I was one of those people who always tried to eat reasonably healthily. That means I would eat mostly healthy things most of the time with the occasional treat. But then I discovered I was doing it all wrong.
First a note about nutritional science.
Nutritional science is dubious at best. Conducting a reliable study requires monitoring exactly what tens of thousands of genetically diverse people eat every day for decades. Unsurprisingly, this is nearly impossible to achieve which is why there aren’t reliable nutritional studies that definitively confirm what is good and what is not.
The most prominent example of this is the sugar vs. saturated fat debate of the late 20th century which resulted in a dramatic reduction of saturated fat in the western diet. To replace those lost calories, huge quantities of sugar have been added into processed foods for decades. Only now has the scientific community started to turn this idea on its head and claim that sugar is the real problem and saturated fat is fine as long as you don’t have too much.
Because of this lack of scientific consensus, I adopted the paleo philosophy which boils down to this: Since humans are essentially just another kind of animal that evolved in a hunter gatherer environment, then it stands to reason that our biologies are adapted to the foods which were accessible during this time – meat, fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts.
The 30 day experiment.
I have never had a weight problem but I have always been interested in the physiological effects of a more natural diet. When a friend told me about a particular 30 day paleo diet he was trying out I decided to finally put theory into practice.
The diet was one of the many variants of the paleo diet and can be summarised as 4 main rules:
- No Sugar (refined or added)
- No Grains (wheat, rice etc)
- No Dairy
- No Alcohol
I struggled for the first week as I realised that pretty much everything bought ready made from the supermarket fails one or more of these rules. Being a big fan of ready meals and bought lunches this resulted in a complete diet replacement.
|Breakfast||Oats with Milk||Nuts and Fruit, Eggs|
|Lunch||Store Bought Wrap (sugar in the sauces)||Tuna/Chicken, Avocado, Olives, Olive Oil and Spices|
|Dinner||“Healthy” Ready Meal (loads of sugar in these)||Meat/Fish and Vegetables (Broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, Aubergine), Eggs|
|Snacks||Chocolate, Fruit||Nuts and Fruit|
I have always been a water drinker. Stop drinking juice or carbonated sugar drinks. They are killing you – google it.
A side effect of this change is that I became more mindful of what I was eating. I realised that people really don’t vary their diets very much. If you closely look at what you eat right now I bet that you probably eat the same thing every day for both breakfast and Lunch. And if you do mix it up it is probably between 2-3 variations. I would also guess that you have followed this routine for years and probably even since childhood. Dinner might have a bit more variation but again we always tend to keep within a small range of typical options (Incidentally the same goes for clothes).
This actually makes changing diet quite easy. All you need to do is develop a handful of new meals to replace your old ones without having to worry about learning loads of new recipes.
- In about a week I felt a huge increase in energy and started to sleep about 30 mins less.
- Lost 3kg in the first month and 2 kg in the second month.
- Guy friends started to comment on the clarity of my skin – this is culturally unusual for a man to say to another man.
- I found that my sense of taste adjusted to enjoy the natural flavours of unprocessed food. I actually stopped liking a lot of the things I used to like eating.
After the 30 days.
There was no way I was going back to my old ways. I have maintained this diet ever since but without being as super strict as I was during the initial 30 days.
I think it is unrealistic (and a bit unsocial) to maintain an extremist diet 100% of the time. However, it is entirely possible to do it most of the time. I stick to the diet at all times except in social situations like meeting a friend or special occasions like birthdays (cake!). For me, this results in about 3-4 unhealthy eating occurrences in a week. That’s not a bad ratio considering I consume about 21 meals per week.
It is important to realise that we aren’t much better than crack addicts except that we use sugar and simple carbohydrates to get our highs. The effects of this substance abuse aren’t much better than crack – we forget what normal feels like and crave our next hit so that we can feel good again. How about we just stop using and feel good all the time?
I suggest following the four rules for 30 days just to see how you go – I think you will be amazed at the result. If you are too piss weak to do that then the very least you can do is cut out all sugar for 30 days and I suspect you will still get most of the benefits.