Here’s what I know. If you are an American, and you are reading this post, odds are that you have a terrible diet. Not an American? If you are from some other country, odds are that you have a slightly better diet depending on where you’re from. If you’re a time traveler coming from a time several hundred years in the past, you probably have a pretty good diet. As your diet is bad, you are likely overweight. I know I’m overweight, I know that I’ve spent most of my life eating the Standard American Diet. As I began to move past my 20’s (when your body can gain nutrition from just about anything) I began to get fatter, sicker, and more miserable. I also began to get less sleep, work longer hours, spend less time being active, and generally speaking was unhealthy.
In 1998 I was 22 years old, and in May had just returned from basic training in Fort Sill Oklahoma. I weighed 189 pounds, and had a body fat percentile of somewhere around 6%. I could run 2 Miles in under 16 minutes, I could do at least 75 Push-ups in 2 minutes, I could do at least 65 Sit-ups in 2 minutes, and I could easily hike 10 Miles (or more) carrying 60 pounds (or more) of gear and equipment.
Fast forward almost exactly 19 years and I weighed 320 Pounds, felt like I was about to die from walking 2 miles in an hour, could only do 20 push-ups (10 Comfortably), maybe 20 sit ups, and if I tried carrying any extra weight while I walked 2 miles I would likely have had to be taken to the hospital. I needed a CPAP machine to sleep, and had to take a blood pressure pill every day.
Over the intervening 19 years I had gone through phases of “getting healthy” I took Taekwondo, went to the gym, changed diets, and any other way you can think of to “get back down to fighting weight”. Very few things worked at all, and nothing worked permanently. After I got my Blood Pressure prescription I decided it was time to make a drastic, but manageable change. As overall fitness is 80% diet, and 20% exercise I started getting serious about diet first. I will certainly have other posts about exercise, and what I do specifically, but I want to start with diet, because without a good diet you can exercise all you want and still stay sick, fat, and dying fast. Note: I am not a nutritionist, this is what I did, and my opinions on the matter of dietary health. To Show you what’s possible, 2 Pictures of me:
As you can probably guess, the top picture is the before, and the bottom is the most recent one. Please forgive the photo quality of both. The astute among you will note that I still have a long way to go to be fit, but you can also see the staggering improvement in my body composition. Aside from the number on the scale, my body has changed dramatically. I have much more muscle than when I started, and am measurably stronger. How did I eat to get here? Well, I’ll tell you.
Make Certain You Create Manageable, and Permanent Change in Your Diet.
Fitness is a marathon, not a sprint. I have had lasting success not because I dove head first into a new way of eating, but because I have taken small, deliberate steps over the course of almost a year. I eliminated the easiest stuff first by making the conscious decision not to buy it. When I was able to be consistent with one or two small changes, I added more small changes. Over time the small changes I could manage added up to a huge change.
Please don’t take the information below to mean that I follow this advice myself 100% of all of the time. I still occasionally go out and get Ice Cream with my family, I still occasionally eat at a restaurant, I even have a few beers once and a while. Permanent, sustainable change does not mean completely divorcing yourself from those things you love to eat. Your journey will be faster than mine if you do, but if you are okay with a slower pace do it my way. You’ll get there happier.
Do it on purpose.
Most of the work in making any change is to be deliberate in your actions. When I worked as a financial advisor for a Big Four financial services firm, one of the things I told my clients was: Do it intentionally. By that I mean: make a conscious decision to do everything in your daily life. Eat intentionally, sleep intentionally, work intentionally, play intentionally, and love intentionally. Most of the time, if you do it on purpose its the right thing to do. Don’t just do stuff. Don’t just react. This is also called Mindfulness, be Mindful. Think about what you are doing before you do it.
Track Everything You Do.
Be accountable. Find some way to keep yourself accountable for your food. I am a geek, I like tech, I like gadgets, and I like using the most efficient methods for doing things. I do not like being coached. For me, the best method for developing accountability was to use the My Fitness Pal website and App. Now, it is important to note that I do not use this tool to count calories, not really. I don’t necessarily think that calories are the thing you need to be focusing on. The science behind calorie counting is flawed. I do pay attention to the calories listed on the app, but primarily because those foods that I want to limit or avoid tend to be higher on the calorie counter anyway due to being high in both sugar and bad carbs.
If not calories then why?
What the app really does for me is help me be accountable to myself, and make deliberate food choices. For some reason, when I have been about to buy a sandwich for lunch, eat at MacDonalds while traveling, grab a Doughnut from the break room, eat a cookie, or even make an English Muffin with Creamy Skippy on it I think about entering it into the app, and most times I stop myself. I also get a lot of gamified satisfaction from hitting the “submit” button at the end of the day, and being under my calorie goal. Again, the number of calories we consume is far less important to our overall health than where those calories come from, but accountability is key.
What if you aren’t like me?
With the above in mind, it is important to note that I am an internally motivated person. I don’t like coaching, don’t like being told what to do, don’t like receiving unasked for advice, and generally have massive amounts of anxiety when discussing something as personal as my diet with a relative stranger. You may not be like me. There is nothing wrong with being externally motivated, and needing coaching. If you do there are lots of resources out there, but as I have never done it I won’t write about it.
The Actual Food.
The eating philosophy I proscribe to is called the primal diet. I chose this diet specifically because I can stick with it. The science behind the primal, paleo, and ketogenic diets is essentially the same. The primary difference in the three is what ends up on the “allowed” food list. The science states that for most of the history of mankind there were only certain foods that we ate. As such our bodies are well adapted to process certain types of food. As we were hunter/gatherers this food primarily consisted of plants and animals. For me, the primal diet is the what I can do. Primal is the least restrictive of the 3 diets, and allows for dairy, coffee, and even potatoes.
Please follow the links above, and make your own choice about which of these three you can manage effectively. I can tell you that many sources are of the opinion that the fastest weight loss results are found in the keto diet, followed by the paleo diet, and finally the primal diet. I have personally seen evidence that the keto diet is not sustainable, and for me the paleo diet is not sustainable, but make your own choices. As I write about the recipes I use they will be from the primal perspective, but if you are on a keto or paleo plan you can alter them with little difficulty.
An Average Daily Menu
Breakfast- This is 3 Eggs (from my own chickens) fried in a bit of olive oil, and green tea to drink. Coffee on the weekends.
Snack 1 – This is usually a lighter snack like an Apple.
Lunch – Typically 3 Ham & Cheese Rolls, Baby Carrots, and Cherry Tomatoes.
Snack 2 – Usually a larger snack like 1 Cup of cottage cheese. My afternoon snack is bigger because I go to the gym after work.
Supper – This is some sort of meat, a green vegetable, and an orange vegetable.
All Day – I drink lots of water. I drink between 15 and 20 cups of water each day.
How we eat will determine what our body becomes. No matter how much we exercise, if we are eating improperly we will never have the body shape we want. Eat real food. For the most part if we can’t pronounce the ingredients we shouldn’t eat it. Our food should be as minimally processed as humanly possible. There will be articles here about what I’m eating. Articles about what food we should all eat, and how I go about making it. There will even be articles about raising, and growing my food. Just like any other story, the long journey is the one we care about. Where you are in 3 months is less important than where you are in 30 years. Do everything on purpose! Thanks for stopping by!