Most diets work as a quick-fix, but this one will help you become fit for good
Photo by Charles ?? on Unsplash
When I was a kid, I was overweight. I don?t know why and how it happened, I just remembered that suddenly, I started being called ?fatty? by my classmates. Maybe it was because I switched 2 cultures rapidly (as a kid, I moved from Russia to U.S. and back). Maybe it was because I ate too much fast food. I don?t know. My family had good diet habits, I was overweight and I was ashamed of it. So I did what any overweight kid would do feeling stressed out, I went for a Big Mac.
One day, as a teenager, I?ve had enough. I was on vocation on the Tenerife island in Spain with my family, and I wanted to run up the hill with my sister and her friends. But half-way through, I had to stop and gasp for air. I was in a bad physical shape, and I didn?t like it.
That very day I started browsing the web for solutions. I saw the intermittent-fasting diet, the ?China Study? and other self-help advice on the web, before self-help even became mainstream. And then I stumbled upon something called the ?food combining diet?.
The idea of this diet is simple: you don?t eat carbohydrates and protein in the same meal.
Although many Americans are used to eating BLT sandwiches, with this diet ? you would eat the sandwich, but without bread. Bread would have to be a separate meal.
To me, this diet seemed simple and easy enough to follow, so I decided to give it a go. Over the next 5 months, I got in the best shape of my life and my friends (the one who made fun of me), were shocked. I complimented my diet regimen with exercise and running, and a year later I looked like a teenage-body builder.
The ?food combining diet? or ?Hay Diet?, as popularized by a physician William Howard Hay ? is a diet of food separation. There are two approaches to this, and I would highly recommend reading a book written by Herbert Sheldon ? the person who helped promote the idea in the middle of the previous century.
The Food Combining Diet
Is not really a diet, but rather a nutritional approach. When I was reading about it, writers warned that it was not tested scientifically, but empirically ? and it was good for weight loss, as claimed by people who have tried it. That was enough for me.
The central idea is that there are different types of food that should not be mixed (i.e., protein-rich foods like meat and carbohydrates, like bread). If you mix different types of foods, it will impair your ability to digest the food and, as a result, leave undigested food in the stomach ? which will either rot or make you ill/gain weight.
Instead, by separating certain types of food, people can digest better and, as a result, lose excessive weight and gain better health.
The Hay Diet
This is an alternative approach to the ?food combining? diet, but it still follows the same central idea. Popularized by William Hay, it?s idea is that food can be separated into the following categories:
- Acid (meat, seafood, protein-rich foods)
- Alkaline (carbohydrates, vegetables)
- Neutral (egg yolks, almond milk, dark chocolate, lemons, butter)
Have you ever felt a heavy stomach after eating a big sandwich? This heaviness is caused by different stomach acids combining together.
The idea of the ?food combining diet? is that there are different liquids in the stomach that allow you to process different types of foods. Hence, you should never combine acid and alkaline foods, as it will ruin the ideal acid/alkaline balance in the stomach and cause digestion problems. Neutral foods can be mixed with any other kind of foods.
When you separate the foods you eat, you feel satisfied after you?ve ate, but you never have the feeling of ?heaviness? in your stomach.
How you should eat
There are a few key principles of the ?food combining diet?, here they are:
- Only mix protein (i.e., meat or fish) with non-starchy vegetables (e.g., broccoli, green leafs) and never with grains, bread, rice, and fruit with high sugar
- Eat starchy vegetables with other starchy or non-starchy vegetables.
- Avoid sweet fruit and sugar as much as possible
- Similarly to the ?slow-carb diet? popularized by Tim Ferriss, you can consume red wine ? but it goes in the ?protein category? (acid) and should be consumed with meat. Bear is considered made from starchy vegetables and goes in the ?vegetable? (alkaline) category.
- Drink plenty of water (but preferably not during the meal)
A table for your reference (the one I used). Credits to this blog.
It turned out, that for some reason, this diet was quite popular among people in Russia. Whatever the reason, with this diet, I was able to lose 25 kilograms in 4 months.
Why the ?food combining diet??
First of all, this diet appealed to me, because it?s not really a diet. Rather, it?s a set of principles that you can follow and not really kill yourself trying. I?ve read many stories and saw people with my own eyes lose weight only to gain it all back, once they?ve stopped dieting. To me, this approach just doesn?t work.
I didn?t want a quick fix, rather, I was looking for a set of dietary principles that would allow me to not ever gain weight again.
It?s simple and that?s the beauty of it. This diet is simple and extremely easy to follow. All you have to do is print out a table of food combinations, stick it on the fridge and be mindful when you prepare meals for yourself. At some point it becomes a habit and you don?t even have to think about it anymore. It becomes a part of your lifestyle. I found this very important, as I wanted something that would stick and not have to worry about excessive weight ever again.
