I’ve been looking at Paleo dieting for a while, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned. I’ve also looked at a lot of other diets. I’m going to lay out a list of all the books I’ve read that offer a diet solution, either as the primary reason for the book, or as a corollary to a workout program.
- Body for Life
- Power of 10
- Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
- Four Hour Body
- The Warrior Diet
- Paleo Solution
- Lifetime Fitness Nutrition Guidelines
That’s a fair number. Each of them I think I remember well enough to follow off the top of my head, except for maybe Power of 10. So what has that gotten me? Not much, unfortunately. The only one that I followed even remotely well (greater than 50% compliance rate) was the Lifetime plan, and that’s because I was paying a personal trainer to stay on my ass about it. The rest were all novelties, more or less. They made good sense at the time (with the exception of the Warrior Diet, which I just couldn’t wrap my head around), and seemed like if I did them, they would probably work. So why didn’t I do them? Part of it was that the food they suggested just wasn’t appealing. Part of it was that they required a lot of work on my part outside of the actual eating. I’m a bit of a dichotomy in the planning department. I will spend weeks or months researching a tool or a toy, but I won’t spend 10 minutes planning my meals. Wacky.
So what inspired me to try Paleo? Honestly, it’s a preponderance of things. I’ve been reading diet blogs and watching videos on youtube and all for a while now, and the conclusion that I’ve come to is that sugar is bad for you. Processed, refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup specifically. So I cut soda out of my diet coming up on two years ago. I’m a teetotaler with alcohol (don’t even like it in my food), but I’m slightly less strict with juices and soda and stuff. I’ll have a small glass of juice or something sometimes (maybe once a month?), and I went on vacation last month and drank a fair amount of soda. But normally, it’s water for me and that’s it. This video was a primary reason for that:
Watching that and realizing that I was drinking probably 1000-2000 calories a day (in addition to all my food) really got me thinking. So I decided to cut that out of my diet. Cold turkey, from easy 2+ liters of soda per day (on average. Some days it was probably more like 6 liters) to none. It was surprisingly easy. Even when we have soda in the house, it’s never tempting. So that helped, I’m sure. I also started running quite a bit around the same time, and lost quite a bit of weight. It worked well for a while, but I ended up getting sick or distracted or something, stopped running, got more distracted, and then gained back the weight.
We got into a new house, I found some running paths, we joined a gym, etc. Things were going pretty well. My trainer got me on track and I lost a good amount of weight by counting calories and working out hard a few times a week. I lost fat, gained muscle, and everything was going well. It was expensive though, and we couldn’t maintain it for very long. Once we were no longer seeing the trainer (and even a little before that, if I’m being honest) my diet had gone to crap again. So I’ve been slowly gaining back the weight I lost, even though I’ve been trying to stay active. My diet just cannot be overcome with exercise. I eat too much food, for one thing. I’m a big guy, and my daily maintenance calories are like 3500 or something. It’s a lot. But when you add up all the candy, cheeseburgers, french fries, tacos, nachos, popcorn, etc. that I eat, there’s no way that I can burn enough to keep myself fit, even at 200 cal/mi (which is high since I’m so heavy). I would get repetitive stress injuries or pulled muscles or something long before I got to that level of exercise. The only solution is to adjust my diet in a way I can live with long term.
So I start reading various books, watching some food documentaries, etc. Here’s one I watched early on and really liked. Just watched it again last night and with what I’ve learned since my first viewing, it’s even better than i remember it being.
Fat Head – This is a response to Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” of a few years ago. In SSM, Morgan eats McDonald’s for three meals a day for 30 days. He has to eat everything on the menu at least once and if the clerk asks him to supersize he must do so. Fat Head sees Tom Naughton do a similar 30-day fast food stint. He doesn’t limit himself to McDonald’s though. He’ll eat anywhere with a drive-through. The differences being that he’s limiting himself to 100 grams of carbohydrate per day, and he’s keeping his total daily caloric intake around 2000. He goes into a lot of the science of health and discusses the history and fallacy of the lipid hypothesis. The lipid hypothesis states that fat makes you fat, more or less. it’s a bunch of junk, and Tom shows why and how it got propagated despite being junk. Fascinating, depressing stuff. But anyway, as you might have guessed, Tom loses weight and feels better after his 30 days are up. He has a physical before and after and all his health markers moved in the right direction. He is still very healthy by any account. The point is that overeating (Spurlock claimed to average over 5,000 calories per day) and soaking up tons of sugary drinks and french fries will make you fat. Duh. You can eat crap food and still get healthier, if you’re eating reasonable portions of it. It’s actually easier to eat reasonable amounts of fatty foods because fat makes you feel full faster than carbs. So yeah, great movie. Highly recommended, especially if you bought into Super Size Me. He rips it apart and shows it for the trash it really is.
I also find the book Four Hour Body by Tim Ferriss at Costco and my wife and I are intrigued. We start reading it and really liking what we’re seeing. We both think about getting started on it, but we just never do. The plan is incredibly simple, but not very appealing. Lean meats, veggies and beans at every meal. Including breakfast. We just never get off the ground with it. I have another friend who does, though, and lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks. When I saw him afterward, it looked like the fat has just been peeled off his body. Crazy stuff.
I have a few friends who do Crossfit, and paleo eating is pretty popular among that crowd. They start losing weight like crazy, even the husband who isn’t doing it very consistently. I have another friend who thinks he might have a gluten sensitivity, so decides to go grain free. He drops 20 pounds in a month and feels better than he ever has. Another friend decides to give it a try as well. He’s already been losing weight due to a lot of physical activity, but he notices that his sleep has gotten much better, and he just feels better in general.
So here we are. Finally, in the face of all of this, I decide that paleo is the way to go. I read “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. He recommends a 30-day trial. Try it his way for 30 days and see how you look and feel. What do you have to lose? Worst case you went 30 days without some foods you like. best case, you’ve found a way to be healthy and fit for the rest of your life. It’s a no-brainer. He even specifically says that he knows you won’t be perfect. You’ll probably slip up or have a business dinner or something and eat something you shouldn’t. it may slow you down, but it’s not going to stop you. I like diets that aren’t so precarious that one little slip on your part makes all the hard work meaningless.
I’m on day two. Eating eggs, nuts, some fruit, quite a few veggies and a lot of meat. I will, of course, keep you posted.