What do I actually eat?
Grant Schofield has a chat to a village pig about the pig’s future. The pig listens carefully.
Thanks to everyone who has started following this blog. Frankly, while I find this stuff interesting and important, I had no idea that it was shared by so many other people. An academic’s real-life exposure to social media is an eye opener and fun. 3000 hits in a little over a week!
So the main question I have had from people so far is “what do you eat?” and “what about kids?” I think I can talk about both of those, in this and the next post. After all I am me, and I am the father of three boys.
I have been active and relatively fit my whole life, including a stint as a professional triathlete. One observation and my main excuse for not being a long lasting and super duper fast professional triathlete, was that I could never get my weight under 85-86 kg. In fact, when I did my fastest time in Ironman NZ 2001, I was officially entered in the heavy weight “clydesdale” division, where I was 94 kg at weigh in. To be fair, that was at the conclusion of the pre-race pasta party. My time of 9:04 was (I claimed at least), at the time, a clydesdale world record. I’m not sure there is such a record but it gave me mileage at the time – “world’s fastest fat guy over the Ironman triathlon distance”.
What bugged me though was why I couldn’t get fully race lean. I was eating low fat, high carb. It was exactly what the experts said I should do. I could hardly exercise any more. I was training up to 25 hours a week! In fact, I noticed the same thing when I watched the Ironman in Taupo New Zealand this year. Roughly one third of the field is overweight or obese in my judgement. How can they stay fat doing so much exercise? Maybe they are LESS fat than when they started? Or maybe their high carb diet and chronically raised insulin fails to allow fat burning?
Anyway, post triathlon retirement and children arriving I was up over 102 kg. I was still exercising everyday, eating “healthily” and still fatter than ever and it was getting out of control. Why was I always hungry? Why did my energy always “fall of a cliff” after lunch? I was trying really hard to NOT be a fat bastard. You can imagine, I do physical activity, nutrition, and obesity research. You lose street cred when you are fat.
My Solution: Take up marathon running and starve myself. This method got the weight off. It also made me sick and injured. I was especially prone to colds and flu with several every year. I hate flu.
I finally got consistently injured enough to flag the running and take up age group triathlon again. Same results: weight creeping, always creeping. When it crept past an acceptable point, I’d starve myself and exercise like crazy. I’d get sick.
Surely there has to be a better way? Enter, LCHF.
Now: I’m down to my lightest weight since mid-high school. 79 kg, lean, full of energy, and all the injury and illness has gone. I’m eating until full, as much as I like. It’s Awesome. I wouldn’t have believed this was possible. But it is.
I started reading all the literature and science in nutrition, which has been part of my broader field for a while. I have read enough now and experienced enough case work to change my starting hypothesis.
That’s partly why this blog is here. That’s why I have changed my research and practice direction in physical activity, nutrition and obesity, as well as the broader area of well being. I am now up with the science and we need to do it better.
So what do I eat?
I don’t always eat three meals a day now. I often try intermittent fasting which usually isn’t planned but happens naturally* according to hunger, food availability, work pressures and convenience. For this to be possible is a revelation to me. I have spent almost all of my life being pretty much hungry the whole time. If I didn’t eat every few hours I would fall off a glucose cliff and basically become 50% functional. This is hardly convenient and hardly optimal for a high performance life. My new way of eating also allows me to easily create calorie deficits to manage my weight if I feel I need to.
*The fact that I can quite often end up fasting accidentally for relatively long periods, while staying mentally sharp and full of physical energy, is an amazement to me. I’ve spent my whole life doing exactly the opposite. It’s sort of like the “user manual” for being me has been found. I am fat adapted and can oxidize fat as a primary fuel source. I can use ketones as a fuel for my brain. I don’t fall off the glucose “cliff” every few hours. This is a great place to be in. It also means you lose the cravings for the sweet food, especially sugar. This is the main benefit most people I know who have moved into this style of eating report. The constant energy and loss of ridiculous hunger every few hours.
I also have the occasional off day or meal when I just do whatever I feel like. We are all human after all. I used to plan these for a while and really looked forward to them. Frankly, now, I can do this if I want but I feel so crappy after eating simple carbs, especially wheat products, that I just don’t bother much. Again, this is a revelation as my self control in the face of high sugar high carb foods in the past has been completely non-existent!
Here are some typical meals for me:
- Scrambled eggs with whipping cream and streaky farm bacon from the butcher fried in coconut oil
- Smoothie made with coconut cream or milk, whipping cream, coco powder and or fresh berries
- Salmon, avocado and tomato
- Omelette with cheese and veggies (meat added when I feel like it).
- Massive salad with lettuce, tomato, capsicum, cucumber, cheese, meat of some sort – fish, chicken, bacon whatever is around, avocado, almonds. Mix up and add copious amounts of dressing which is home made olive oil and vinegar or mayo. The dressings have to be made by you, because almost all commercial dressings use hydrogenated vegetable fats – yuck – and are often high in sugar
- That’s my “go-to” lunch above. I lack imagination for lunch according to my family, but that’s the way it goes! I do have eggs and smoothies for lunch sometimes or something from the dinner/lunch list below.
- Some sort of meat or fish. Heaps of veggies (green and red veggies as a rule, cauliflower is also good, avoid starchy ones). I like pork with crackling. This is the time to really appreciate the flavors of fat.
- Wine, although I am trying an alcohol free month right now because it was getting out of hand!
- Berries and cream for dessert
- Low carb cheese cake is a favorite
Other tips and traps
- Don’t trim fat. Healthy fats are monounsaturated olive and other nut oils, Omega 3 fish oils, and healthy meat fats (unprocessed red and white meats including beef pork, fish and chicken), as well as dairy fats. Coconut oil is great. Avoid hydrogenated and polyunsaturated fats, especially in cooking.
- Just to reiterate, you have to replace carb and protein calories with something. The only macronutrient left is fat. Our ancestors likely coveted fat. Fat, at least as far as insulin and leptin goes, is metabolically benign. Carbs are not, especially when they are rapidly absorbed.
- Coffee is OK, I use whipping cream not milk. I tend to avoid dairy except cheese of all sorts (yum!) and cream. Milk can be high in lactose (a carbohydrate). Those who are more carbohydrate tolerant (have an ability to eat carbs without weight gain) can go for full fat milk and a fuller range of dairy. Most kids are in this category.
- Alcohol is a tricky question. Alcohol is certainly not metabolically benign. I recommend abstinence during the adaptation period into LCHF. Have a look at this link to explore more about keto/low carb adaptation. Then what you want is a low carb drink if you enjoy alcohol. I certainly don’t drink alcohol for physical health reasons but I do drink it for social and marital health reasons! My wife Louise and I spend lots of time sitting on our deck drinking wine and talking. Great fun! The active alcohol is called ethanol and is processed in the liver without much effect on insulin, at least not directly. It in fact follows a similar and dangerous path to the liver and beyond. It’s metabolically active in an inflammatory and insulin resistance-promoting kind of way. However, that said, we all have our vices, the actual insulin raising carbs in a glass of wine are between 3 and 6 g, depending on the wine and the size of glass (we have big glasses in our house!) so a glass or two is fine. Beers have way more carbs (12-20 g) per bottle and contain wheat that may result in other metabolic effects for some people. You can get low carb beers of course. I don’t really care for spirits, as a result of bad youth experiences I think, but if you do use them then it’s crucial to leave out the sugar based mixers.
That’s my wrap. I’m not perfect and as a normal human fall off the wagon too. I’m on the 18/21 plan. If there are 21 meals in a week, try for at least 18 good ones, hopefully better. Let me know your favorite meals and we can post them up.