If you’ve spent any time on my site, or heard me speak on the topic of nutrition, then you know that I am a fan of CrossFit’s dietary prescription. It lines food consumption out in two easy sentences, which are these:
- Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.
- Keep intake to levels that support exercise, but not body fat.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Right? Not so fast. The first part, which basically sums up The Paleo Diet, is pretty straightforward as it tells us what to eat. Most people will feel good and lose some weight if they do this alone. However, the real magic happens when we focus on the second sentence, which sums up the Zone diet. Here’s a video that touches on these ideas…
I am a big fan of The Paleo Diet and being that my name is Paleo Nick, most people think that Paleo is where the buck stops for me. This is not the case. I am as fanatical, if not more so about the Zone diet. There are a few reasons for my Zone fondness.
- The diet makes sense to me and gives a structured approach to calculating your personal macro-nutrient prescription.
- The diet, by definition, educates us on nutrition better than any diet I’ve seen by explaining eicosandoids, amino acids, protein, carbohydrates, fat – what these things are and how they effect your body.
- The inventor of the diet, Barry Sears, is credible, highly intelligent, and has done extensive research and experiments that prove the proficient parameters he sets forth. He has a PhD in Biochemistry, did postdoctoral work at the University of Virgina Medical School, was research instructor at Boston University Medical Center, and he was staff scientist at MIT from 1978-1982. That’s quite a resume!
Here are a few quotes and claims that Mr. Sears makes about the Zone diet.
“Your diet can either be your greatest ally, or your worst enemy.”
The Zone diet is superior in:
- Hormonal control.
- Blood glucose control.
- Blood lipid control.
- Appetite suppression.
- Fat Loss.
- The reduction of silent inflammation.
“Three things in life are visceral; religion, politics, and diet.”
The last quote is a spicy one. It places diet in the “topics-not-for-discussion-if-we-want-to-remain-friends” category. We could ponder why this might be, but that ponderance is an article in itself.
The object of this post is to give you some advice. I’ve been cooking food for a few weeks shy of 29 years, I got involved in CrossFit in 2008, experimented with the Zone diet in 2009 and essentially “went Paleo” on November 25th, 2010. Since then, I have been on a bit of a roller coaster and by no means follow a strict Zone/Paleo prescription. I have coached hundreds of humans on nutrition and run nutrition challenges. I am not a nutritionist, but I have come up with a list of advice that I give to people who want to lose weight in the form of fat. I published my “5 Unhealthy Ways To Lose Weight” article last week, to which today’s article is the sequel. I’ve written a poem about my mission and I want to help you by sharing some of my suggestions, so here goes nothing…
1. Educate Yourself
- What are macro-nutrients and how do they affect your metabolism?
- What are nutrient dense vs. calorie dense foods?
- What is the glycemic index and what does it mean?
- What are polyunsaturated fatty acids, what do they do and what is a favorable ratio?
These are all questions that we should be able to answer before graduating high school. Now, I don’t know about you, but I may have known what macro-nutrients were when I graduated. And that’s a maybe. However, I probably would have told you that fat makes you fat, which we now know is not true.
Part of education is reading books and meeting people. When I was in high school, my best friend’s dad shared this wisdom with me, “The difference between who you are today and who you’ll be in ___ years (fill in the blank) is the people you meet and the books you read.” I agree with his advice, but would add this to it, “…the meals you know how to cook”. Part of educating yourself is learning how to cook and that is a big part of what this site is dedicated to. If you truly want to shed fat, support an active lifestyle and live a life full of energy, focus, gusto, etc… then you would do well to learn how to cook. You are going to eat aproximately 100,000 meals in your lifetime. How many of them are you going to struggle through? Besides, chicks think that dudes who can cook are sexy and dudes think that chicks who can cook are sexy. Be sexy.
2. Stop Making Excuses
I am the king of excuses. I can justify just about anything. I’ll only eat endless candy on Easter and then dial things back in tomorrow. I’ll skip going to the gym and then hit it twice as hard tomorrow. Both of these examples involve the word “tomorrow”. Doing this is like playing futures with body fat. You’ll have an even better excuse tomorrow and will likely press your good intentions to the future once again. So, stop it. Slap yourself in the face. Be realistic. Scream loud and do ten burpees. Whatever it takes to drop the bad habit of excuse making. Afterall, we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. We only have today and today is the best time to make a change.
3. Stay Hydrated
More times than not, when I find myself at the fridge looking for something to eat, I am doing so because I am thirsty. It’s funny to me how this works because it is like there is a short circuit in our brain that doesn’t allow us to make this judgement properly. When we eat in thirst, we typically crave carbs, which is like a two edged sword. Not only do we not need to eat right now, we are going to encourage fat storage by cramming in some carbs.
It is tough to give a blanket volume prescription for how much water you should drink. For this reason, I recommend using the color of your urine as an indicator of your hydration level. A slight tinge of yellow is right where I want to be. Too much water before bed can interrupt solid sleep, so be careful there and don’t fall for “hydration” drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. Water is what you want.
4. Practice Self-Control
We are all adults. Even if you’re not an adult and you’re reading this, we’re going to try you as an adult. This tip goes along with the making excuses tip above. With the Zone diet, we are given quantities to eat. With The Paleo Diet, we are not. I can easily crush a 20oz. slab of prime rib, but I know that I’ll do better with an 8oz. filet. When I see a plate of cookies, I’m not programmed to understand that I’m not supposed to eat the whole plate. I know that it is better for me not to even eat one because if I do, I’ll likely eat the whole plate. I am a huge fan of the Proverbs and in the 28th verse of Proverbs 25 it says, “Like a city with broken-down walls, is a man who lacks self-control.”. Keep your walls up, guys. Walls are strong.
5. Make Exceptions
Exceptions are key. Don’t resist Grandma’s Scotcharoos, but don’t be the guy bringing the baggie of almonds to the Super Bowl party. Use good discretion with this tip. I could show you a video of Matt Chan recommending chocolate milk as post-workout fuel, Chris Spealler eating cookies and ketchup, or Rich Froning subsisting on pizza, peanut butter and jellyand donuts. While we have footage of all of these, it doesn’t mean we should build a diet based on the collaboration of what these elite athletes eat. I like to eat one pint of Ben and Jerry’s per week. Is it healthy? The easy answer is no, but there are tradeoffs betweeen physical and mental health. I argue that I am healthier by eating the ice cream. While my wasteline might not prove it, my mindset will.
6. Set Reasonable Goals
You don’t get fat overnight and your not going to burn 10 pounds per week. Along the same lines, you don’t get strong in a week. These things take time. My man Shabir is the greatest testament to this for me. He started his weight loss adventure at 560 pounds and, while he doesn’t drop 20 pounds per week, he consistently drops 2 pound every seven days. Week after week, this practice/habit has dropped him down to 388 pounds. If you do the math, you realize that this has taken him 86 weeks. Even the stuff we see on Biggest Loser is unrealistic. If you read the stories of what happens after the show, many of the contestants gain back much of what they lost.
As I discussed in my 5 Unhealthy Ways To Lose Weight article, 1-1.5 pounds of fat per week is about all that we can drop. Anything above that is water weight and muscle. Be intentional and consistent, day after day, and you’ll lose weight in a healthy manner that you’ll be able to keep off.
7. Take Measurements and Ditch The Scale
It may sound funny, but the scale is the most inaccurate device for measuring fat loss. While we all hold our fat differently, centering in on a few areas specific to our bodies will help us track fat loss. Some of the popular once are hips, waist, neck, biceps, thighs, and wrists. Remember that a pound of fat is approximately the size of a softball and a pound of muscle is approximately the size of a baseball. How many of you could afford to drop a softball from your love handles?
I used to attend Weight Watchers meetings with my mom in the basement of West Acres Mall in Fargo, North Dakota. Ladies would gather once per week to weigh in. They’d either lose weight and everyone would clap, or they’d gain weight and everyone would clap. The image of this stuck in my head and none of it made sense. I now know why and that is why I am not a fan of these types of diets/weight loss programs. You wouldn’t believe what these people would do to make weight. They’d starve themselves, spit in a cup, take laxatives, whatever it took to weigh even one less pound than the previous week. Not to mention, they had just starved themselves all weak long in order to limit their accumulation of “points”. I even heard a story of how a woman shaved her head in order to drop weight! That’s crazy, yo!
I know you’re not conditioned to do so, but ditch the scale and focus on measurements.
“Food Is Fashion”
My buddy Andrea Croceri (seen in CF video above) says that “Food Is Fashion.” Where it used to be what you wear, what you drive, what’s on your wrist, your feet, etc… People are now interested in what you eat. Is it possible that this is a full-circle concept. What I mean by this is that when we look at the ancients, they said things like this:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
“It is a shame for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.”
“Health is the first wealth.”
Don’t judge others by being a Nutrition Nazi and remember how Robert Service put it best by saying, “It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win the lifelong race.” Life isn’t a trip in an elevator, it is a journey up the stairs.
As I mentioned above, I am here to help. I’ve peppered advice into the 300+ articles on this site and now have over 200 cooking videos with accompanying recipes that were designed to set you up for nutritional success. If I could come and live with you and be your personal chef/nutrition/life coach, I would, but that’s not possible at this point. When I figure that program out, I’ll let you know, but for now, use the above advice, reach out, find someone to tackle this with you, don’t be lazy, and, above all, when you are tempted by Cinnamon Toast Crunch and sugar laden coffee drinks, listen to that miniature Paleo Nick on your shoulder, whispering in your ear, “Keep It Paleo!”
(Thanks to the Easter Bunny, I am now a student of the rubber band bracelet loom.)