I rarely, if ever, watch TV (and especially not “reality” shows), but I heard through the grapevine about My Diet is Better Than Yours . I also heard that Dawn Jackson Blatner’s “Superfood Swap Diet” had edged out my good friend Abel James Bascom’s “Wild Diet“, and so that got me a bit curious. I mean, I know the Wild Diet is essentially a real food, Paleo thing, but what the hell was this Superfood Swap?
So I checked it out (and you can too, here). Or, I can save you the trouble and tell you that it’s….
….essentially a real-food, Paleo diet.
And this is by no means meant to discredit the work of either Dawn or Abel. I know Able personally and he’s a very cool, stand-up honcho. I don’t know Dawn, but I’m sure she’s cool as the backside of a pillow, too. Two warriors with different approaches in the battle against crappy health; I dig it.
Sound principles + consistent execution = success
Some people want and need more structure in their diet and meal planning; hence the different/variant approaches. It’s not *my thing* but I certainly get it. Hell, the key to getting and staying swole is to (safely, smartly and efficiently) bust your ass in the gym, with consistent frequency for… like, forever. Or, at least for a lifetime. Quite simply, that’s it. A fact, however, that has not limited the number of gadgets, magic routines and other methods sold over the last 100+ years. ARXFit and Efficient Exercise included.
And, just as with the two diets mentioned here, those workouts, methods, and gadgets based on sound principles work brilliantly. Those that don’t will never work. Sound principles + consistent execution = success. It’s as simple as that.
And when you eat real food, remove sugar, processed carbs and crap out of your diet, you’ll be healthier, happier and *ding, ding, ding*, lose weight (and specifically, body fat)! As if by magic…
Only, it’s not magic. It’s just basic human physiology. You are not meant to eat truckloads of sugar and processed carbs; the closer to the hoof and earth you eat, the better. To the extent you *can* get away with eating crap, you’re either on-point hormonally (i.e., young and healthy), or swole…or both. For more on that, see this.
My good friend Ben House wrote recently about the female carbohydrate conundrum. What’s the conundrum? Essentially, women in their 40s and beyond live in carb-biased environment (i.e., our current culture) and do not have the tools — physiologically or psychologically — to even begin burning or storing all that glucose derived from that high carb environment. As Ben says, it’s not fair, but it is the truth. From a scientific standpoint this is because women are not as big as men (most primates exhibit sexual dimorphism), have much less muscle (not as much storage space for sugar), and all metabolic rates slow as one ages.
That’s a drag, I know. But I figure you can handle the truth.
So, just how much carbohydrate are we talking about? Well, as Ben says, most middle-aged women need to maintain a carbohydrate intake somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 to 700 grams per week if they want to see body composition results.
Read that again:400 to 700 grams of carbs… PER WEEK
Now, that’s a fairly good amount of leafy greens and veggies. Processed carbs? Not so much.
Check out Ben’s example:
“…so if Sally eats a piece of cake and some crackers at a party with 150 grams of nearly pure sugar (very easy to do) she has just used up 20-40% of her carb allotment for the week, let me repeat that – for the week! This doesn’t even take into account blood sugar dysregulation, it is just pure math. These comfort foods also light up our reward pathways and give us a little dopamine pop. Maybe we even get some opiods from the dairy and/or gluten. But we have to create systems that help us maintain a long view of what we want, instead of trading in potential long term success for immediate satisfaction. I am not saying that it is not hard to avoid sugar and empty carbohydrates, what I am saying is that these hyper-palatable foods will derail the most thoughtful of programs and thus we must be constantly vigilant of wants vs. needs…”
I couldn’t agree more.
So yeah, you have to have systems in place vs attempting to rely on willpower alone. Willpower is a finite resource and, like work capacity, it takes time to build. You need to save that willpower for when your back is against the wall. When traveling, out at a party (like Sally, in the example above); holidays, things like that.
The key is to set up your normal, day-to-day environment so as to limit, as much as possible, any potential bad decisions.
