Since just a few days after the New Year, I've been on a new diet. Thus far, it's been a success in the sort of way that I think all good diets should be:
- I have been losing weight at a fairly consistent rate (about 2lbs per week on average)
- My energy levels are the same or higher than before the diet started
- I do not constantly crave or fantasize about food
- I can feel and notice an increase in my stamina as I exercise
Some diets I've tried in the past have resulted in rapid weight loss (maybe 4-5lbs a week) but I was unable to stay on them consistently. It felt like like a type of torture and every day was horrible. I felt tired and weak, I constantly thought about food, and I just struggled every day. This was especially the case for the Atkin's diet. In one case (many years back), I was able to lose a substantial amount of weight over about 3 months, but the weight came back pretty quickly within a year.
So what is my diet? It doesn't exactly have a name. It incorporates elements of the Atkin's diet, some of the grain-free stuff, and intermittent fasting -- basically, whatever I've found works for me. Here are the basic rules:
- Don't eat before 10am.
- Don't eat after 2pm.
- Minimize processed foods and sugars
- Minimize wheat (and grains overall)
- Mostly focus on protein -- no need to avoid fat from meat sources
- Eat slowly and stop when I feel full
- Eat meals, not snacks during this time (two small meals at say 10am and 1:45pm are fine, but avoid grazing)
- Lots of water
- Nothing with artificial sweeteners
- Coffee, tea, other non-caloric drinks are fine outside of the "eating hours"
This is the basic set of rules. I do make a few adjustments to this core set of rules. The adjustments are really to cover social situations where diets make social interactions frustrating or awkward. Eating with family and friends is a wonderful and enjoyable social experience, and I don't think that a diet should force that part of our life to be radically altered.
- No more than once a week, I can shift the times from 10am-2pm to 5pm-7pm provided I go to bed after 11pm.
- I have diet break days (where really anything goes) once a month (on average). This allows me to participate in things like holiday celebrations and birthdays with the family.
- Once a week, I allow myself a small amount of alcohol (whiskey, wine, cidar -- I try to stay away from beer) in the evening provided I go to bed after 11pm.
The social "adaptations" to this diet are not required, they're simply there to allow me to feel a little more human with other people. It's not as if I have to shift my schedule, or have a drink with friends, or even have a break day. In fact, I've found that on this diet, that I usually really restrain myself in these situations. It gives me the flexibility to not be the one guy who never has a glass of wine. But if I'm really not feeling like some, I can (and sometimes do) skip.
I've lost about 22lbs so far.
I previously had a number of issues related to diet:
- Constant or increasing weight
- Back pain almost every morning
- Trouble sleeping at night (sometimes)
- Lethargy in the afternoon/evenings
- Symptoms like those of IBS
These are basically gone.
The one change in my habits is that I sometimes do take an afternoon nap. I sometimes do feel a little tired about an hour or two after eating my mid-day meal. Also, mentally, I feel that it's quite helpful to nap for 30 minutes to an hour each day.
This diet works for me. I am not saying that this diet will work for you. I believe that one of the main problems with diets in general is that human bodies are very different and it's difficult to find something that works particularly well for just YOU.
A quick note about the statement about grains. I'm not a "gluten-free" person, nor do I think all people ought or should avoid grains. However, from my own anecdotal evidence, it seems I do better without grains in general. Rice is the best for me -- I can handle that pretty well. Quinoa also seems OK. I mostly avoid corn, but I have it in small amounts sometimes. Wheat seems to cause the most trouble for me. But oddly, not in all forms. For example, tortillas seem fine in most cases. In general, it seems like the puffier the bread, the worse it is for me. Those sourdough loaves or the sandwich bread at Subway are the worst. It may be that I'm actually sensitive to a preservative or something related to yeast, but I'm not really sure.
I think it's a good idea to spend time learning about what works well for your body in particular -- not just reading books, but experimenting on yourself. What can you handle and what can't you handle? How do different types of foods make you feel? Reading books and doing research is good, but ultimately, it's about what works for you physically (so you can feel good) and what works mentally (so you can stay on your diet).