I noticed sometime in early 2008 that I was starting to get a little chunky around the sides. I would suck in my stomach in front of the mirror and it no longer showed the muscles underneath like it used to.
Problem: I was getting fatter.
Another Problem: I was always being lazy (although at the time I never dreamed it had anything to do with food).
I don’t remember a period since college where I didn’t regularly get lots of physical activity or regularly go to the gym….so this wasn’t the problem.
One day my mom gave me a 5 pound bag of Clementine’s no one at home was eating. I took them to Austin with me. They’re like mini oranges that you can easily peel. I LOVED THEM!
I liked them a lot, but would eat maybe one or two a day. I then read Steve Pavlina’s 30-day raw diet experiment where he would eat only raw foods like fruits and vegetables. I had no intention of emulating this, but I was amazed at the sheer quantity of fruit he would eat. Instead of two Clementine’s, he would eat 8 or 10. Instead of one banana a day, he would eat 10+.
For some reason I just didn’t think of eating that many….sounds stupid, but true. I’ve never seen anyone eat THAT much fruit before.
So taking a cue from that I decided to up my fruit intake because I’ve always loved fruits. I ate pretty much the same junk I used to, but now with a whole lot more fruit. Slowly and slowly I started eating more and more, to the point where lunch was pretty much just grapes, apples, avocados, oranges etc.
Now of course I still craved heavier foods from time to time and would allow myself to pig out McDonald’s (I still love McDonald’s), but for the most part I was eating a lot less of everything else, and a lot more fruits.
During this time I started gaining an affinity for fruits and stopped craving junk food as much. Through the day I would snack on fruit and it felt great. The cool thing about eating that way is you don’t have to really watch what you eat. Pig out an all the fruit you want.
For dinner I decided that I wasn’t eating terribly unhealthy anymore, but my portions were out of control. To combat this I simply used a small plate, almost like a tea saucer to eat dinner on. I would try stacking my food sky high, but that little plate wouldn’t hold much. I allowed myself to return for as many servings, but that tiny plate had to be used. I quickly found myself eating drastically less food yet being equally satisfied, simply because I didn’t have much on the plate. I also stopped getting that over-stuffed “food baby” feeling after dinner.
I was still eating a bunch of junk, so I decided to not buy anything in a box. Well, I would still eat pasta or rice every night, and I suppose pasta and sauce comes in a box/bottle, but that was the extent of it. I stopped buying cookies, chips, soups, snacks or anything like that….and the transition really wasn’t that hard.
I would still eat junk at a party or when it was available somewhere, but I wouldn’t keep it in the house. I would also go to the grocery with one of those small hand-carts you carry instead of a rolling shopping cart. I physically wouldn’t have space to put a bottle of Coke or any other non-essential item.
(I admit….I have a weak spot for Ramen Noodles every once in a while).
Some very in-shape friends also told me that roughly once a week to PIG OUT on all the bad food I could get my hands on…..and pig out I did! I would hit up the McDonald’s value menu with a vengeance! Be careful though, when you eat all that junk food, you tend to crave even more junk food the next few days. It’s oddly addicting.
There were two VERY noticeable side effects to my new eating habits:
- I saved a lot of money on groceries.
- I felt WAY better (More on this later).
I never realized how cheap most produce is. You fill a basket with everything from the produce section and you’re looking at a pretty cheap grocery bill. It was an unexpected benefit.
The really crazy benefit was the way I felt after a few days of eating like this. Previously I would wake up, go to the office (two steps away from my bedroom) and sluggishly start working. Prior to that I’d usually hit the snooze button 10 times. I was sort of productive, but I always had “Fog Brain.” Fog Brain is not really a tired or lazy sensation, it’s just a not-as-clear-as-I-could-be sensation (which results in being somewhat lethargic).
Now I finally understand what a lot of people talk about when they start eating better and getting “better mental clarity.” It sounds like some hippy peace/love crap, but it works. I was more aware, willing to work longer and had better clarity….I also slept better, but more noticeable was I woke up in the morning with greater ease. I’m not saying everyday I’d hop out of bed with enthusiasm, but waking up was MUCH easier….working out was MUCH easier…and working through problems and issues seemed MUCH easier.
