My friend asked me to send an email giving advice on changing your diet and implementing a healthier lifestyle. Here’s what I wrote

A bit of background. I’ve gone through a process of changing my diet by cutting out processed food, eating healthier and also exercising more. I’ve been implementing these changes for probably the last 2-3 years. There was a lot of false starts before I sort of put everything together and realising the importance of the diet stuff. 

I was never fat, but I went through a period (a number of years in that early twenties stage of life) where I wasn’t exercising and eating a lot of junk food. Then one day I realised I wasn’t the fit kid I used to be. I remember eating a KFC on a Saturday afternoon and for some reason it hit me that there was a big ol’ layer of fat around my belly and I was like ‘hold on, this thing used to be flat man.’ I don’t know why but that day I was like no, I have to stop.

When I went back to playing football I couldn’t believe how much sharpness I’d lost and how sluggish I was. It sounds silly but in your head you’re always the person you were at your peak. I mentally extrapolated that feeling a few decades into the future and realised the road I was on fitness, diet – and in the long run probably health wise – and decided to make a change and get back into the shape I used to be in. I’d say I’m about a third of the way through making the changes I want to make because I’m planning on going the whole way and completely changing the way my body looks, but what I will say is that I’m healthier, stronger and fitter now than I’ve ever been.

In fact, the health benefits alone are amazing. When I was a static person eating rubbish all the time, I remember clearly every winter coming down with ailments and in fact just generally having the sniffles etc. Right now, hand on heart I can’t remember the last time I was ill (not including hangovers, I’m not a saint)

Anyway, because I’ve been chatting so much about all of this my friends have been asking me about what it is I’ve been doing and I’ve explained things over and over until finally my friend asked me to just write some stuff down, hence the reason this sort of just launches into stuff because it’s a continuation of previous talks. Anyway, here’s the email, if anyone else has anything to add etc stick it in the comments.   

First of all, by now you know the dos and don’ts of diet, so you to need to just make that a fundamental part of your lifestyle. If you do that, most other things will fall into place. The diet stuff is the easiest in theory to implement – just drink water, don’t eat processed food, substitute white for brown rice, don’t eat ANY bread, crackers, cut out sugar etc – but actually hard to do at first because most of the food we eat is addictive because of sugar content.

Cutting out sugar

Sugar withdrawal is a real thing (actually there’s debate on whether it’s an actual or just a psychological thing but you WILL suffer from cutting shit out). The quickest and easiest way to do it is just cut all sugar out for a week. Cold turkey. Nothing. Including alcohol.

You’ll probably feel lousy and irritable (might even have headaches, some people have cold like symptoms depending on how dependent your system is on rubbish) for a few of those days but you’ll come out on the other side with more energy, a clearer head and just generally feeling better. Again, just drink water as much as possible. In fact, just drink water full stop, if you want to do it you’ll do it.

Hunger 

You’re going to go through a phase of feeling hungry too when you cut sugar out completely because of the effect sugar has on your system but – and this is one of the key points – you’re appetite quickly settles back into a natural rhythm. Oh yeah and food tastes better after a while too once your tastebuds get used to real food again.

It’s no great secret that we eat WAY too much food in the western world and that most of it is junk that effectively shortens your life span and effects your cognitive abilities and quality of life. Seriously, if you don’t feel like you have more energy after a while of being clean then something’s wrong.

Once you’re used to eating a basic diet consisting of things like vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts if you’re going to snack, you’ll see just how hard it is to actually put weight on. A natural diet is perfectly in keeping with providing you all the energy you need to do everything you need to do. In fact, even without exercise you’ll probably find you’ll drop a pound or three just through not giving your body nonsense.

Watch this video

I was going back and forth trying different things for ages until I watched this video and the basic message is just choose ONE thing and do that ONE thing for a minimum of 90 days, see what happens and then you’ll know from experience if it works or not. That was basically the point I decided to go for a cutting phase properly, follow what I thought was the best advice I’d read and watched over the years and see what happens. That’s how I know that the above works and it works supremely well, because I WAS and HAVE BEEN losing fat by doing the things I’m saying and for the most part I haven’t been exercising or doing weights (I’ll get to muscle stuff) during that period. I actually purposely stopped doing exercise apart from one thing (which I mention later) just to see how my body would react and weight still fell off. I mean I’m back to my usual routine now because exercise is a part of the whole process and makes you feel better.

Intermittent Fasting

I think you’ve seen that Horizon documentary about diet and fasting.

I also heard about IF fasting from some Hodgetwin videos so I started reading up on it (read this article, all of it has sources to back up its theories).

