Everyone is different so I won’t claim the way I do things is the end-all, be-all, but done correctly, my diet works – and on something much more important than scale readings… My diet works where it counts, in the mirror. Also, and most important, I don’t shoot for perfection. I want to look good and I want to be healthy. I don’t spend hours on end trying to sculpt my body and I definitely don’t eat boiled chicken and broccoli every day for years on end. Not that there’s anything wrong with that for those who choose a life of food celibacy, if what you desire is 4% body fat, go for it! On the other hand, if you’re like me and want to play the field a little bit (food-wise, of course) and twigs and leaves just won’t get it, then something must be done to balance the equation. Balance is the only way I know to keep from ending up looking like Goodyear sponsors me.
That said, the diet industry is just that, a multi-Billion Dollar a year Industry. The idea behind the industry is to get you, or us, to keep buying stuff. We buy stationary bikes, treadmills, organically modified food, non-organically modified food, we forego meat or eat only meat and veggies… Running shoes, cycling shoes, the list is seemingly endless and often sounds like more like torture than staying healthy. We join programs, count calories, count points, count sheep.
Hey, let’s go to the extreme: There’s the cocaine diet, and for those less fortunate, the crack diet, the meth diet (which pretty much rots your face so you can’t eat) too. There’s the whiskey diet (hey, it’s corn) or the beer diet too. Of course, several of those are illegal even if they do keep you skinny – the idea of a diet is to free one from bondage and the prison diet isn’t technically a diet we here at Fit Recovery could recommend.
I’ve got a better idea and I like to call it the Fed Up Diet or FU Diet for short (I know, you were thinking something else a little less appropriate). The truth is, I didn’t sober up to live by a strict set of rules on how I’m going to live life – and fuel it. I’m simply fed up with agendas, whether it’s the Veganazis or the Low Carb crowd or the No Fast Food crowd or the No Gluten crowd… I’m tired of the “do this, don’t do that” nature of the diet industry. Of course, if that works for you, enjoy it! Live your semblance of free! Just please, don’t expect that I’ll join up because I’m going to live my semblance of free and that includes bacon – whether you like it or not.
One of the beautiful suggestions I received early in recovery is K.I.S.S. or, if you’re not familiar: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I have no problem with the “stupid” part either – if you do, you may want to try the twig and leaf diet. Where this gets tricky for me is that I like to eat. I like burgers and pizza, tacos and nachos, hot dogs (don’t judge me) and chili, steaks and risotto, ham, turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes… I like it all. Unfortunately a diet that consists largely of that stuff tends to put on the weight if one is not careful, so I add a lot of exercise into the mix so I can enjoy eating what I wish (not as much as I wish, what I wish). While it is fair to say that you can’t outrun (or in my case outride) a bad diet, you can outrun or outride a good diet. The shape that the cow takes, in other words, does not matter so much as how much of said cow is eaten at one time. So I live by a very simple guide: My conscience. Now this takes some practice but it works.
First, there is no “pre-exercise” rewards. I never got an “A” in school based on a paper that I was going to hand in next week. If I want a piece of cake, I’d better have worked for it or skimped my diet elsewhere to have it.
Second, there’s an “in-season diet” and an “out-of-season” diet. In cycling season (April thru November where I live), it’s pretty much anything I want within reason. I’m not on the bike enough to mimic the Michael Phelps diet but I can get close enough to enjoy every mile on my bike. Those Last three or four months are tricky but simple: Cut the portions back a little to account for the fact that I can only put up with an hour a day on the trainer. If I notice the jeans fitting a little tighter, I simply look in the mirror – I know if I’m gaining weight. If I put on a few and have to get ready for cycling season (as I did this year, maybe an extra 7-10 pounds), I go on a very simple diet:
Two cups of coffee when I wake up, before my shower. One or two cups when I get to the office (depending on my mood).
Then I ride for 30 minutes to an hour in my office (the 30 minute workout is interval training and it’s a lot harder than the hour-long ride).
Just one mind you.
Then I eat a sensible dinner. A couple of small-ish homemade burgers and a salad or chicken nachos or spaghetti and meat sauce… I eat until just before I’m full. Here’s how I gauge dinner: I know it takes five minutes for the brain to catch up to the stomach. If I eat until I’m full, I will end up uncomfortably full. If I cut myself off before I’m full, by the time my melon catches up I’ll be just right.
If, at any point during the day, I find myself hungry, I’ll drink some water. If that doesn’t work, a handful of nuts or another banana will do the trick every time. Then, for desert it’s either another cup of coffee or a reasonable desert.
Now deserts can be tricky, especially for the fitness-minded. We go through all of that work, surely we can afford a desert from time to time, right? Well yes but no. If I want to have a tough time climbing hills and keeping up with my friends and I want to stay on that stupid diet a little bit longer, then yes I can afford a big desert from time to time. If I want to stay lean and mean then I have to be very judicious with how I blow through the calories. For instance, last night was my wife’s birthday so we were having a desert. I didn’t buy a whole cake so the four of us would either A) Hammer it in one night or B) Eat cake over the next two nights. Instead we went to Culver’s and got the Mini size custard Concrete Mixer with two toppings (I got chocolate with double Oreos). I knew this was coming so I worked extra-hard on the bike and all was well. This evening, instead of desert I’ll have a cup of coffee after dinner (for some reason that really works for me and I don’t have a problem falling asleep afterwards as long as I get to the coffee before 8 pm).
Now, if I had a theme, it’s that this won’t work for everyone but it works great for me. I should be down to cycling weight by next week or maybe the week after at the longest and I’ve only been doing this for two full weeks now. So, if you’re fed up with the complications of dieting, try this. Just remember, it’s just like anything else: You’ll get out of it what you put into it. It’s not rocket science, even if some would like to make it seem so. Find out what works and stick with it. Run, ride, swim (or all three), play basketball, play baseball, soccer or softball, rollerblade if you have the coordination, play hockey… Get active and eat sensibly. It won’t give you the perfect body, but it’ll get you close enough for government work and with “close enough” you get to enjoy everything.