I occasionally mention my diet, which has spawned some questions in a recent thread as well as in my survey results.
So this week I'm going to explain my diet in detail, focusing on what I eat, why I eat it, and the facts behind the food.
The ideas aren't mine originally, and I'm certainly not the only person to eat this way, but I call it the MaxDiet because there is no formal name for it, and from the research I've done it appears to be the best possible diet.
The diet is optimized for overall health, longevity, and disease prevention. Although it's not the best diet for muscle gain (the best diet for muscle gain is very unhealthy), it is conducive to building muscle.
The most musclebound person I know is a 40 something year old in Austin who goes by the name "Tarzen". He eats the same way.
I have personally gained muscle on this diet and so has Todd. Critics who will say that they can't do this diet because they are working out are mistaken.
The diet is also highly effective for weight loss. There are a variety of ways of losing weight, the most effective being not eating at all.
There are two main reasons for losing weight: vanity and health. If you're losing weight for health, this is the diet for you. I'd also argue that it's best for vanity as well. People are attracted to healthy looking people, which is what you'll be on the diet.
Given my firsthand experience with people eating this diet, it's safe to say that it will bring you to a naturally healthy weight that looks good on anyone. I will explain more on why it works like this in my next post.
Secondary issues like acne and poor body composition are also remedied by it.
My philosophy towards diet is that one should eat a diet that fits with their lifestyle and is permanently sustainable. Fad diets that people turn to to "lose 20 pounds in a week" or whatever are not sustainable.
True improvement in any area of life comes from the cultivation of constant daily habits. This diet is intended as a permanent lifelong change, and is easily sustainable as such. I've been eating this way for two years or so with no regrets.
Sticking to the Diet
Sticking to the diet is simple and agreeable once you are accustomed to it. The first month or two will be a challenge, just like nearly anything worth doing.
Now that I am firmly established on the diet I take a meal off here and there. I actually dread doing this now (whereas I originally looked forward to these meals), but I do it as a matter of necessity because I travel so much and occasionally find myself in a position where there is no available food that's on my diet.
I don't worry about these occasions, and neither should you. Just as a daily McDonalds eater won't miraculously become healthy by eating a handful of spinach, you won't become unhealthy if you eat a bad meal once a month.
The idea is to do the best you can (for yourself) at all times, and not worry about the rare occasions where you have to compromise.
I continue to read more about diet and am open to change. If I find that a new way of eating is healthier I will switch immediately and update this as well.
Destiny and History
Occasionally people bring up the fact that we can readily eat and process many foods that aren't on this diet. While some scientists believe that we are evolutionarily intended to be vegetarian, there are just as many who think we are intended to be carnivores.
In the end, it doesn't matter.
I believe that we are designed for survival, which means that we are designed to eat EVERYTHING so that we don't die. We have processes to handle a wide range of food and make good use of it.
However, that doesn't mean that it's all GREAT for us. A diesel engine can run on regular gasoline, but it's not as efficient as when it's fed its optimal fuel, diesel.
We live in a time where we have access to great variety and can make the choices that benefit us most. We no longer have to rely on our evolved ability to digest sub par foods but can instead use our evolved brains to make the best choice.
There's also the fact that most foods we eat today are so new and unnatural that there is no possible way that we could have evolved around them yet. I will get into specifics in the next couple posts.
It's difficult to estimate the gain in life expectancy by following the Max Diet, because I've been unable to find a study where a sample group approximates the Max Diet.
Some studies actually show veganism as being no better that eating meat.
This makes quite a bit of sense to me since most vegans I've seen actually eat worse than meat eaters. Instead of cutting out meat and increasing vegetable consumption, they turn to highly processed foods.
However, it just so happens that the biggest study ever done on human diet, The China Study, does track both meat consumption as well as processed flour consumption, which are the two big evils we avoid.
The study was conducted by T Colin Campbell, a nutritional biochemistry professor at Cornell, and it definitively shows that these two types of food must be avoided.
I recently sent him an e-mail asking about life span and he said that the best research indicates that eating the MaxDiet (which is essentially what he recommends in his book) will add around 10 years to your life.
Perhaps more important than life expectancy, the diet greatly improves quality of life. Rather than thinking of it as adding a few (or more) years at the end of your life, think of it as adding them now.
People who follow the Max Diet get sick less often, particularly with serious ailments like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and strokes. Their moods are steadier and they have more energy. I'll go more into detail on those topics later this week.
Coming up Next...
Now that we've covered what to expect from the diet and a few common objections, on Wednesday we'll cover the worst thing you can possibly eat... something you probably eat plenty of right now.
Continued in Part II
I've mentioned before that I have become a vegan. It's now had such an impact on my life that I'm going to write a whole post explaining why on earth I'd become a vegan, and why I'll be a vegan for life.
First, I should say that the term "vegan" isn't great. It's usually associated with freakshows who are so against killing animals that they won't wear leather. While I'm not going to frequent cockfights or go hunting, I have no problem with animals being killed. I like leather stuff, and animals dying is part of life with or without humans.
Another problem with the term "vegan" is that many vegans eat an unhealthy diet. They cut out meat, but don't add vegetables in their place, so they tend to eat a lot of refined grains. Doing that is more unhealthy than just eating meat.
First off, I want to say that I hate how people use the word “diet”. My blood boils when I hear someone say something like ,”I gained a few pounds, looks like I need to go on a diet.” Such a statement implies that a diet is a temporary way of eating healthier until you lose a few pounds, then you can go back to eating whatever you want.
The way I see things, your diet is how you always eat. It is long-term, which means that you need a diet you can live with. Temporarily eating in a very restrictive manner only makes you crave unhealthier foods even more, and promotes “ballooning” or constantly going up and down in weight. Ballooning is an unhealthy, stressful way to live. A healthy diet is one that you can live with for your whole life. This means that restriction and bland health food products are not an option, as it would require tremendous willpower to stick to. Conversely, the other end of the spectrum, with cheeseburgers, milkshakes, and the like, is also unsustainable because of the associated health risks.
What does all of this mean? The optimal diet is one that is healthy for you and that you enjoy eating. That almost sounds too easy. The reality is that it is slightly less easy than it sounds. The hard part is wading through all of the conflicting dietary advice and figuring out what is actually healthy for you. Then, you can prepare meals that you enjoy while incorporating these dietary ideals. This is exactly what I did to create my diet, which I have named The Healthier Diet, in the spirit of this blog.
The Healthier Diet combines elements of traditional dietary advice with some more unconventional ideas. I would say if anything, it is closest to the Paleo Diet, but still very different. The Paleo Diet gets a lot of things wrong, especially when it comes to fitness, but it also gets some things right. My Healthier Diet is based on a few core ideas. Mainly, that the prevalence of heart attacks, cardiovascular disease, and cancer present in modern society is not a product of a high-cholesterol diet, but a result of eating too many refined sugars. I’m too lazy to find a citation on this but feel free to do more research if you would like. I won’t go into the science here, but there are three main takeaways:
1. Dietary cholesterol alone has little effect on blood serum cholesterol. Only when large amounts of cholesterol are consumed along with saturated fats will your blood cholesterol levels rise. One of the main places the Paleo Diet fails is that it doesn’t restrict saturated fat intake.