Well, that isn’t all true. I did eat less sugar, mostly by cutting out Coke and fruit juice and all the other fattening food that I use to enjoy. I also stopped eating most of the yummy carbohydrates that doctors have been telling me for years would reduce the risk of heart disease. To compensate, I added substantial amounts of protein and fat (yes, even saturated fats), mostly in the form of bacon, because bacon is awesome. I still eat lots of carbs, just the kind that are more slowly digested (beans and lentils).
All of those changes in what I eat (I don’t like to call it a “diet”) take place six days a week, and on the seventh, I get a cheat day! Initially that was a terrifying thing to behold, but after the first month, my cravings for fattening food (bread, fruit, etc.) had pretty much evaporated, so it devolved into a simple quest to stimulate leptin release. Besides the necessary aspect of the cheat day, there was a psychological perk that made everything sustainable. If I saw something that I really thought looked tasty during the week, I would just remember it for cheat day and magically I was fine going without, except for french fries, they still kill me.
But why! The answer that would make the most sense is that I was trying to avoid the heart disease and such that are pretty common for the men in my family, but sadly, it was nothing so noble. Hell, if anything, that bonus result has me concerned about my retirement account, which was doing great if I only had to make it last 5 years, but now is looking pretty darn anemic. No, my reason was curiosity. My buddy Tim had been on the same plan for about a year, but it wasn’t just his awesome progress that caught my attention, it was the cognitive dissonance that his explanations caused. Having seen the insanely poor results of most diet plans, I knew something about the basic mindset of the calorie counting and blaming dietary fat was just wrong. I don’t actively try to be exclusively contrarian, but when an opportunity to investigate a huge flaw in commonly accepted knowledge arises, I just can’t resist!
Oddly though, I have little desire to debate or discuss this topic with people that think I have it all wrong. Maybe it is that we are in an election year? Trust me, I have tried discussing the topic of what and how I eat, but an overwhelming wave of apathy consumes me when we get to the part of the conversation where the person I am talking to refuses to acknowledge the supremacy of results matching a theory.
That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy explaining what is working for me though, or sharing my understanding of why it works with people that are curious, but I am guessing that reading a book would help most folks much more. The plan is based on the The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, but there are probably multiple similar plans that might work just as well if not better for others. I have seen good results with the Wheatbelly diet (don’t eat wheat), the paleo diet (rawr, i r caveman), and even the low carb diets, which people often confuse the Ferriss diet with because it is called a slow-carb diet, because again, it includes quite a bit of carbs.
The basics are as follows:
1) Don’t trust whitey. Actually, that was from the movie The Jerk now that I think about it, but still, it is the first rule. To be more accurate, it is white carbohydrates that you are supposed to avoid (or anything that can be white when processed), you know, the tasty ones, like rice, potatoes, pasta, bread. If I lost you there, fine, I can’t blame you, but seriously, for some of us, they are about the most fattening food we can eat. And no, you can’t eat whole grains, brown rice, or anything like that. Read the book if you want to understand the details. Also, “Lord loves a workin’ man” and “see a doctor and get rid of it “where the other parts of rule 1 according to Navin, but I am not certain that they apply here.
2) Stop trying to be so fancy. If you try to make a big elaborate dish for every meal, with every mouthful being a savory reward for your awesomeness, you will likely not do well on this plan. Keep it simple. Find a few dishes you like and stick to them until you have a good baseline, then do basic science and change just one thing to see how it influences your progress. To be sustainable you will obviously need to have some variety, but don’t let that be a big part of your plan. Learn to think of food as fuel, and educate yourself on how your body deals with the things you eat and if you are like me you will be content with one day a week of culinary joy.
3) Don’t drink calories. Seriously, this was a huge problem for me. I drank way too much coke and orange juice (2 gallons a week was common, but it was the good stuff, fresh squeezed, organic, healthy I thought). Now I mostly drink water, with some lemon, which for some reason is ok even though it is a fruit. Thankfully I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t like diet drinks, so I am not tempted to work those into my day, even though some people have success with them.
4) No fruit, seriously! It is the fructose (sugar) that is the problem. I know that I just lost most of the rest of you that believe that the secret to good health is plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, minimal saturated fats, and plenty of exercise to match your calorie intake. I grew up being told the same thing, and I believed it, yet somehow, no matter how hard I tried, that didn’t work for me. Now I understand why. If you want to understand why, I strongly suggest Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes. Just assume he is completely wrong and do your own research to see if his wrongness is a better match for reality than the more commonly accepted theories.
Rule #5: On the seventh day, eat the stuff you have been missing. It is pretty much a free day to go nuts, but most folks find after a few belly busting days that it really isn’t worth the misery with their new body. Typically it takes me 3 or 4 days to get back to where I was before the cheat day, but it isn’t a race, so I don’t worry about the day to day variations. Slow steady progress that is sustainable is good enough for me!
More details are all over the web at places like http://www.4hourlife.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/4-Hour-Body-Slow-Carb-Diet-ENGLISH.pdf if you don’t want to read the book just yet. These rules don’t cover everything (like you need a rule to tell you that sugar is bad), but they cover the highlights. The big thing the rules don’t cover, and by a long shot the most important aspect for me was that it is just a starting point. Tim Ferriss strongly suggests taking LOTS of data and adjusting things to see what works best for you. To imagine that we all work the same is insane. Hell, like Tim’s dad, I don’t follow rule #3 because I often have a protein shake for breakfast to get 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up, but thanks to a ton of data collection I found that this worked better for me than waiting until I got to work to eat my “approved” breakfast. I also do intermittent fasting, not because I believe or even understand the science behind what many might call a “fad”, but because for me it really works, and results count more than some nerd on the internet telling me I am wrong.
If you are thinking this all sounds like it might be interesting, but probably too much of a hassle, it really isn’t. My non-protein shake breakfast takes about an hour to make, but I make enough for 2 weeks at a time, so that ends up being around 5 minutes/day. Lunch is a bit more of a pain, well at least for people that join me for lunch and don’t want to eat at Chipotle. I didn’t eat there EVERY day, just most days because their burrito bowl with no rice, extra vegetables, avocado, and lettuce is still tasty after 6 months. Yeah, you have to skip the cheese and sour cream, and go light on the salsa, but those don’t really add as much as you might think to the tastiness. Besides being delicious, the ingredients are fresh, mostly organic, and the meats are about as healthy as you can get (hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed). Dinner is usually a salad (with some beans and meat, because that is the deal) or leftovers from lunch with more veggies added to fill the bowl back up. When I get tired of the same old thing I mix things up a little bit, but I am usually back to the regular rotation after a day or two.
One last thing to clarify. I do exercise, in the sense that when I hack my body to keep all the energy from getting stored as fat and instead let it course through my bloodstream antagonizing my muscles to do something, I tend to be more active. I have been playing the drums lately, to the point where my muscles in my arms, legs, and back feel the burn (imagine a less hairy version of Animal from the muppets). I often go for a long walk on my cheat day, because society doesn’t let me go to the mall and slap hipsters, and I feel compelled to burn off all the extra crap I eat, not because of the calories, but because I just feel like sitting might kill me. I also often walk around the office with a kettlebell or such while making my rounds, just because.
So yeah, the title may be a bit misleading, but not really. Fifty pounds in six months.