About a year ago I started my weight loss journey and I'm delighted to say I've managed to keep 50lbs off ever since. However in the last few months my diet lapsed a bit, I was traveling a lot, and embarked on a new career chapter - none of which are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. As a result, I gave back a few of the pounds I lost. Maybe 5 or 6, tops. But it was enough for me to reconsider my approach to food, drink, and exercise.
But instead of going back to the regimen that was so successful for me in the first place, I thought I'd try a body hacking experiment. What would happen if I adopted an ultra-strict regimen with no cheat days? What would the effect be on my physique, my mood, my sleep, my concentration? The results were fascinating.
I decided for 30 days I would have:
- NO white or refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, pasta, bread, potatoes, flour, etc)
- NO dairy
- NO alcohol
- NO red meat
- NO soda
- NO coffee
(For context, I drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day, at least one diet coke, and a glass of wine in the evening.)
The elimination of soda and coffee was to see the effect on my teeth and on my sleep and concentration.
Removing white/refined carbs, alcohol, red meat, and dairy was to see the effect on body composition and weight loss.
I wanted to see a) if I could even do this for 30 days and b) what the overall effect on my body would be.
I began the experiment on a Monday.
As I wandered bleary-eyed into the office on the first day, I instinctively lunged towards to the coffee machine but managed to catch myself before deploying the mediocre "americano" into my chipped and overused mug. I opted for green tea instead, a habit I maintained for the entire 30 days.
The rest of the day looked like this:
Breakfast: Protein shake first thing in the morning followed by fruit when I got to the office.
Lunch: The office salad bar (leaves, vegetables, hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, tuna, etc) or cold grilled chicken and vegetables.
Dinner: All manner of chicken, fish, turkey, pork, eggs with every vegetable I could think of. Dinner was easy and satisfying every single time.
Snacks: Almonds, fruit, carrot sticks, etc.
Exercise: Nothing beyond my 4-mile roundtrip walk to/from work.
The first week was the toughest but not what I predicted. Giving up carbs, red meat and dairy was easy. It was the coffee and alcohol that proved very difficult. Coffee was such a habit that its absence in my daily routine was immediately noticeable. And I enjoyed a glass of red wine when I got home in the evening, especially after a hard day. But after the first week, the changes started to happen.
Immediately the weight started to come off. But I also had better concentration, more energy, no afternoon slumps, and the quality of my sleep had noticeably improved. The cravings also disappeared after the first two weeks as well.
I kept the routine up for a full 30 days, no cheat days, no cheat meals. And I dropped 12lbs and inches off my waist. I now wear a small size t-shirt and need a new belt.
But on the 31st day, something weird happened. I was finally free to eat whatever I wanted, drink a load of coffee, have a hunk of cake and wash it down with some wine. But I didn't want to do any of that. Instead, I had my protein shake, my green tea, a salad for lunch, and a protein heavy dinner. It was the weirdest goddamn thing.
I kept thinking, if I'm going to have a cup of coffee then I want the best damn cup I can find. So I waited until I had access to one, and it was totally worth the wait. Made it all worthwhile. Same with wine, red meat, and soda. I actually paid £3 for a can of Diet Dr Pepper imported from the US so the reward would be so much sweeter.
So ultimately here's what I found:
- for me 30 days seems to be what it takes to turn exception into rule, hardship into habit.
- it's easy to lose weight even with kids and an office job as long as you have a shred of discipline.
- carbohydrates are a dangerous addiction with almost no value.
- good food is worth waiting for. If I want something that's not so healthy, I'm going to find the most delicious, well made example I can.
I'm interested to see if I can apply this 30-day mentality to other challenges. Exercise, finance, learning, etc.