First off, I want to say that I have never believed it “dieting”. Over the years as a personal trainer, I’ve seen many, many clients trying many, many different diets. From the Atkins, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Blood Type, The Zone, South Beach, Raw Foods, the Mediterranean, and the idiotic Baby Food Diet.
In my opinion, there is no best diet or particular eating regime. I’ve had much success with adhering to the following guidelines:
- Eat high quality foods and avoid crappy ones
- Avoid sugary foods, sweets, etc.
- Drink at least 64 oz of water every day
- Eat lean meat, fish, and chicken
- Eat low fat dairy
- Focus on complex carbohydrates such as brown rice and oatmeal
- Control portion sizes
The Problem With Dieting
As I said, I don’t believe in “dieting” as a way to reduce body fat or to get healthier. A diet is something we go on for a few weeks, months, or longer until we quit. Then, 80% of the time, we go back to eating like we did before, gain most or all of the weight back, and feel worse.
What’s even more disturbing is that when we gain all our original weight back, it is usually in the form of fat, not muscle. So basically we have less muscle than when we started. Less muscle equals slower metabolism. Slower metabolism equals fewer calories burned.
I don’t care what your goal is, you should be trying to get your metabolism as efficient as possible.
The Paleo “Diet”
The reason the Paleo Diet piqued my curiosity was a good friend and former client has had great success with it. Not the kind of success where you lose a bunch of weight fast (from water) and feel like shit, but rather from taking a different approach to eating.
The Paleo Diet is not so much a “diet” as it is a lifestyle change. If you’ve read my post on The Pros and Cons of the Paleo, you know there are some wonderful benefits to adopting this lifestyle.
Even with all the good things I’ve read about the Paleo, I was still skeptical. However what I was doing wasn’t working and after a few years of abusing my body and eating like shit, I decided to give it my best try.
There are several main reasons that I decided to try the Paleo:
- My health is suffering because of the poor foods I eat
- I need a change in my lifestyle
- This is a way to jumpstart my metabolism
- My energy level sucks and the the soda and sugar I’m drinking isn’t cutting it
- I have formed a small group of clients who are also doing the Paleo with me
- I have seen friends have great success with it
- There is only one way to find out if it works!
Over the last several years in particular, I have noticed a steep decline in my energy and an abnormally high increase in my body fat. For many months, I had virtually no energy, didn’t sleep well at all, and basically felt like shit all the time. I also stopped exercising for the most part, which just made things worse.
I knew that if I didn’t make a dramatic change in my lifestyle, I was going to start having serious health issues.
When I first decided to start the Paleo, I took inventory of my food pantry and refrigerator. As it turns out, 85% of the food I had was non-paleo. Shocker, I know…
As you can see below, the food I had wasn’t exactly what you would call healthy..
On the Paleo, we are not allowed to eat grains or dairy, which basically constituted 80% of my diet. I knew I could give up the pasta and rice, but I loooooooove cheese and milk. Could be a problem..
And since the Paleo is essentially a gluten-free diet, I had to give up all my favorites foods. I love gluten! If they sold it in a can, I would probably drink it!
Oh yea, I pretty much hate all vegetables.
I think I might be in trouble..
My Paleo Experiment
I started the Paleo one month ago today and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to last very long. The main reasons were that:
- It’s very expensive to eat high quality foods day in and day out
- I hate vegetables, which is where we get most of our cabs from on this diet
- I REALLY hate vegetables
But I decided to stay true to my commitment and have (begrudgingly) kept at it.
After tossing out all my junk food and leaving my pantry and refrigerator bare (goodbye Dr. Pepper), I went shopping for good food! I hadn’t been in the vegetable aisle in years and now found myself spending the majority of my trip there.
And although I loathe pretty much all veggies, I knew I had to eat them if this was going to work. Enter peppers, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower. Believe me when I tell you that I wasn’t happy to be spending $150 on a bunch of foods I had no interest in eating.
Now, after a month of forcing down every type of produce imaginable, I actually feel……great!
Here is my experience thus far:
- My quality of my food has improved dramatically
- My energy level is way higher
- I’m sleeping better
- My sugar cravings are almost nil
- Drinking nothing but water feels great!
- I have shed 5 pounds (mostly fat)
- I can see my abs again!!
- My bodyfat has gone down more than 2%
- I feel stronger, leaner, and healthier!
The Flip Side
With every upside, there is also a downside. While I look better and certainly feel better, I am still not sold on removing entire food groups from our diets. Eating quality foods like brown rice and skim milk is not bad. True Paleo advocates will tell you that our digestive systems cannot process these thing effectively, but do we really know that?
I would say that I know my body very well. I know how it responds to certain calorie limits and macronutrient ratios. My body responds very well to eating 55-60% of my calories from carbohydrates. Given that the Paleo is in essence, a low carb diet, I am struggling with hunger issues (and energy initially).
After a month of eating this way, I feel like my body has reset its base caloric needs and I am less hungry than before and am eating fewer calories. Knowing my body and body type, this is not sustainable for me. It’s very hard for me to keep my lean muscle tissue and even harder to gain muscle and without foods like oatmeal, milk and rice in my diet, I fear that I will lose too much weight.
I spent most of my adult life weighing less than 160 pounds and I do not want to get that low again.
My plan is to remain on the Paleo until I reach my goal of less than 10% bodyfat or 165 pounds, whichever comes first. I suspect it will take another 6-8 weeks to get there. At that time, I will reintroduce high quality complex carbs and limited dairy in an effort to gain (muscle) weight.
So I can honestly say that I feel like I made a good decision with revamping my diet and taking on the Paleo. And yes, I actually like (some) vegetables now….