Since before my first child was born almost 18 years ago, I have gained weight easily and struggled to lose it. About six weeks ago, I started following the Slow Carb Diet that is spelled out in Tim Ferriss’s Four Hour Body. I chose this diet after coming back from vacation, suddenly up five lbs. I was upset since I have been trying to get to a normal body composition for the last couple years, and triathlon season is approaching. I felt like I had sabotaged the whole year accidentally. Over the past couple years, I’ve lost some weight over the winter, only to regain it while training for triathlons. For the last six months, I had been working with a nutritionist, following traditional weight-loss advice about calories and macro nutrient ratios. I struggled to lose weight consistently and felt like a failure. Even with dedicated support and logging every bite, I felt stuck.
So when I came back from vacation, I was determined to find a solution. I calculated my Basal Metabolic Rate, and realised that my “maintenance” calorie needs are only about 1700 calories a day. Not much. What plan was I going to follow? I need something simple. I have tried nearly everything and pulled out some different diet plans. I had been trying an exchange plan before I went on vacation (1 serving dairy, 1.5 fats, 2 proteins, 1 veg, you get the idea). Too complicated. I have had a lot of success in the past with low carb diets, but I can’t stay on them. I feel flat, don’t want to train, and get muscle cramps. I lose interest and compliance falls apart.
I looked at my weight graph and noticed that the most weight I lost recently was during the month of November, when I tried the Slow Carb Diet. So I jumped in again. Here is the graph for the last 30 days. Consistent success!
I am writing about this because I want to inspire middle-aged women like myself who were ready to give up out of frustration. There is so much conflicting dietary advice available that I felt paralysed. I think the biggest change I made in my diet was limiting fruit to once a week. (however, as indicated in the book, when I weight-train at the gym for 90 minutes, I will sometimes have a fresh fruit smoothie immediately after the workout). Maybe I am intolerant of fructose. Anyway, I decided I could not fail so long as I don’t give up. I want to share my journey to my goal weight. This is my year. And it can be yours too.
Here are the four rules set out in the book. This week I am taking it up a notch into higher compliance, letting go of my morning latte. I want to kick the last four or five kilos to the curb NOW!
Rule #1: Avoid “white” carbohydrates
Avoid any carbohydrate that is — or can be — white. The following foods are thus prohibited, except for within 1.5 hours of finishing a resistance-training workout of at least 20 minutes in length: bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta, and fried food with breading. If you avoid eating anything white, you’ll be safe
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again
The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat loss, eat the same few meals over and over again. Mix and match, constructing each meal with one from each of the three following groups:
Egg whites with one whole egg for flavor
Chicken breast or thigh
Grass-fed organic beef
Legumes: Lentils & beans (black, white, pinto)
Mixed vegetables (non-starchy)
Eat as much as you like of the above food items. Just remember: keep it simple. Pick three or four meals and repeat them. Almost all restaurants can give you a salad or vegetables in place of french fries or potatoes. Surprisingly, I have found Mexican food, swapping out rice for vegetables, to be one of the cuisines most conducive to the “slow carb” diet.
Most people who go on “low” carbohydrate diets complain of low energy and quit, not because such diets can’t work, but because they consume insufficient calories. A 1/2 cup of rice is 300 calories, whereas a 1/2 cup of spinach is 15 calories! Vegetables are not calorically dense, so it is critical that you add legumes for caloric load.
Some athletes eat 6-8x per day to break up caloric load and avoid fat gain. I think this is ridiculously inconvenient. I eat 4x per day (Tim’s timetable is x-ed out – I work a day job):
10am – breakfast
1pm – lunch
5pm – smaller second lunch
6:30 – 8
7:30-9pm – sports training (again, Tim’s schedule, not mine)
10pm – dinner
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories
Drink massive quantities of water and as much unsweetened iced tea, tea, diet sodas, coffee (without white cream), or other no-calorie/low-calorie beverages as you like. Do not drink milk, normal soft drinks, or fruit juice. I’m a wine fanatic and have at least one glass of wine each evening, which I believe actually aids sports recovery and fat-loss. Recent research into resveratrol supports this.
Rule #4: Take one day off per week
I recommend Saturdays as your “Dieters Gone Wild” day. I am allowed to eat whatever I want on Saturdays, and I go out of my way to eat ice cream, Snickers, Take 5, and all of my other vices in excess. I make myself a little sick and don’t want to look at any of it for the rest of the week. Paradoxically, dramatically spiking caloric intake in this way once per week increases fat loss by ensuring that your metabolic rate (thyroid function, etc.) doesn’t down-regulate from extended caloric restriction. That’s right: eating pure crap can help you lose fat. Welcome to Utopia.