I hate diets. And I love food. I strongly believe you can’t ever go wrong with a nice juicy bacon cheeseburger and a giant bag of greasy french fries. I love all forms of potatoes, now that I think about it. Potato chips, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked potatoes, yum! If I don’t love something, deep fry it and chances are my mind will change. Growing up I was an extra chubby kid. When I would tell my mom I wanted to lose weight, she would tell me to eat more white rice (as most Asian parents would). Not surprisingly, I never lost any weight. During the summer before starting 6th grade, I finally had enough of kids at school picking on me and bullying me that I decided to stick to a diet. And it worked, I lost a bit of weight. Which diet? The sugar frosted flakes cereal for every meal diet. Maybe it was puberty instead.
Fast forward to my undergraduate years at Truman State. We had a really nice gym with lots of weights, machines, giant mirrors, an indoor track, and multiple basketball courts. I started working out regularly, but I stayed fluffy and never really put on much muscle. The problem was my diet – college frat boy food: fast food, Chinese takeout, monster pizzas, and lots and lots of booze. Many hours were wasted at the gym, or at least were spent there with no real results to show.
This cycle of eating terrible foods and working out at the gym went on for years. Around the second or third year of pharmacy school, my buddy Kyle finally set my diet straight. We would workout at the gym still, same as I always did (but maybe with a little more intensity), but my diet changed drastically thanks to Kyle’s diet plan. This diet allowed me to put on quite a bit of muscle, enough to where friends and classmates would notice and say something nice! What was this magic diet? A concoction of cottage cheese and tuna, with mustard and pickle relish to give it some kick. I know… it wasn’t the greatest smelling meal, but I was able to stomach the taste and stick to this diet for a bit. I ate this high protein meal once or twice a day for a month or two and I saw results. I packed on some muscle and felt pretty good about myself. Not surprisingly, I burned out on this tuna concoction and ditched the diet to return to the not-so-healthy eating + waste-time-at-the-gym combination from before. I lost a little muscle mass and gained some extra fluff, which was to be expected.
Fast forward a few years to me as a working pharmacist, my diet hadn’t changed much. My breakfast usually consisted of a big bowl of cereal with almond milk, with a spoonful of peanut butter. I brought my lunch box to work everyday (huge money saver!!) which usually consisted of either a turkey sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, potato chips, yogurt, a granola bar, and a fruit. My wife and I would eat out maybe once a week. I always thought my eating habits were moderately healthy, and I still worked out at the gym 4-5 times a week, but I never achieved the same fitness I had during the cottage cheese + tuna phase. I never realized how sugar-packed and unhealthy my diet actually was until I visited my local library.
The Slow Carb Diet
Once I came across Tim Ferriss‘ book “The 4-Hour Body” at the local library, my fitness level peaked once again. I focused on the diet portion of the book, which is known as “the slow carb” diet. Results really are achieved by 80% diet and 20% exercise. You can lift heavy weights and do all the cardio you want, but with a crappy diet, your results are greatly hindered. I adopted my own version of the slow carb diet, and since starting 3 months ago, I’ve lost 20 pounds. I went from 186 lbs to 166 lbs. The greatest things about this diet are I enjoy my meals and I don’t have to starve myself, meals are simple and easy to make, and perhaps the biggest motivator: I get one 24-hour cheat day, once a week, that I get to go wild on, guilt-free.
Let me elaborate a little bit about this cheat day. It really is as awesome as it sounds. On cheat day, I wake up early in the morning and eat 3 long john doughnuts, breakfast sausage, potato hash and biscuits and gravy for breakfast; a big greasy burger and giant bag of fries with a nice cold beer for lunch; an entire pizza and breadsticks and pasta for dinner; a large mint chocolate chip smoothie with Oreo crumbles for dessert; oh yeah, and bags of potato chips and Reese’s peanut butter cups as snacks throughout the day. I get to eat and over-eat whatever I want every Saturday, not feel guilty about it, and not gain any weight or extra fluff. The thought of this amazing cheat day should be enough to get anyone through the other 6 days of the slow carb diet!
Enough about cheat day, back to the diet. The slow carb diet consists of 5 rules:
- No white carbs – this includes rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, grains.
- Repeat the same meals over and over to increase adherence.
- Don’t drink any calories. No soda!
- No fruit – most fruit are super high in sugar! Avocados and tomatoes in moderation are permitted.
- Pick one day a week and gorge yourself on all the naughty foods you can handle, plus some!
Following these rules, all of my meals consist of legumes, vegetables, and a protein meat. The legumes I prefer are pinto beans with bacon and black beans (both canned for simplicity and ease, although I recently found an amazing crockpot recipe for cowboy beans). My vegetables of choice are canned green beans, kim chi, and frozen veggies (again for simplicity and ease). I eat the same breakfast everyday, and I bring the same meal to work everyday. My meals at home vary a little.
- 2 eggs
- 2 pieces of bacon
- 1/2 can of black beans or pinto beans
- 1/2 can of green beans or kim chi or frozen vegetables
- daily multivitamin.
- 1/2 can of black beans or pinto beans
- 1/2 can of green beans or kim chi
- hamburger meat or turkey burger or chicken breast
- 1/2 can of black beans or pinto beans
- 1/2 can of green beans or spinach or kim chi or frozen vegetables or asparagus
- tilapia or steak or chicken breast or hamburger meat or turkey burger
- all natural peanut butter (no added sugar) or handful of roasted peanuts
I have recently started mixing in meals using fresh beans instead of using all canned beans. I’m making a week’s worth of beans using Rick Bayless’ crockpot recipe for cowboy beans (thanks Uncle Mike!). Pinto beans, bacon, onion, garlic, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro… simple and delicious, in bulk!
By keeping the meals simple and repeating the same meals over and over, I increase the likelihood of me sticking to the diet. Also, the food tastes great and are enjoyable! How many times have you failed a diet or chose to eat out simply because the thought of cooking a meal seemed like too much of a hassle? Keep it simple. Keep it easy. If you don’t like legumes, learn to like it or this diet isn’t for you. Legumes are essential in the diet because it adds protein and keeps you full until your next meal, preventing the urge to snack on something unhealthy.
Financially Frugal Food
Also, another huge benefit of the slow carb diet is it is super light on your wallet, aiding you on your path to financial freedom! You can get a can of beans (2 servings) for $0.80, or an uncooked 4 lb bag of beans (20+ servings!) for only $4! By eating so dirt cheap throughout the week, you can afford to splurge a little once cheat day rolls around! Once cheat day arrives, eat all the carbs you want! The only thing that should be holding you back on cheat day is your frugality, but no worries, you can eat just as bad from the grocery store!
With this diet, I’ve been able to shed pounds of excess fat, while at the same time maintaining my muscle and toning up with less time required at the gym. I now workout at my apartment’s gym 3 days a week, with plenty of cardio by riding by bike to and from work everyday!
Check out some of these before and after pics. The before pictures are from January of 2017, when I was gung-ho about participating in bodybuilding.com’s 250k challenge. Unfortunately, taking the before pictures was as far as that went. I continued with my normal unhealthy diet and waste-time-at-the-gym routine, up until about three months ago. I’m kicking myself now for not taking before pictures again right before starting the diet for the most accurate presentation, but I’d say I looked about the same as I did in January. The after pictures are from today (typing this November 19, 2017), after having been on the slow carb diet since August 20, 2017. Three solid months of progress, and going strong through the holidays!
It’s either the diet, or the magical powers that radiate from the man bun.
What are your thoughts about the slow carb diet? Which other diets have you tried in the past? What’s your idea of the perfect cheat day? How much do you spend each month on food? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe!