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Why did a low-fat vegan diet work for me?

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  • Why did a low-fat vegan diet work for me?

    There is a growing trend on these boards with all of the Peatians and hi-carbers here these days, but it has really gotten me to reanalyze what I am doing with my diet. Posters like Zach and YogaBare got me rethinking my fat consumption.

    **As a note: Any failures with my diet are from me, not a reflection of the general primal diet. This isn't me trying to fix my primal diet, I am just trying to see what the commonalities are in my weight history. My version of paleo is a loose and poor reflection of the true purpose. This isn't scientific and is an N- of 1**

    I will break up my history in to roughly five periods:

    1. "Husky boy": Age 14-18
    Average weight: 205lbs
    Exercise of choice: Swimming
    I ate a typical SAD diet, with a large amount of milk consumption (~a gallon of 1% a day). I am 6'4 and 4 inches taller than my father, so I attribute some of my growth to this. I was on the varsity swim team, so I would swim 5,000+ yards a day for around 1/2 the year, and sit around and drink Mountain Dew the other 1/2. I was always skinny fat and weak, despite swimming. Never liked myself shirtless. Could never do a pull up.

    2. "Freshman 50": Age 18-20
    Average weight: 260lbs
    Exercise of choice: Walking
    Things got bad in college. Despite walking everywhere, I stopped any other form of exercise. I ate in the cafeteria, focusing on chicken nuggets, sandwiches topped with chips, and fries. Still drank a lot of soda, but less than in high school. Exchanged it with chocolate milk and apple juice. Drank plenty of mixed alcohols during this time too.

    3. "Something's got to give: Enter Vegan boy": Age 20-21
    Average Weight: 195lbs
    Exercise of choice: Running
    I was feeling pretty low about myself one night and decided to look at diet books on amazon. The one that caught my eye was Rip Esselstyn's The Engine 2 Diet. The diet is "plant-based" and focuses on keeping fats low, no refined sugars (so whole grains), low sodium, and avoiding all animal products. Within 6 months I lost 60lbs and went from 260lbs --> 210lbs, and a XXL shirt to a medium (which looked stupid on me since I am tall). It had completely changed my life, I gained the confidence to date girls and take off my shirt at work as a lifeguard.

    My diet was heavily grain and soy based, with an average day looking like:

    8am: Soy latte with Agave syrup, bowl of whole grain organic cereal with soymilk
    10am: Fruit to snack on
    Noon: low fat bean soup, whole grain pita, hummus, veggies
    2pm: Second latte (this is where the financial aid went), some whole grain snack
    6pm: Whole wheat pasta/brown rice with garlic and balsamic vinegar, bowl of whole grain organic cereal with soymilk

    The diet was very low fat/ low protein/ high carb. In addition to this, I ran 5x a week (although never further than a 5k). I was able to do 2 pullups at my peak. I was still very weak despite losing weight.

    4: "Vegan-ish": Age 21-22
    Average weight: 210lbs (low of 185lbs)
    Exercise of choice: Rowing machine

    After about a year of following the E2 diet, I was at 190lbs and started adding in a little olive oil and organic fish and leaned out further. However, I also turned 21 and started drinking more again. Five nights a week I would go out, and I'd drink a few craft beers every night. I'd also occasionally get something like orange chicken or dairy. I also ate much more simple grains, and less organic foods. A muffin here, a bagel there. The weight started to creep back on

    5: "The lazy caveman": Age 22-23 (current)
    Weight: 240lbs (range of 215-250lbs)
    Exercise of choice: Powerlifting

    Last summer I discovered primal, and like any idiot I started it by taking the parts I liked (bacon/steak) and still keeping my other fixes. It went pretty well until January of this year, when I tried to "bulk" up via Starting Strength. I ate everything I could until April, even getting McDonalds regularly for fear that if I didn't eat enough I'd miss my next lift. This got me up to 250lbs quickly, and I caught myself before I further hurt myself.

