their overall ideas are similar, but their end implementation is a bit different. Both propose that the cause of weight gain, and hundreds of related health problems, is generally rooted in insulin spikes causing, to possibly oversimplify to the point of making too simple, the body’s fat cell gates to open in one direction, causing calories to be stored rather than burned, leading to a weight gain loop. The theory is that by eating foods that don’t trigger insulin spikes, the gates open in the other direction, leading to a weight loss loop.
The recommended things to eat vary a bit between the authors, and I won’t go into deep details here (you can always follow the links above and pick up the Kindle books), but I’ve combined them a bit into a great level of success, dropping about 20 pounds since Christmas (charts to come soon in a later post in the series). I’ve also found that when switching back to eating the way I used to eat (which I’ve done while travelling, going to conferences, vacationing, et cetera), and I can put on weight at a rapid pace. So without further ado, here’s my general diet of 2011:
Breakfast (most every day)
- Uncured bacon – 3 slices
- Scrambled eggs – 3eggs or 2 eggs+egg whites
Lunch (when at work)
- Chipotle – Salad with black beans, pinto beans, chicken, mild salsa, medium green salsa, and guacamole (no cheese, no sour cream, and no rice)
- Cracker Barrel low-carb menu, with turnip greens, green beans, and salad
Lunch (when at home)
- Grilled chicken or hamburger (no bun, no cheese), broccoli or salad, cottage cheese or beans (kidney, black, pinto etc)
- Grilled salmon, grilled chicken or steak, salad, kale or spinach or mustard Greens, beans
When eating out
- Steak, chicken, or fish, a salad and greens or mixed vegetables (no potatoes)
- Protein shake (no sweeteners) with Green Drink powder
- Sodastream carbonated water with lemon/lime essence
- When traveling, mineral water or soda water
There’s some variety here and there, and I do usually take a day off once per week (or at least one meal off per week), and still have cake or ice cream when celebrating birthdays and such, but those types of foods are the exception rather than the rule. The big thing is that I rarely eat bread, rice, pasta, sugar, cookies, crackers, any sweetened soft drinks (with sugars or with fake sweeteners, so no Diet Coke). I try to eat greens with every meal other than breakfast (which I just haven’t been able to get into the habit of yet).
With this basic change in diet, and the addition of some supplements, I’ve dropped almost 20 pounds this year, and am back in the “normal weight range” for the first time in a really long time, and that’s almost without working out at all. One important thing to note is that with eating three eggs or more a day and a lot of meat, multiple people have told me they were sure I’d be sending my cholesterol through the roof. Taubes and Ferriss refute this in their books, but I decided to prove the results for myself by getting a physical and blood work done both before I started eating this way as well as 6 months after I started eating this way. And I have proof from the lab work that after 6 months of eating lots of steaks, bacon, and eggs, not only have I lost 20 pounds, but my cholesterol and triglyceride levels have improved. Since I’m also taking some supplements, I can’t say the percentage of what’s related to supplements and what’s related to diet, but I can say that all of my numbers have improved, and I have more energy than I did before I started. The actual numbers will be coming shortly, along with the charts from my Withings Wifi Body Scale.
Until then, I’d encourage doubters to check out any the books above and decide for themselves.