Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
Jimmy Moore stops in…
On the plate for today: cheating, pasta, and those darn vegetarians!
Ok, the question everyone asks: Don’t you ever miss pasta? Do you ever cheat?
“You know, I have always found the ‘don’t you ever miss’ questions people have for me so incredibly fascinating. Is there some mysterious super-secret book of foods everyone should be eating floating around out there that mandates human beings must eat pasta, bread, potatoes, and sugar?
The fact is, I do not miss ANYTHING from my old diet that would lead me to start ballooning up over 400 pounds again. Nope! Not gonna happen if I can do anything about it (and I can!).
However, I have found two excellent pasta substitutes that are low-carb and taste awesome. For Italian dishes and traditional pasta, I enjoy the Dreamfields brand because it really does taste like authentic pasta, unlike some of these other imitators that have much higher carbs and are totally disgusting.
Another pasta substitute I enjoy, especially in soups and Oriental dishes, is Shirataki noodles. These Japanese wonder noodles are one of the hottest new health foods out today because they are very low in carbs, fat, and calories. Made from yam root (sounds grosser than it is) and loaded with fiber, these noodles give me all the pasta goodness I need.
As for cheating, on principle I am against it when it is done spontaneously. That kinda defeats the purpose of making this a permanent ‘lifestyle change’. But I do advocate something that is controversial within the low-carb community called a ‘planned splurge’ or ‘controlled cheating’.
The basic concept is to allow yourself one meal about every 6-8 weeks while you are losing weight when you are allowed to eat whatever you want. No restrictions on carbs, calories, portions, or anything else. I used this strategy to get me through the toughest moments and it helped me in the long run.
If you are having deep cravings, as all of us who have kicked our carb addiction will tell you comes at you with a vengeance, then having the knowledge that there is a date coming up soon when I can satisfy that craving gave me the strength to resist temptation. This is a powerful tool that I highly recommend to anyone who thinks they can never live without whatever food they love.
Don’t get me wrong – this is for ONE meal, not a whole day or a whole weekend. One single meal and then right back on plan again. Making this a permanent way of eating is absolutely crucial to your success at not just losing the weight, but keeping it off for good.
What if a vegetarian wants to do low-carb?
Contrary to popular belief, a vegetarian can most certainly fit right in to the low-carb lifestyle by consuming those foods that they can have. Far too often, the low-carb diet is stereotyped as a meat-based diet. Sure, many active low-carbers include meat in their diet because they can. But it’s not necessarily a requirement.
What would I recommend? Eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, blueberries, melon, strawberries, green beans, broccoli, cantaloupe…need I go on? Sure, your food choices are diminished somewhat on a low-carb diet if you forsake the meat, but there’s really no excuse why you couldn’t enjoy a healthy low-carb lifestyle and maintain your convictions as a vegetarian.
Being a vegan, on the other hand, you’re just outta luck!
Let’s talk about the difference between “healthy” low-carb and “unhealthy” low-carb.
This is an interesting subject and can be debated quite passionately by people on both sides of the spectrum. But I take a different approach to this subject as someone who actually lived it and found great success.
I’m a big believer in incrementalism when it comes to making changes. As much as all the experts in diet and health would like overweight and obese people to “flip the switch” and transition from an unhealthy eater into a healthy one overnight, it just doesn’t work that way. If it did, then NOBODY would be fat anymore.
The person must first get out of health danger by bringing their weight under control first, even if that means eating some processed foods along the way. Then they can begin making tweaks here and there to their diet after they have become used to eating healthy perhaps for the first time in their lives. I don’t see any reason why we should rush the process because this will be a lifetime commitment in the end.
If you could recommend 3 changes every person should make in his/her lifestyle, diet or fitness routine, what would those changes be?
This is an easy one:
One: Don’t diet or you’ll DIE in the process. Regardless of the specific plan you choose, decide ahead of time that you REALLY want to do this, learn all you can, and then keep doing that plan for the rest of your life.
Two: As much as you think you can’t do it right now, totally give up your sugar habit RIGHT NOW. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are nearly single-handedly ruining the weight and health of tens of millions of Americans today. Get ’em out of your life TODAY because they are rat poison for your body.
Three: Whatever you are doing to try to lose weight, don’t ever give up! If you are following a plan that just ain’t working for you, then try something else. But always stay in the game and learn from every experience you go through. I have no doubt in my mind that there is SOMETHING that will work to help every single person with a weight problem shed the pounds for good. The trick is to find what that plan is for you and then never get off that plan again. You can do it!
What do you believe is the biggest myth about low-carbin’?
Besides the supposed heart health and cholesterol issues you mentioned earlier, the new myth that opponents of livin’ la vida low-carb have been floating around out there lately goes something like this: ‘Sure, low-carb diets can certainly be good for short-term weight loss, but the long-term implications of such as ‘extreme’ diet like that are suspect.’
I actually heard a major health expert (a low-fat diet proponent) in the United States utter that exact sentence following the release of the now-infamous JAMA study out of Stanford University that found the Atkins diet was the best diet for weight loss and improved health over a one-year period. But the myth is the diet suddenly stops working at the end of those 365 days. How ludicrous!
It has now been over three years and counting since I began livin’ la vida low-carb and it’s still performing quite well for both my weight and my health. This is the longest period of time I have ever been able to sustain my weight loss.”
Thanks for stopping by MDA to share your views, Jimmy. Always a pleasure.
I’d like to add that I personally do not advocate any processed foods (bacon, sausage, cheese) nor do I support carb “alternatives” like Shirataki and Dreamfields pasta. However, I agree that it’s pretty tough (if not impossible) to go cold-turkey for the many millions of us who have spent a lifetime living on pasta, bagels, burritos and burgers.
I’ve been there, believe me. As a professional athlete, there were days where no carton of ice cream stood a chance of a snow cone in…well, you get the idea.
In my peak triathlon years, pasta and pancakes were the Holy Grail of competition, and I suffered tremendous problems as a result (as did many, if not most, of my fellow athletes). I look at the younger generation of athletes and sadly, not a lot has changed. You’d be surprised at how many “perfect” athletes are just as sick, stressed, inflamed and at risk of serious health problems as regular Joes and Janes living on what I call the Uncle Sam Sampler (carbs, carbs and more carbs).
Transitioning from a fine-tuned (yet completely unhealthy) competitive machine to a healthier, sustainable fitness level and dietary lifestyle wasn’t easy, but it was infinitely worth the choice. You do have to make a total paradigm shift – it’s not a diet that will get you the results you want. It’s a lifestyle.
The big problem with weight loss plans – and why they almost all ultimately fail – is that we often have no long-term plan. We think “diet”. We hope for fast, measurable results.
But where’s the long-term plan? As so many self-help gurus like to preach, if you always do what you’ve always done, why would anyone expect a different result than what you’ve always gotten?
A diet is not the path to the health or body you want. A lifestyle, on the other hand, can be. So, while I don’t endorse processed foods and “faux” carbs, I do endorse doing whatever it takes in the short term to get you healthy in the long term (well, within reason!). Are you hoping for quick results, or are you truly willing to change your life – for life? It’s a question that has to be asked, because it means the difference between failure and success, and many of us forget to ask.
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[tags]low carb, pasta, dreamfields, shirataki noodles, planned splurge, controlled cheating, vegetarian, incrementalism[/tags]