    In April I cleaned up my diet to a mostly primal one. I upped my butter consumption by quite a bit, and started focusing on fats. I also upped my veggie intake, and kept reducing carbs lower. Despite being heavier, I am also now stronger than ever and my testosterone is at an all time high.

    After two months of minimal improvements and lesser gains in the gym, I decided to try VLC for a month (under 50g/day) to reach ketosis. Interestingly, my energy was steady but low and I never really felt right. Any additional focus I gained seemed to be temporary from the MCT's in the coconut oil. Additionally, I dropped maybe a few lbs in the month, and never seemed to shake my craving for milk and fruit.

    What's it all mean?

    If you read all the way to here, you made it through the ramblings and I apologize. This was one of those posts that quickly got longer than I had planned.

    There is no definitive answer in the experience that has been my past few years, but I am now encouraged to re-evaluate my diet. I don't think the secret to the vegan diet was being vegan as much as it was avoiding fats and refined carbohydrates.

    I think the next step is that I am going to try a diet much more like the one Ray Peat's recommendations, and re-evaluate where I am at. High amounts of dairy, fruits/juices, and low PUFA's. Low to moderate amounts of fat from MCT and some other saturated sources. We'll see if it does anything with my current plateau's, and allows me to reach my goal of roughly ~225lbs and less than 15% body fat.

    Anyone have a similar experience, or history with food?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dickson View Post
    Why did a low-fat vegan diet work for me?
    Well, because it was low-fat and by looking at the foods, probably kept you at a deficit/maintenance. Now you're eating "quite a bit" of butter and focusing on fats, which are very calorie dense. And I mean, you said you ate all you could until April to bulk. And you got stronger, so the bulk worked. (essentially)

    Lighten up on the fat.


    • #3
      After sitting on this for a while, I realized how random this is. In order to keep it shorter, I kept a few of my observations out, but I have been thinking more and more about a few things regarding High fat vs High carb:

      1. Carbs are supposed to leave you hungry, and fats are supposed to be very satiating. However, when I was ketogenic I could eat unlimited amounts of fats, I never felt fully satisfied (just had digestive issues). For example, I recently just cooked up a great 1.5lb steak in a huge amount of kerrygold butter. It was very satisfying and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I ate the entire thing and the remaining butter and felt I could keep going. It had to have been over 1k+ calories. Comparitively, the other day I ate an entire Cantaloupe in one sitting. I was satisfied for hours, and got a euphoric "high" off of just ~50g carbs (or 200 calories).

      2. In addition to that, I find that I can over do fats easier than other whole foods. I drank nearly a half gallon of Heavy Whipping Cream from Horizon in nearly a week when ketogenic, probably a contributor to my little weight lost in that month.


      • #4
        Calorie intake. For some people, eating primal/paleo causes a spontaneous reduction in caloric intake. When it doesn't, people gain weight or don't lose any weight. It's a pretty simple concept. No matter what combination of macronutrients or types of foods that you decide to eat, you must be in a caloric deficit to lose weight.

        Edit: in addition, it seems that you've changed your exercise preference as well, which certainly had a large impact on your daily energy expenditure.
        Last edited by jakejoh10; 09-03-2013, 11:21 AM.
        My nutrition/fitness/critical thinking blog:


        • #5
          There is a shift in the tide
          Make America Great Again


          • #6
            First, there is a whole range of eating between getting almost all your nutrients from carbs to going lower than 50 carbs. I know that moderation is sometimes a dirty word around here, but really, it's virtually impossible that all of us would feel the same way on a prescribed percentage of macros.

            As to the weight thing, I think you were probably eating a whole lot fewer calories as a vegan. The food is terrible, so why eat too much of it? That's just me though - I'd rather eat a rubber band than brown rice.

            I also think it's misleading to tell anyone who has issues with weight that if they just eat ____________, they can eat all they want. It's just not true for some of us. I was a chubby kid also, and I will have to watch what I eat for the rest of my life. Lower carb reduces my hunger, but added fat does not. You need to find what works for you. If eating grains keeps you happy, slim, and healthy, maybe that's what you should do.