I like to ask people what their biggest bug-a-boo is, then engineer around that. Not allowing crap into your house is the easiest way to avoid eating crap at home. And I know what you’re thinking. Hubby’s not on board, and the kids want their goddamn Cocoa Puffs. I feel ya! You just have to make those “social engineering” changes where you can.
For instance, I really like Dawn’s idea that if you’re going to eat the occasional crapola, you have to go out and do so with friends. But that only works, though, if your friends are mostly good examples of healthy eating; you gotta be smart about this social engineering thing.
And, like exercise programming, social engineering needs to be very specific! Hell, I’ve even had people alter the route they drive home from work to keep from passing that favorite *whatever* joint. It doesn’t all have to be uber-creative or rocket science though.
The transition period into a new set of eating habits is hard, no doubt. And your current environment is anything but supportive. You’re constantly bombarded with marketing designed specifically to trigger a dopamine response, food manufacturers know exactly how to manipulate fat, salt and sugar so as to send you into an overeating frenzy. A simple trip to the grocery store is a sensory assault of the highest magnitude.
Females and the keto diet?
In my personal experience with clients, I’ve found a keto diet to work for fewer females than it’s been a disaster for. Straight-up keto seems to throw most females’ hormonal balance off, or perpetuate an already bad hormonal condition.
I have seen a cyclic ketogenic diet work well for women, though. So in the Sally example above, it’s not all that bad that she the cake and crackers (gluten-free, hopefully) so long as she goes very low carb for a few days following. Then, she can have another “high carb” day. Through experience, she may come to find that she can’t exceed that 400 – 700 grams of carbs per week, but that her body responds favorably to the cycling of that carb intake vs an even division throughout the week.
This type of variability in macronutrient content day-to-day I think more closely mimics our evolutionary past. A straight keto diet for most cultures would signal to the body a period of hardship, and I think the female body, over and above the male body, reacts defensively to that signal.
A cyclic keto diet is actually what I follow, and I do try to get my clients headed that direction.
The downfall to this approach is that it extremely hard to hold to a system with variability baked in. A system can for sure be set up, but you can imagine how easy it is to talk yourself into too frequent a “carb load”.
At the end of the day though, n=1 is what matters. Just go into whatever approach you decide upon with a system, and with eyes wide open.
Curb the carb cravings
You can, eventually, break the sugar addiction and wean yourself off of a high carbohydrate diet. But you have to have systems in place to support that, at least until you’ve trained your subconscious mind to value good foods over and above the processed, hyper-palatable ones.
Pinpointed supplementation can help as well. As I discussed in my post The Importance of Nutrient Density, until you have all your nutritional bases covered, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle with cravings. Quite simply, your body is looking to fill nutritional gaps, and will prompt you to eat until those gaps are filled. Combine that with ubiquitous, nutrient-void, hyper-palatable foods, and you have the makings of our current obesity / diabetes epidemic.
So here’s the basic plan of attack that I recommend for navigating the carb overload minefield. It’s worked for Tami (pictured above), and it will work for you.
- you have to ensure that your lifestyle is supportive of optimal health. That means you’re getting plenty of sleep, sunshine, exercise (lift!), and recovery. It means that you’ve reduced chronic stress in your life and that you have established solid relationships and tribal connections.
- you need to have established systems supportive of the above. These healthy choices need to be automatic, subconscious decisions. This won’t happen overnight; you’ll need to make continual steps in the right direction. Remember that willpower is a finite resource; we want to call on it only when absolutely necessary. Otherwise, we want to be on good choice autopilot.
Concurrently with the above, I recommend:
- shoring up nutritional gaps with ID Nutrition, and
- Curbing carb cravings and supporting lean muscle mass gain with LEAN.
Remember, willpower is a finite resource. Save it for when you need it! Because in this high carb environment — even with some smart social engineering on your part — you’ll still have ample opportunity to flex that willpower muscle.
And look again at Tami’s example. What I didn’t mention is that she’s in her 40’s, and has 3 kids. Yeah.
So no excuses. Like Tami, you got this!
Heal thyself, harden thyself, change the world –