Saturday, February 19, 2011

That Was Then. This Is Now.

A year and a half ago, I established five food rules for myself:
  1. Eat small, frequent meals each day -- slowly.
  2. Eat more protein and vegetables.
  3. Eat carbs sparingly.
  4. Be mindful of portion sizes.
  5. If you're going to make an exception to your diet, make sure it's worth it.
Boy, have things changed.

First of all, Rule Number 1's out the window. Eating small, frequent meals has zero effect on metabolism, weight management, or anything else.

Rule Number 2 could use some tweaking, too. I prefer "Eat meat, vegetables and good fats" -- the building blocks of a proper Paleo diet.

As for Rule Number 3, I don't think it's necessary. One consequence of eating Paleo is that I'm taking in fewer carbohydrates than before (when breakfast consisted of peanut butter on toast and heaping bowls of cereal), but these days, I'm not consciously avoiding carbs. In fact, after long metcons, I actively seek out carbs (in the form of sweet potatoes or chestnuts). Perhaps if my goal was to lean out, I'd put more emphasis on avoiding carbs -- but that's not my focus right now.

Rule Number 4 still applies, though I certainly don't advocate weighing and measuring food or counting calories. Eating to satiety's the best way to go. But I tend to overdo my nut consumption -- I've inhaled entire cans of macadamia nuts in one sitting -- so it's not a bad idea to remind myself not to go off the deep end.

As for the fifth and final rule: It's a keeper. But interestingly, my standards for judging what's "worth it" have changed dramatically. A year ago, there were plenty of foods I deemed cheat-worthy. I have a soft spot for pizza, and we carved out lots of exceptions for special meals. (Want examples? Look here and here and here.)

Over time, though, three things have happened:
  • I discovered that I no longer crave certain foods. Sugar, starches, bread, pasta -- I have no problem turning them away now. They hold no sway over me. (Not even pizza.) 
  • Whenever I "cheated," I always felt uncomfortable afterwards. My abdomen would feel bloated and swollen -- something that just doesn't happen when I load up on all kinds of meat and fat. I came to recognize that 99% of the time, the food didn't taste good enough going down to make up for the fact that I felt like shit afterwards.
  • My favorite foods are now all Paleo-friendly ones -- so there's less reason to stray. Eating Paleo, I don't often feel deprived or hungry. The prospect of going off the rails just isn't all that appealing to me.
The Whole9's Melissa and Dallas also live by this rule:
Is that (insert food here) really worth it?
...WE don’t decide for YOU what food may or may not be “worth it”. In addition, understand that “worth it” has nothing to do with how “bad” the food may be. YOU, as big boys and girls, are going to have to do your nutritional off-roading all by yourselves. If corn tortillas or French toast aren’t your thing, then skip ‘em. If your favorite food in the whole world is dark chocolate or hummus, then that becomes your indulgence. If you prefer tequila shots or a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries, then those are your things. We’re not here to tell you whether a food is worth it, or that it’s “too unhealthy” of a treat to even consider eating. We just try to provide guidelines for helping you determine how, when, why and how often to indulge...and when you should just take a pass.
So with that being said, here are my new food rules, based in large part on what I've learned about how to eat:
  1. Eat real food.
  2. Eat meat, vegetables & good fat.
  3. Don't overdo nuts & fruit.
  4. Don't eat stuff that hurts you, like grains & legumes.
  5. Before you cheat, ask yourself: Is it worth it?
And that's one to grow on.