            Calories matter for weight. How you get those calories matters for health.
            "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine


            Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.


            • #7
              Why use THE PRIMAL BLUEPRINT FORUM to discuss Ray Peat and his follower's RIVER OF SHIT. More appropriate forums out there for that.


              • #8
                Originally posted by jackmormon View Post
                Why use THE PRIMAL BLUEPRINT FORUM to discuss Ray Peat and his follower's RIVER OF SHIT. More appropriate forums out there for that.
                You're on a roll.
                My nutrition/fitness/critical thinking blog:


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jackmormon View Post
                  Why use THE PRIMAL BLUEPRINT FORUM to discuss Ray Peat and his follower's RIVER OF SHIT. More appropriate forums out there for that.
                  MDA is one of the largest nutrition and fitness forums on the web. It has long been evolving past just the original recommendations in The Primal Blueprint, and even Mark Sisson's views have changed. Diet tends to be a N1, and rather than dogmatically following recommendations that aren't working, I wanted to look for a trend that was. Rather than get offended, look at it in the context of the thesis of the Primal Blueprint. We have evolved to eat a certain way, an optimal gene expression is derived from seeking out foods that promote survival and the ability to reproduce. If a tribe had easy access to sugar, and found that it promoted survival and optimal health, then they would start drinking their orange juice.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by JoanieL View Post
          's virtually impossible that all of us would feel the same way on a prescribed percentage of macros.
                    This x1000.

                    The answer to your question is dietary individuation. You feel and function better on a higher carb diet. I would avoid the grains and soy you ate before, but definitely try eating more fruits and tubers. Don't avoid fat entirely, but there's no need to derive 60% of your calories from fat. Coconut makes a great fat source, as MCTs are metabolized differently from other saturated fats.

                    On a related note, I'd be curious to find out how long you were VLC and how strict you were. Those who recommend VLC, ketosis, and low-carb in general will usually tell you that you need to commit for around month before you see results. If you don't see results from high-carb/low-fat, it might be something to consider.


                    • #11
                      It seems to me that when you consume more protein and do powerlifting you feel stronger and more virile. All your other adjustments tend to make you fatter or skinnier but I never heard you mention anything as positive as feeling stronger and more virile. Perhaps you just need to continue a high protein, moderate fat, moderate carb way of eating, continue to lift weights even if your progress isn't as rapid as it was at first, and add a touch of sprinting for the metabolic effect. Don't overeat, don't push the calories to push the weight you can lift quite so hard as you have in the past. See if that doesn't allow you to come to rest at a healthy level of body fat and muscle.
                      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


                      • #12
                        You're 23.

                        Yawn. Wake me up when your vegan diet works when you're 45.
                        5'0" female, 45 years old. Started Primal October 31, 2011, at a skinny fat 111.5 lbs. Low weight: 99.5 lb on a fast. Gained back to 115(!) on SAD chocolate, potato chips, and stress. Currently 111.


                        • #13
                          OP: Whichever way you decide to go, I think almost everyone can agree to keep your protein up and get it mainly from mostly lean animal sources, not soy and rancid grain sources (whole wheat, brown rice). 100g/day minimum, but 120-150g is probably better from eggs, dairy, gelatin, ruminant meats, shellfish and mollusks. Carbs and fat are completely customizable and open to fluctuations but protein is non-negotiable, IMO.
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                          • #14
                            Get used to that euphoric feeling, that is constant when you are utilizing sugar correctly.


                            • #15
                              Hi Dickson,

                              The common ingredient in your eating habits (when you felt best, weighed less), was that you were eating real whole foods. I have found that if one eats primarily real whole foods, they will be healthy, trim and have plenty of energy. Vegan, paleo, primal, etc whatever the title will either be healthy or not respective to the percentage of whole foods. The more processed foods, the less healthy and (usually), fatter the person is.
                              Just my observation from 55+ years on this planet