So Many Diets, So Little Time…

which-is-the-best-diet

Joe and I experimented with several different diets that we struggled to maintain.  Here is a list of what we tried, why we liked them, and why we didn’t.  Everyone is unique and all of us have different needs.  What I find easy or difficult may not be the case for someone else.  This is my experience with the main diet plans we tried.

THE “I CAN DO WHATEVER I WANT AND EAT WHATEVER I WANT BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT” PLAN

PROS:

  • I can do whatever I want and eat whatever I want because I don’t  have to think about it
  • I can socialize with all of my friends with no worries about what’s being served and set down in front of my face.  I can, and will, eat it all.
  • I don’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to exercise before work.
  • I don’t have to turn down invites to social gatherings because I have to go to the gym after work.
  • I can sleep in and hang out on the couch in my PJs all weekend.  I get enough social interaction from the Chinese delivery guy.

CONS:

  • Getting fat
  • Getting tired
  • looking old
  • feeling horrible

Obviously this wasn’t working for us.  On to bigger and better things!

VEGETARIANISM

I’ve gone through various degrees of vegetarianism for various reasons, and ultimately find it difficult to maintain, also for various reasons.

PROS:

  • I did loose weight
  • My digestive system worked more easily
  • Eating sometimes tends to be less expensive
  • If you are concerned about animal cruelty, avoiding meat and dairy altogether is easier than finding brands that don’t fully utilize modern factory farming practices.

CONS:

  • Being vegetarian doesn’t mean just avoiding meat.  It means eating a wide variety of plant life.  If you are constantly “on the go” it can be easier just to grab french fries or cheese pizza.
  • It used to be very difficult to find vegetarian options in restaurants, although this isn’t as true today.  Veganism still presents a big challenge if you rely on eating out at all.  Trying to find a vegetarian dish that also doesn’t have dairy is difficult at best.
  • It can be difficult to eat enough calories, especially if you have a rigorous workout schedule.  I was hungry all the time.
  • Socializing gets touchy because people want to question you about your diet.  Explaining the practices of factory farming isn’t exactly the best mealtime conversation, but this is when it tends to come up.

THE PUMP ENERGY FOOD DIET

This used to be a restaurant in Manhattan with a few locations.  Their menu was tailored towards body builders, and was all super clean and healthy.  Joe and I would eat there regularly and liked it for the most part, so when they published a book we decided to buy it and try to bring their cooking into our home. It didn’t last very long for us.

PROS:

  • Uses real whole foods, with lots of veggies
  • Recipes were pretty simple and easy
  • Portions were ample enough that we didn’t feel hungry

CONS:

  • Even though recipes were simple and easy, they were time consuming.  We got really sick and tired of chopping vegetables ALL THE TIME, and frankly we were both just too damn tired at the end of a 10 hour work day to do all of the work it required.
  • Sometimes the flavors were sort of bland
  • Started to feel monotonous after a while.  A lot of the recipes were the same stuff just put together differently.

THE FLAT BELLY DIET

We discovered this book by Cynthia Sass and Liz Vaccariello purely by accident when we saw them as guests on a talk show while channel surfing one lazy, non-showery, non-workouty, PJs kind of day.  The basis of the diet is (along with calorie restriction) making sure you have a dose of healthy fat in every meal.  These would be Monounsaturated Fats, or MUFAs, as they call them.  These are basically fats that come from plant sources like nuts, olive oil, olives, chick peas, and (the best one) DARK CHOCOLATE!!!

PROS:

  • You’re on a diet and can still eat dark chocolate!!!
  • The recipes are very simple and easy, and most of them very tasty.
  • If you are diligent, this works FAST! We noticed results almost immediately.

CONS:

  • The initial “4 day anti-bloat” section of the diet is not fun at all.  I mean, at all.  We felt deprived and hungry almost the entire time, so it was NOT easy.
  • Men are restricted to 1600 calories a day and women to 1200.  Portions are very small.  We got used to it eventually, but even then still felt deprived on occasion.
  • A lot of the recipes call for processed ingredients, and other things we wanted to avoid like cornstarch.

WHOLE 30

This is currently where we “live”.  It’s been written about a lot recently, and the critics of it seem to not fully understand it’s structure.  Whole 30 is based on the premise of self-experimentation.  For 30 days you avoid a list of foods that are deemed “inflamatory” so you can clean out your entire system of foods that may be causing you issues.  Once the 30 days is over, you add these things back in one at a time.  The idea is that you don’t necessarily have to avoid all of the foods on their list in perpetuity, but you find out what you need to avoid to feel your personal best.  This list includes dairy, legumes, sugar, grains, and alcohol.  Joe has issues with legumes, while I do not.  I have more issues with dairy than he does.  Everyone responds differently.

PROS:

  • We lost weight FAST.  That last 5 pounds I couldn’t get rid of just fell off like it was nothing.
  • We felt GREAT.  Some people experience an initial lag of energy, but we did not.  In fact, my energy levels increased immediately.
  • There is no calorie counting.  We eat as much as we want until we are full.
  • Paleo is all the rage right now, so finding recipes is easy.  Just turn on your computer and you are set.

CONS:

  • The planning stage for Whole 30 has to be more well thought out than other diets.  You absolutely MUST plan ahead in order to make it through the first stages, and you can’t do it without reading at least part of the book.  It’s structure is much more complicated than just reading through a few bullet points, and you will want to understand WHY it is structured the way it is.
  • Avoiding sugar is a real challenge.  Read your labels and you’ll find it hidden in EVERYTHING.
  • Avoiding dairy is not always easy.

I’ve never liked the idea of becoming an acolyte to a particular diet plan.  It can all start to feel very “cultish” and restrictive.  What we have discovered is the one element all of these diets had in common that we liked was the idea of non-processed foods.  Once we hooked into that idea it began to make our food choices a lot easier and much more natural.

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