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New Years Resolutions - My Experience with Different Diets
(Note: I am neither a medical doctor nor registered dietician. I can share with you ideas that have worked for me, that might help you achieve your goals. I strongly suggest you read books and consult with medical experts as necessary.)
Here are key attributes of my ideal diet:
It is an ongoing "life-style" diet. I want a diet that will help me maintain my desired weight for the rest of my life. I don't want one diet to lose weight, and another diet to gain it all back.
Easy to follow at home, at work, at friend's houses, and at restaurants. By easy, I mean that I can enjoy the food, and eat it in front of co-workers and clients without drawing ridicule.
Does not merely involve substituting each one food with a "healthier" imitation. The controversy over [WhoNu? Cookies] is a good example. These cookies are delicious, look and taste like [Oreo cookies], but claim to be healthier. According to the box, a serving size of three WhoNu cookies have the fiber equivalent of a bowl of oatmeal, the calcium of a glass of milk, and the Vitamin C of a cup of bluepberries. Several bloggers have [compared the ingredients and nutrition facts].
Provides my body enough essential amino acids, fats, vitamins and calories. The diet can include any vitamins or other supplements that are needed to make it a complete.
Over the years, I have tried out the following diets. Here is my experience with each one:
The Zone Diet
Dr. Barry Sears created [the Zone diet] to help diabetics, and it turned out to be good for lots of other people. The "zone" refers to a balance of hormones in your bloodstream that can be achieved if you eat the right ratio of carbs, proteins and fats in every meal. The plan is based on a "block" consisting of 9g of carb, 7g of protein, and 1.5g of fat.
Meals on this plan are merely combining the same number of blocks from each category. Four ounces of beef steak, a cup of kidney beans, and two tbsp of sour cream represents a 4-block meal. The number of blocks per day you are allowed to eat is based on the amount of lean body mass that determines your protein requirements. It was 14 blocks for me.
Pros: I liked this diet, it worked for me. In addition to three meals a day, you can snack between meals, so long as the snacks were also balanced.
Cons: Everything had to be weighed or measured. Difficult to choose meals at restaurants that meet the ratio requirements.
The Four-Hour Body Diet
Fellow blogger Tim Ferriss published the diet that has worked for him for the past seven years. Some call this a "slow-carb" diet. He has helped people [Lose 20 lbs of fat in 30 days without exercise]. The rules are fairly simple:
Rule 1: Do not eat any "white" starchy foods: rice, pasta, bread, cereal, potatoes. Non-white versions of these are also forbidden, so no brown rice, brown bread or green pasta!
Rule 2: All meals are a combination of leans, beans and greens. The leans are low-fat animal-based proteins like egg whites, fish and meat. Beans can be a variety of legumes. Greens can be a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that aren't in the "white" category above.
Rule 3: Eat the same meals over and over again, with breakfast within the first 30 minutes of waking up. The idea here is to eliminate the desire to eat by taking away variety. Once you realize that food is just fuel and building blocks for your body, you can get away from the emotional issues of food.
Rule 4: Don't drink your calories. Avoid any liquid with calories, including milk, fruit juice and soft drinks. Tim makes an exception for red wine, which is good for your health.
Rule 5: Take one day off per week, a "dieters gone wild" cheat day. Pick a day, say Saturday, and that day you can eat anything you want, pizza, tacos, fried Twinkies. It is not that cheating is allowed one day a week, but is required for its affect on metabolism, to avoid [ketosis].
This last rule was perhaps the strangest part of the diet. The intended side-benefit was that if you could look forward to a day in the near future to have something you crave, it would give you the willpower to pass it up today. The boost in carbs also resets your metabolism, so that your body doesn't think it is in starvation mode.
Mo and I got popcorn and large soft drinks at the movie theaters on those days. Stocking "cheat food" in your house just adds extra temptation. Trying to schedule our social life around our cheat days proved quite difficult. As a result, "cheat days" turned into cheat weekends and cheat evenings.
Pros: I liked this diet, it worked for me, but it didn't work for Mo.
Cons: Having gone to chef school, I like to prepare a wide variety of meals. I enjoy food, and variety is the spice of life. Also, I often eat breakfast with clients, which means that I will not be able to eat within 30 minutes of waking up (unless I eat breakfast twice!).
The Forks-over-Knives Diet
After watching the movie [Forks over Knives], I decided to try a plant-based, whole-food vegetarian diet. This is basically a vegetarian diet, but discourages dairy, bread, pasta and refined grains.
I was surprised to learn that you can get enough protein on such a diet. It can be done. Rice and beans are shelf-stable, so you can stock up with fewer trips to the grocery store, and eat very inexpensively.
Pros: I liked this diet, I was able to stick with it, and enjoy the meals. Many restaurants in Tucson accomodate vegetarians with substitutions.
Cons: I didn't lose any weight on this diet. I had difficult time trying to combine foods to make complete proteins. I had vitamin deficiency, and had to take multi-vitamin and other supplements to compensate.
The Paleo Diet
The [Paleo diet] reflects the fact that humans have been around for over 200,000 years, but grains, dairy and other processed foods have only been around for the past 10,000 years. Our genetic code is just not designed for these new foods.
Basically, if a hunter-gather could have "hunted it" or "gathered it", then it can be eaten. The diet consists of eggs, fish, fresh meats, poultry, vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts and seeds. It does not include dairy, bread, pasta, wheat, rye, barley, soy, oats, rice, corn, quinoa, beans, products made from processed meats or refined grains.
As for measurements and proportions, I try to eat at least 90g of Protein, and try to eat less than 150g of Carbs. The diet fits well with the foods that I eat in restaurants with clients, the food we are served at work, and the foods that I can prepare at home.
Pros: I like this diet, it is the one that I am currently on.
Cons: I missing putting half-and-half cream in my coffee! Occasionally, I crave some mac-and-cheese, beans-and-rice, a slice of apple pie, or simply a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
If you have any experiences with these diets, or a different diet that worked for you, please post a comment below!