What I’ve learned about diet, exercise, and their effects on me.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about diet and exercise. My opinions are from personal experience and self experimentation. Who knows what will happen to you. The ten points below summarize the rest of this blog post so you can stop there if you can even get that far. Otherwise I fully explain (or at least try to explain) how I arrived at these conclusions.

  1. The human animal is meant to eat, at most, once per day.
  2. Calories in / Calories out is all bullshit. Read chapter 4 of Gary Taubes’ book, “Why We Get Fat, and What to do About it“.
  3. Insulin is largely in control of weight equilibrium. If you’re body is resistant to insulin you gain weight and if your body is sensitive to insulin you maintain or lose weight. Read “The Obesity Code Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss” by Jason Fung
  4. Sugar (even sugar in fruit) and highly processed carbohydrates are most likely edible poison. Only it kills you over decades. Read “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes
  5. Drink when you’re thirsty. Water is best most of the time.
  6. Meat and animal fat should not be feared. Read “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet” by Nina Teicholz.
  7. Muscle building is only loosely related to diet in that food fuels muscles (but so does fat). You can’t exercise your way out of obesity. It never lasts.
  8. Exercise is necessary to keep muscle mass from fading and to keep joints from getting stiff.
  9. In the modern age, hunger is more psychological than physical.
  10. People think way too much about food.

When taking the ten points above into consideration know that I’m not a fitness nut, I’m not a diet nut, and I’m not super fit.

I’ve come to my conclusions through years of experimentation on myself just to see how my body reacts. All of this started a couple decades ago. I don’t remember exactly when, but, I decided one day to only eat when I’m hungry and it turns out I’m mainly hungry near a traditional dinner time and just before I go to bed. So that’s what I did. Over a period of 20 years I was able to maintain roughly the same weight. I would hover anywhere between 185 to 195 lbs. It didn’t matter what I ate and it didn’t matter how much I moved. I did not exercise on a regular basis but sporadically when ever I felt like it.

Then around age 45 I decided to see what would happen if I went through the P90X program, minus the diet and supplements (because I know I won’t be able to stick to that kind of lifestyle). I was able to move my base weight for the first time in 20 years. I dropped about 17 lbs. from the day I started and for the last 5 years kept the weight off. My new equilibrium got set to between 175 to 185 lbs.

I remember what it was like to be about 170 lbs. and I’ve always felt that it’s where I was most comfortable. So, I decided to give the entire P90X regimen another try. I figured if it bumped me down a steady 10 lbs. then maybe it would happen again. It didn’t. I did drop some weight but not enough to reset my base weight to be in the 165 to 175 lb. range. So, I just continued on with my life. If it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work.

Over the years I’ve read different books that surround diet and exercise. It’s just a curiosity to me. Most books I’ve come across don’t seem to make much sense to me. Eating bunches of small meals a day instead of eating regular meals. Drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day. Eating mostly carbohydrates. Juicing. Eating only fruits and vegetables. Running is the best exercise. Weightlifting is the best exercise. Interval training. Crossfit. None of this stuff seems natural and requires a person to change who they are quite drastically. I’m just not that hard core.

It never made sense to me that simply exercising more and eating less is the secret to either weight loss or maintaining weight. You see people every day that no matter how much they move or how little they eat they just can’t seem to lose weight. It just seems logical that there is more to weight loss and maintenance than calories in calories out. There is no way that people who maintain a stable weight eat exactly the same number of calories they burn. It’s just not practical or possible. The measurement of calories in food and the measurement of calories burned during exercise is also not an exact science. They are estimations.

In the book, “Why We Get Fat and What to do About It”, author Gary Taubes easily illustrates the fallacy of calories in/calories out.

This is where the twenty calories come in. A pound of fat contains about thirty-five hundred calories’ worth of energy. This is why nutritionists tell us that losing a pound a week requires that we create an average energy deficit of five hundred calories a day–five hundred calories times seven days equals thirty-five hundred calories a week.

Now let’s look at the math from the perspective of weight gain rather than weight loss. How many calories do we have to overeat daily to accumulate two new pounds of fat every year–fifty pounds in a quarter-century? How many calories do we have to consume but not expend, stashing them away in our fat tissue, to transform ourselves, as many of us do, from lean twenty-five-year-olds to obese fifty-year-olds?

Twenty calories a day.

Twenty calories a day times the 365 days in a year comes to a little more than seven thousand calories stored as fat every year–two pounds of excess fat.

Think about how ludicrous that is. And, who counts their calories that precisely over their lifetimes to make sure that they don’t gain or lose weight? No one.

In the book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Buter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet”, author Nina Teicholz explains in Chapter 2 the flawed studies and politics behind why we now believe that saturated fats are unhealthy. All the science behind the assumption that saturated fats are unhealthy is flawed. The studies are based on small samples of mostly men. How can that possibly apply to the population at large?

Perusing the web one day I ran into a new fad called intermittent fasting and how people are using this technique to lose weight. I investigated what this was and discovered it was just a fancy way of saying how I’ve been living my life for decades. Every day I “intermittently fast” for about 16 to 18 hours. This simply means that I usually eat something for the last time each day around 11 pm and don’t have anything else to eat until the next day around 4 to 6 pm. While reading about this new fad I ran across this doctor’s name, Jason Fung, who promotes this style of living to his obese type 2 diabetic patients. He claims to be able to cure their diabetes in very short order as well. Watch this video for a good primer on his theories. This lead me to research Dr. Fung a little more and discovered a book he recently authored.

In the book, “The Obesity Code, Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss“,  Jason Fung, covers his study of insulin sensitivity in the body. When your body is less sensitive to insulin you gain weight and have a pretty good chance of developing type 2 diabetes. If your body is more sensitive to insulin then you tend to maintain weight and are less likely to become diabetic. All of this is explained in chapter 7 of this book.

After reading this Dr. Fung’s book I experimented with a three day fast. I didn’t eat anything from 11pm on a Friday to 4pm the following Monday. I admit it was a little difficult but, as I found out later, it was only difficult because I did it on a weekend. You don’t realize how much of your life revolves around eating until you stop and the weekend seemed a little boring without having dinner.

The next step was to fast for 5 days and this time I did it on the weekdays. I stopped eating on a Sunday at 11pm and didn’t eat anything until 8am the following Saturday. After the first two days it became very easy to just not eat anything. And to top it all off I wasn’t even hungry. What did I eat that following Saturday for breakfast? A simple omelette. Then I went about eating how I normally eat, which consists of eating dinner sometime between 4pm and 6pm and having another meal/snack around 10pm.

The results from fasting was that my weight dropped down to 163.5 lbs from 176 lbs at the start. It seemed to work to reset my base weight for where I want it to be. Now my weight is in that 165 to 175 lb range and it has held firm in that range for months now regardless of what I eat or how much I exercise (I hate workouts by the way).

Everyone reacts to diet and exercise in different ways. I experimented on myself and found what works for me. Take a shot at it and it may work for you. If not, tweak it and change it to suit how your body reacts.

Enjoy and good luck!