Just a quick point, once you delve into this stuff, you quickly find out most of the stuff about metabolism, metabolic slowdown from fasting, information about muscle loss, optimum metabolic window after exercise to optimise muscle growth is all utter BULLSHIT. No surprise really in regards to anything to do with muscle because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone is trying to sell supplements for this and that.

But anyway, you can read the article and see what you think, but intermittent fasting, and fasting in general, is one of the best, most effective things I’ve introduced into my lifestyle. Most days I’ll fast a minimum of 16 hours then get my calories in during the remaining hours (you’ll quickly know how to work it out so that it fits perfectly into your lifestyle.) I’ll regularly do a 24 hour one as well – the longest I did was thirty hours because I wanted to experience first hand what happens. The thirty hour one was for different reasons and it’s true that the longer you go you do feel a sense of calm and I wanted to see about things called ketones but I think I’d have to do longer for that. Basically the longer one was more for meditation/spirituality stuff.

The 24 hour fast though is definitely recommended, even if you only do it say twice a month.

And a daily fast (anything from 14-18 hours) is brilliant. It’ll regulate your diet, your energy, your mind, everything.

Muscle  

Everything mentioned so far is essentially working with your body and I want to look into things like calisthenics and see how it would work to take the body you’ve crafted through a healthy diet, continue that and see what physique you’ll get from just body weight exercises, as opposed to forcing more calories in. From what I’ve seen, the results would be equally as impressive.

But, adding muscle has its appeal and when/if I go back to that, it will most definitely be a clean bulk, with planning. The best most consistent advice I’ve seen so far is just to add 200/300 calories over your limit a day. In two weeks, if you don’t see a difference, add a bit more and so on and so forth, which seems far more preferable to just shoving everything in your mouth that you can lay your hands on. Most importantly though is to keep everything else in check. Work with your body.

Whatever I do in regards to muscle though, I’ll be following my own advice, choosing something and sticking to it for a good length of time. That really is one of the key things. Not a couple of weeks then nothing etc.

What I would recommend though is the 300 push ups a day plan during your cut or actually just as something to keep you ticking over. I’m in the middle of the 30 day plan and it actually is having some effect.

I should really have a section on sleep

Sleep

So here it is. This is the hardest thing to do because you’re working and when you’re in a job when you get home you want a few hours to chill and not be thinking about optimum sleep times. But still, 7/8 hours a night will do wonders for any progress you’re trying to make – muscle, weight loss – and having an hour in the morning to ease yourself into the day would also be good. Again, that kind of stuff is probably the hardest thing to implement but I do notice the difference in the way my body reacts to recovery and even weight loss when I’m in bed at a decent hour. I’d go as far as to say that if for a week you were asleep by the latest 11 but optimally 10 and awake at say 6 or 7 even your back would improve. You already know your body repairs itself in sleep and seriously don’t underestimate that. Good quality sleep with everything else is again working with your body for it to work properly.

Still, jobs and health and sleep is straying into work life balance and that’s a whole other discussion.

Finally   

Yes, finally the end but first a few other little bits. If you do wanna cut weight, an hours walk in the morning on an empty stomach for some reason is stupidly effective. Heard if from lots of different sources, tried it, it works. Don’t know if you can implement that. Cardio on an empty stomach works too, just nothing longer than 30 mins.

STOP EATING EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN WHEN YOU FINISH EXERCISING.

Meals shouldn’t be bigger than 300/400 calories a time.

And then, really finally, I would recommend reading some stuff on spirituality, psychoanalysis etc. Get your mind right and the body will follow. Just cherry pick what you like, leave what you don’t and build your own philosophy (pretty much like what you should do with all of this advice once you’ve got the diet fundamentals as part of your lifestyle). Don’t be a typical man and just dismiss this last thing out of hand, give it a real open minded try.

I’d recommend The Road Less Travelled and Fire in the Heart, which I’ve only just started but I like the approach of it.

Oh, here’s a girl talking about diet. Just saw this, pretty bang on.

That’s it.

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2 comments

  1. Boom. There’s some good stuff in here for anyone. Me and my new bride have put on blissful, well-fed comfortable pounds. If we were “out there” again, our weight could be a liability. That said, we have noticed our softness and casually think about fasting, exercising more and eating better. You have some good ideas I will show to her. Thanks, buddy.

    • glad there’s some stuff in there that makes sense haha.

      There’s definitely something about being happily in a relationship that makes adding a few extra pounds inevitably happen, but that word you used – blissful – perfectly describes that moment in time.

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