A few years back, I started looking for ways to up my energy level throughout the day. Judging by the popularity of energy drinks and products like that Five Hour Energy, America is looking for the same. I've always been a coffee drinker, drinking about 24 oz. in the morning with 8 oz. of milk and 4 Tbsp. of sugar. I also drank Diet Cokes throughout the day and evenings too; usually as pick-me-ups. Like any drug though, they lost their effect. I could chug a diet coke before going to bed. I would even brag about my tolerance...I feel a little stupid about that now. I quit Diet Coke eventually, and turned to my old friend coffee for a super-powered pick-me-up.
Although caffeine and sugar are great stimulants, they always led to crashes. Those crashes made the peaks just seem worthless. I was looking for something more steady. The secret to my success in the workplace has always been sustained focus. I rarely face a problem that I can fully resolve in an hour or two. If I was crashing every 2 hours and getting up for a Diet Coke or coffee, then that just opened me up to a chain of interruptions that ruined the rest of the day.
I quit caffeine cold-turkey. I just fought through the withdrawal headaches for a week, and I was as good as new. However, I was no more or less efficient. I still crashed like crazy in the afternoon. Disappointed, I started back on caffeine a little with sweet tea in the afternoons.
Then last year, I started to talk to a friend in the office about diet topics. We talked about concepts like Caloric Restriction, portion control, and simple vs. complex sugars and carbohydrates. I started switching out my carbs, cutting out as much refined sugar as I could, and reducing my portions. Much to my surprise, my daily energy level stabilized and increased. It was amazing. I would get home from a long day at work, and look for things to do around the house. I was a robot!
A few wikipedia articles and other things found on the Internet, don't qualify me to form any medical opinions at all, but that's never stopped me from trying. I conjecture that my crashes had little to do with me coming down from a caffeine rush, and much more to do with my bodies attempt to regulate my sugar intake. I had so much refined sugar with my morning coffee and my typically sweet breakfasts, that my body would overreact with a strong insulin response. Right about lunch I would crash as my body worked too well and dropped my blood sugar level. Luckily lunch would save me, and I'd feast with a lot of simple carbs, fats, and heavy starches. That led to the same spike and insulin response, forcing me to pick myself back up with coffee and snacks. The last crash would lead me straight into dinner.
Not only was I eating garbage to snap myself out of these crashes, but I was eating way too much of it due to the increased appetite. When I started changing my diet, I cut back on my refined sugar, simple carbocydrates, and sweet drinks. This dramatically reduced my sweet tooth, but more importantly, it turned me on to more naturally sweet foods like fruits and vegetables. The sugars in fruits are not refined and are more slowly processed by the body. This is the same of the complex carbohyrdates found in things like whole grain bread. This effectively makes them a slow-release source of energy that prevents the body from responding too strongly with insulin.
This is nothing new for a Type II Diabetic. Their bodies still produce very limited and irregular amounts of insulin. However, they often need to take additional insulin or medications once they learn how to control their blood sugar levels with their diet. I'm finding that this diet has great benefits for non-diabetics too, and I bet it will go a long way to preventing Type II Diabetes.
Like most guys, I despise dieting. I think a lot of guys feel that they can eat whatever they want as long as we maintain our physical activity. When we put on weight, we feel like wimps for not being more active. Any talk of dieting is a further admission of such failure and a heavy blow to the ego.
To combat this, the diet companies cater to our fragile egos by showing macho guys and guys just like us successfully dieting.
Disclaimer: I'm actually nothing like Dan or Larry, and I don't support Nutrisystem...or dieting in general.
Yo Yo Yo
I've seen way to many people yo-yo diet their life away. When they're dieting, all the do is complain about how bad they feel or how hungry they are. They torture themselves.
The problem is, modern diet plans are too extreme and different from your regular eating habits. It's those shocks to your system that often lead to the amazing initial results. Just as the effectiveness of a particular dieting is starting to fade, you're at your goal and you decided to switch back to your regular habits. Which of course leads to you gaining the weight back. This is known as Yo Yo Dieting.
Don't Diet, Change Your Diet
The idea of changing your diet vs. dieting is certainly not new. I'm sure you've had plenty of friends tell you the same thing. And we all have plenty of good common sense about what's good and bad to eat.
Here's the secret though: make your changes very slowly and give yourself time to adapt.
I was amazed at how I changed and adapted to my dietary changes over the past several months. If I had not made these changes so slowly, I'm sure that my body would have revolted until I eagerly went back to my old habits.
Here are some changes that I made slowly and how I adjusted.
- Eat Less: Sounds obvious, but starving yourself is painful. Reduce your intake slowly and give your stomach a chance to shrink.
- Eat Slower: I'm a fast eater; which is bad, because it leads to overeating. When I started to slow down, I actually started to taste the food much more, and it led me to appreciate eating more for the taste rather than the full feeling.
- Cut Back on Sugar: I cut way down on sweets, real and artificial. I did this slowly of course, and was shocked as my sweet tooth diminished. Formerly bland fruits were becoming sweeter and tastier. And they're obviously better for you.
- Stay Away from Fats: This is much easier said than done, especially when you're addicted to Southern barbecue and all the fatty sides. But again, do it slowly and pretty soon you won't be able to tolerate those nasty fast food burgers any longer.
- Lose the Salt: Again, nothing new here. However, the benefit that I got from slowly cutting back on my salt intake (fries, chips, table salt, canned soups, etc.) was the flavor explosion. My palate just naturally adjusted to healthier foods with a variety of spices. Don't get me wrong, I still hate Indian Curry.
Making Permanent Changes
Making these changes slowly is, in this layman's opinion, the best way to make permanent changes and prevent the vicious dieting cycle. Plus, you don't have to feel like a wuss for going on a diet. It's not like you can't eat a big, nasty steak, you just won't want to. Try the ladies portion.