Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The "Vacation Diet"

I went on a diet recently. It required me to eat to my heart's content for 24 days straight. Roasts, fried chicken, barbecues, seafood, ice cream, pies, pasta, cookies, fruits, cheese, veggies, bread, jerky...anything. The only "exercise" I actually did was a 10-minute hill sprint session immediately followed by a nap on the grass under the sun, 50-minute Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session, 2 short hikes (under 2 hours total), and one long 7 hour hike. Oh, I also drank alcohol almost every night (ciders, the sweet kind).

24 days of eating everything under the New Zealand sun, and.....I didn't gain any weight. In fact, I lost a kilo or two. 

Hokey Pokey is not just a dance to me anymore....it's a 'lil slice of Heaven!

Most of the time, I didn't really eat breakfast (I normally don't anyway), but the 4 or 5 times I did have breakfast, they consisted of ice cream and/or cookies. Once I ate an entire package of billtong (South African beef jerky). I followed it up with about half a litre of Hokey Pokey ice cream, a banana, and a kiwifruit, you know, to be healthy. I didn't drink as much water as I normally do, and my dinners were gigantic (I posted pictures of one dinner in a previous post). Oh, also, I went to bed within 30-45 min of finishing dinner on most occasions. I know, breaking all the rules...

Main reasons I believe why I didn't gain any weight thought I stuffed my face silly:
1) Food quality: New Zealand has this thing where their livestock don't live like they're in a food factory. The cows and sheep were littered across the green acres, mountains, and even side of the roads. Basically, anywhere there was grass and they could access. I once saw some chickens on the side of the road on a mountain pecking at bugs 'n whatever else it is they eat in the dirt. Their seafood is mostly fresh from their own waters (in fact, we even caught some ourself...find a shellfish on the beach, crack it open and eat it right there!). Their dairy (including ice cream) is all made from real milk from those awesomely friendly cows, so even though the ice cream and cheeses I ate were full fat, they were doing my body more of a favor than they were detriment (well, maybe the ice cream is a bit of a stretch, but it was still much better for me than the typical chemical shit storm ice creams I'm used to). And their food has exactly what the labels say they have in them (ie: mint 'n lamb sausages have mint and lamb and like, delicious spices...now go look at the ingredient list on the back of a Jimmy Dean's sausage box). This expected and normalized awesome food quality means that I didn't have to worry about the things I would normally worry about with my food: freshness, origin, antibiotics, illnesses, steroids, hormones, dyes/colorings, pesticides, chemicals, treatment of animals, etc). How do you know if that beef is fresh? It's red. It's not red because of the preservatives or dyes in the meat, it's red because it's actually fresh. And from a cow that's been living in a green pasture all her life and made good friends with all of her other cow buddies while basking in the sun or napping under a tree.

My new cow buddies having a conversation with me. 

2) Clean air: As of 2012, New Zealand had something like 4.43 million people in the entire country. To put that into perspective, Los Angeles had about 3.86 million. Also, New Zealand is about the size of Colorado in land size (Colorado had 5.19 million, by the way). This means less pollutants entering my body, messing with my hormones. Hormones in your body are kinda like stars for astrologists....if they're aligned properly, everything goes well. Except hormones are a real thing. By the way, if you weren't aware, your skin is your largest organ, and it absorbs things like crazy. So anything that touches your skin can also affect your body and hormones. So clean air affects you in a good way, and not just for your lungs :)

No way to have shitty air with this in your backyard...

3) I told myself to not feel guilty: Eating in such a grandiose fashion for almost a month meant I would either regret everything I ate and feel miserable about myself, or just say f*ck it, and enjoy my time there. I chose the latter. Stressing out about things causes stress. Stress causes your cortisol (one of those hormone thingies) to increase, and increased cortisol means your body is more likely to store fat. Being completely ok with the fact that I was on vacation and was allowed to do whatever the hell I wanted allowed me to keep my cortisol level in check. I was lucky that my hosts were adamant that I remain on vacation mode and do nothing chore-related whatsoever (in fact, I think I got slightly stressed because that went against everything my mom taught me for being a guest at someone's house). I wasn't even allowed to touch the dishes or clean. For almost a month. Of course, I snuck in the occasional dish or cup when nobody was looking, so maybe that helped. So sneaky, I know. 

I'm telling you, it is. It really is.

4) Food time was quality time: When we ate, we all ate together. We didn't have the TV as a distraction, and we enjoyed each others' company. We enjoyed and appreciated the food, and marveled at how there was still more to come. When you are aware of your food and eat without mindless distractions (ie television, movies, computer, phone, etc), your brain is actually able to process the food in more than just the digestible way. It processes the food visually, by taste, by smell, and by hormones. Your brain will be able to tell you that it's delicious, and when you've had enough (I had to stop eating salmon sashimi because my brain told me I was full, believe it or not). Also, when you're in good company, it takes longer for you to eat, which means in the 20ish minutes that it takes your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that it's at capacity, you can actually listen to it before you overstuff yourself and someone has to roll you to the couch. 

5) I was happy: This kind of goes hand in hand with the stress/hormone thing. Unhappiness is a type of stress, and we all know where that leads us! I was in the company of people I really enjoyed to be around, in a land that is beautiful enough for hobbits from Middle Earth to live, with delicious food, clean air, no stress/responsibilities, and entertained by a rather large, yet soft cat that ate raw meat dog food. Also, seeing cows in grass instead of factory farms or brown farms made me figuratively pee my pants.

They're just so.....happy :)

All in all, diets are temporary. My "vacation diet" was also temporary, although I think it was something that's pretty close to sustainable for me if I actually lived there. I'd for sure lose a couple more kilos because I wouldn't be having ice cream every day, and I'd actually do more sports/lift. And my portions would be smaller. Anyhow, dieting is a tricky thing that varies with the individual, but when you're on vacation, just eat good food and don't worry about it. It's temporary, anyway, and there's no use ruining a perfectly good vacation by fretting over that delicious cheesecake you had for breakfast. Your energy is better used picking out what size steak you want for dinner. Trust me. Whatever diet you're trying out (that is, if you're actually dieting....if you're not, then well, however your eating style is), it's ok if you flub for a meal or 5. Don't stress about it. Know that it's not an "all the time" thing, and just get back on track. Enjoy life as it comes, just enjoy it responsibly. Don't overdo anything and you'll be fine. And if you overdo something, you'll still be fine. Just don't worry about it and get on track. Every day is a new beginning :)


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  2. Also - most of those are metabolism boosting foods! Carbs, sugar, and dairy - all foods that raise your body temp and warm you up!! PS I'm jellies.