I sincerely wish I had discovered this in college.
I literally cannot explain how much clearer everything seemed when I ate well for extended periods of time. The benefit was immense.
So those benefits were great, but the changes physically were the most fun. I had always worked out, so I would get larger muscles, but my body fat pretty much remained constant due to my horrendous eating habits and love of fast food. Now my body fat was shrinking, and while my muscles remained relatively constant, I could see them better. Especially around the waist and chest.
A few times a month I took a shirtless picture of myself in a flexed and un-flexed pose (These pics are from Feb. 2008 till July 2008) in order to gauge my progress.
Here are the UN-FLEXED pics. Me just standing in a relaxed pose in front of the camera (Click image for full size):
Here are the FLEXED pics. Tensing the body to show muscles better. The difference from the 1st picture to the last picture is relatively dramatic (Click image for full size):
Here are both the images above put next to each other (Click image for full size):
None of the pics have been Photoshopped (except cropping). Some things learned from taking these pics:
- Flexing vs. not-flexing looks incredibly different.
- It REALLLLLY depends on how much you just ate. Waking up in the morning I would look great, but after a big meal I’d look much fatter in the picture.
- The camera is deceiving.
During this time I didn’t take any vitamins, supplements, protein shakes or any type of physical fitness product. I simply ate less “bad stuff” through moderation and a lot more “good” food.
RE-CAP OF THINGS I DID:
- Used a hand-carry basket instead of rolling cart at the grocery.
- Didn’t buy anything that comes in a box or can (small exceptions for pasta and dinner ingredients).
- Started using a small plate for everything. Took as many servings of food as I wanted, but on a tiny plate or bowl. This drastically helped cut down on over eating. If you go to a buffet, use a small salad plate to take your food.
- Once a week pigged out on whatever I wanted. This quickly showed me how lethargic bad food makes you feel in comparison with the good food.
- Started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables.
- Instead of driving to gym, biked to gym.
- Joined a rock climbing gym and ditched the boring regular weight-lifting gym.
- When still at boring gym, took spinning classes regularly.
Originally I liked the benefit of losing body fat and looking ripped, but that superficial goal didn’t last long. Eventually I started to slip back into bad eating habits since the motivation to “be ripped” wasn’t strong enough.
The thing that got me back into eating properly is the obvious difference in my mental clarity, being unbelievably more productive than before and waking up with much greater ease. The changes to physicality are just a happy side benefit.
I’m quite sure NO ONE wants to hear this, but taking a poop is a much more pleasant experience when eating well (did I just say that)?? Everything comes out quicker and is a lot easier to clean up. I suppose less time spent in the bathroom can also be considered a productivity benefit :-)
I’ve never heard so much conflicting advice about a subject like working out and health. No matter what you do for exercise or diet there will always be some conflicting opinion, study, blah blah blah…
Whatever. Just eat well. Your body is much stronger than you might expect. If you eat 3 bananas in one day you won’t die of a sugar overdose, or if you don’t eat steak everyday you won’t start losing mass amounts of muscle. You’ll be fine.
- Getting past that first “hump” of cravings for heavy foods.
- Self control when you’re at a party with unlimited food.
- The first few days can be a little rough….that’s why I slowly started eating better, the “transition” was nearly non-existent that way.
Sticking To It:
Since I originally took all those pictures and started this (roughly Feb. 2008) I’ve slipped in and out of good/bad eating habits a few times. Generally holidays and vacations help you eat a bunch of crap, and it’s a little difficult to slip back into the good habits again.
Fortunately you do this a couple of times, and the “bad” binges get shorter and shorter. The quality of work and productivity is so much higher when you’re eating clean, that it almost seems silly to eat bad stuff. But don’t worry, you’re supposed to shock your system once a week and eat horribly, so that makes it fun!