Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Big Fat Diet

I'm the fat one in my family.  In high school I was six feet tall and weighed 150.  In a family with siblings at 6' 3 to 6' 5, weighing 120, I was fat.

I loved being called fat because as soon as I left my house, I was a skinny runt.  People say you shouldn't bully fat people, but they never talk about making fun of skinny people.  Believe me, the stigmas attached to skinny people are much worse than what fat people have to endure.  Fat people are jolly and usually have a good sense of humor.  Skinny people are scrawny, weaselly, whiny, pests who get no respect.  Case in pointfat hobbit vs. skinny hobbit:

Try as I might, I could never gain any thickness in high school.  I lifted weights, played football and basketball, and tried to eat more than my metabolism could handle. Eventually I gave up and was consoled by the fact that I could eat as much ice-cream and cheeseburgers as I wanted without it affecting my body.

I might also add that my mom and brother are hypoglycemic and I always figured I was mildly hypoglycemic (although never diagnosed) because if I went more than five hours without eating, I would get shaky and get a headache.

After two years in Brazil, eating beans and rice, pasta, and plenty of sweets from the corner bakeries, I was up in the 170s.  But I still had no visible fat to speak of.  Three weeks of sit-ups and I could get my abs looking greateven without any help from this flat stomach tip:

Then suddenly something started changing when I was about 24.  My flat stomach got bored with being flat.  I didn't really put on any weight, but I could no longer see my ribs or my ab muscles and three weeks of working out didn't cut it any more.

I needed to change something. in June of 2013, I started working out at my brother-in-law's CrossFit gym in Mesa.  
I fell in love with the style of high-intensity, constantly varied workouts that pushed me to improve at my own pace.  After six months, I'm stronger and faster than I ever was.  I can do more pullups and pushups than I ever thought was possible with my skinny little arms.  I feel better and have more energy.  But one thing is still missing, or not missing as the case may be—my belly isn't flat.  I know I have muscle under there, I just can't see it.

Despite my history of mocking calorie-counting and fad diets, I knew that the only way to get the results I really wanted was to change the way I eat.  Since getting into CrossFIt, I have been studying more about diet and how the body works to produce more energy and build muscle.  The most popular diet in the CrossFit community is the Paleo diet, which basically restricts you to eating what a cave man would eat.  This means no corn/grains, no rice, no sugar, no/limited dairy.  It's a high-protein diet of meats (grass-fed), vegetables, nuts, berries, and bulbs.  I wasn't really sold on the whole "cavemen were healthier than us" mantra, so I kept researching.

Then I ran into this article: What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes.  He asserts that all this low-fat, focus on calories mumbo jumbo is not based on science (yay! I love my meat and dairy!) but is propped up by the government because money/power/influence/politics.  Who gets the biggest subsidies? Corn, wheat, and rice.  Not vegetables, fruits, and meats.  We've been told for the last several decades that fatty foods are bad and that grains and carbohydrates are good.  What if the opposite is true? What is this pyramid is a fraud?

What does the science say?  It says that a diet heavy on grains, starches, and sugary carbohydrates does not allow insulin to efficiently regulate carbohydrates and fats in your body, which means you end up storing extra energy in your body as fat.  A low-carbohydrate diet eliminates the option of getting a quick fix of sugar from your bloodstream to give you energy.  It causes your body to burn fat to give you energy rather than burning carbs in a process known as ketosis.  It also eliminates the sugar cravings, highs, and carb crashes.

After learning the science I decided to try it out.  Danielle and I wanted to start with a one week cleanse.  We didn't do strict Paleo, because that's so hard only a cave man can do it.  I can't live without dairy.  We decided to stick with high-fat, low-carbs and just eliminate grains, corn, rice, starchy carbs, and sugar.  We ate lots of meat, vegetables, and fatty dairy.  As long as you avoid grain carbs and sugar, there is no limit to how many calories you can eat! Here are a few of the meals we ate:
  • Baked Mediterranean chicken with kalamata olives and zucchini cakes topped with Greek yogurt
  • Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce served over butter-sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
  •  Chicken Alfredo with enough cheesy sauce to cover half a plate of broccoli
  •  Angus beef roast with chipotle peppers and butternut squash topped with diced tomatoes, avocados, and cilantro 
  •  Chicken Parmesan with tomato sauce over butter-sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
  • Orange chicken salad with spinach, red romaine, other green leafs, and almonds
  • Pizza with chicken, bacon, mushroom, and green olive  (dough made from coconut flour and eggs)
  • Breakfasts: lots of eggs covered in cheese, sausage, bacon, yogurt, and fresh fruit.
  • Snacks: yogurt, berries, almonds 
The first 48 hours were not easy.  Sugar was everywhere.  It was easy to get full on rice, pasta, or bread.  I felt a bit dizzy and weak and even right after meals when I was full, I craved sugar.  We started last Thursday and by Sunday, I was feeling great.  The headaches that normally come with fast Sunday didn't come.  My body was starting to regulate itself and I no longer felt the afternoon food coma drowsiness I was used to.  I can now go longer between meals without snacking because my body is using stored fat instead of instant blood-sugar energy.

It's been one week and although my body is still not perfectly adjusted, I feel great and I'm optimistic that I will start seeing visible results as well.  While I will not keep carbs and sugar completely out of my diet, my goal is to limit them to occasional small portions.  With a necessary 5:1 ratio of protein/natural fats to carbs to keep the ketosis going, there is still room for a few guiltless pleasures.

If you think eating lots of meat and natural fatty foods is dangerous, read this, and read this and this.
If you still buy into the antiquated food pyramid daily recommendations for grains, read this.

Please share your thoughts, questions, doubts, comments below...


dinnertime said...

Glad you are finally seeing the light. I will never tell anyone that strict paleo (whatever that means) is the only way to go, but I definitely think that most people would benefit greatly from moving their diets more in that direction. Dairy is the big problem for me, it causes me inflamation. I ate pizza for lunch, and my knee is aching right now.

Jerry said...

yeah, I'm glad my body doesn't have a problem with dairy. I know it's bad for your teeth, but as long as I'm not lactose intolerant, I will never give up my milk.