It focuses on the whole food diet. Because it doesn?t allow for protein and carbs to be mixed up, you?re less likely to snack and more likely to eat big, whole, nutritional meals. Good news: when friends invite you for a Thanksgiving dinner, you can still eat the turkey (although, you?ll have to say ?no? to the lure of the pumpkin pie).
You are free to eat whatever you want. I?ve tried other diets, and some of them are hard to follow because there are so many limitations. With the ?food combining diet?, you don?t really prohibit any certain types of foods (except for sugar) and you can eat anything you want (even pork ribs), as long as it?s not mixed with the other type of food.
And most importantly, this diet allows you to lose weight slowly.
It?s not a get-lean-quick scheme, and it?s a lifestyle change more than a rigid diet regimen.
With this in mind, let?s dive in to the keys of following this diet and losing weight.
Key #1. Have 3 simple meals a day
No snacks. No skipping meals. Simply, 3 solid meals per day.
Here?s what my daily diet looked like when I started out:
Breakfast: eggs + salad + coffee + water
Lunch: cooked salmon + salad (or tomato soup)
Dinner: steak with vegetables
I quickly realized that it was not the diet that was hard to follow (it was actually pretty easy), it was the snacking that I had to get rid off. People gain weight with snacking more than with anything else.
There is a big difference between true hunger and psychological hunger. When you crave a snack (or something sugary or salty) chances are, this is you snack addiction talking. I?ve had the same experience when I just started out. But in 3?4 weeks to sticking to this diet, the cravings went away, although the diet hasn?t changed much.
Key #2. Prepare to lose not more than 0.5 KG per week
And even that?s a lot, by many estimates. When you first start out with any diet, the impulse is to lose weight fast. And I did lose my weight fast, especially during the first month. But as you go through, you?ll started to lose it more slowly, as your body adjusts to the new regimen, and that?s OK.
My graph of weight loss looked something like this:
My trend of weight loss by months
You can agree that even the graph looks much more smoother that what you would get from a diet of fasting or rapid weight loss. Throughout my journey, I found that with any diet regimen, the following rule works: the slower you lose weight, the more likely you?ll sustain it afterwards
Key #3. Add some exercise
Working out is great, because it allows you to feel your body better. When I combined my new diet approach with running and working out in the gym, my body started to change more quickly.
More importantly, I started to feel better, gained more energy and had more motivation to keep the diet going.
I found that when you exercise during the day, your body won?t want to eat potato chips with milk chocolate in the evening.
My exercise regimen looked like this:
- I told myself I would work out every 48 hours, which lead me to having 3?4 workouts per week.
- Some days I would go on long runs (3?7K), other days I would hit the gym and do my ?short workout?.
- The ?short workout? consists of nothing more than doing 100 times of everything: push-ups, sit-up, ab curls ? no matter how (or how many cycles) long it takes. I could usually do it in 3?4 attempts (i.e., by 25,25,25,25 or 33,33,33). The key is to not stop until you?re done.
The simpler ? the better.
Key #4. Change your lifestyle, not your food
At the end of the day, when you want to lose weight, it?s not because you want to get ?in shape?. It should be because you want to become healthier and feel good from inside. I am a big proponent of having more internal rather than internal motivation.
A friend of mine, Max, has tried 3 different diets of the course of 2 years, and each time, he ended up gaining more weight than he lost. He was desperate. Eventually, he talked to a psychologist and a nutritional expert, and realized that it?s not the food that he has to change, but rather his mental approach.
With the ?food combining diet?, the thinking should be that you?re changing your principles and your lifestyle ? you are changing the way you think about food, health and life. The diet is simply a tactic, the tip of an iceberg of change.
If all you do is focus on the tactics, chances are, your excessive weight will come back again.
Additional benefits of the ?food combining diet?
There are more benefits to this approach than you imagine.
- My productivity and focus went up ? because I didn?t eat sugar any more that would fog my brain
- I started to eat cheaper and saved money ? and I didn?t spend money going to restaurants, which usually don?t follow the ?not mix protein with carbs? policy.
- Sustainable ? my favorite part of this diet philosophy, is that you can keep on doing it forever.
7 years later after I discovered the diet, I still follow it partially, and it became a central part of my lifestyle.
Thanks for reading! 🙂 Feel free to check out resources that I?ve gathered for you below for more information on this approach.
- ?Food Combining Made Easy? (1951), H.M.Shelton
- Food-combining chart, Detoxinista (also, this one, as an alternative)
- Slow-carb diet, Tim Ferriss
- Huffington Post: ?What Food Combining Really Is?