Recently, likely thanks to my weekly Saturday Binge Day posts on Facebook, several of my friends have been saying “I want to know more about that diet,” and also “I’m doing the same diet you are” or “my friend is doing the same diet you are.” My response? Yes/no.
Yes, you want to know more about it. No, you and your friends are not doing the same diet I am.
I started the Slow Carb Diet in 2011 after reading Tim Ferriss’ the Four Hour Body. He’d touched on this diet in his 2007 book, the Four Hour Workweek, but elaborated on it in his second. He’s further elaborated on it in subsequent blog posts on his website.
So why are my friends thinking they’re doing “the same diet I’m doing?” Because they see me taking a day off every week and say “I’m eating ‘clean’ for most of the week and then taking a day off, so that’s the diet right?” Like the tip of the iceberg, it’s about 20% of the diet that you see, so yes… but no.
Here are the five basic rules from Tim’s blog:
- Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
- Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
- Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
- Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
- Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.
To be clear, there is a LOT more discussion in the book, in Tim’s third book, the Four Hour Chef, on his blog, and on numerous online forums. But if you follow these five rules, you’ll almost certainly get in better shape than you are now, even if you start by just eating a protein rich, sugar and grain-free breakfast.
There are a lot of tips, tweaks, and other bits that are not included in the 5 rules, but those are the core. What’s not included? For one thing, eat breakfast – including at least 30g of protein – within 60 (preferably 30) minutes of waking up.
Another point not covered by the rules is portions or content (other than what not to eat). Essentially, it’s proteins, vegetables, and legumes. Emphasis is put on natural, organic, free-range whenever possible. Butter, coconut oil, and olive oil are fine.
To be clear(er), there’s a lot of debate. Subsequent posts and discussion have revealed that cottage cheese may be allowed, because it’s almost 0 lactose (which is sugar, which is bad) and almost all protein.
Is this just a paleo diet? Sort of. Unless you consider that it’s not uncommon for me to eat an entire pizza, a few beers, or a whole bag of Oreos, on Saturday (my chosen cheat day).
Also, people often seem to completely forget about drinks. A friend of mine asked me “how much honey do you put in your tea?” I don’t put honey in my tea unless it’s Saturday or a rare instance where I have a sore throat, and I don’t sweeten my coffee, either, but this is something I’ve been doing for some time now.
Here are the other things I’ve heard and experienced since jumping back on the plan in earnest last fall.
- “I could not do that diet; I have to have [insert chosen food here] every day. ”
My response? Bullshit. I don’t care what food you say you like – I used to weigh 212# standing at 5’9″ (yes, I’m taller now, thanks to yoga) – and nothing, I mean nothing, could come between me and buttered popcorn with grated Parmesan cheese. If you’ve ever seen me eat it, you know what I’m talking about. And yet, I dropped it (and several other foods) completely while doing the Medifast diet in 2008.Side note: In the Four Hour Body, Tim writes that black bean salsa with corn is great. Later, he retracted that, saying he didn’t know what he was thinking when he wrote that. This is because corn is a grain. When I first read this, I said “well, if corn is okay, then popcorn is okay” for a while. Then I dug deeper and, with a pang of regret, held my popcorn off until Saturday. Thank you, AMC Theaters and your free refills on large popcorn.
- “Yogurt is okay, right? It’s got all that good stuff in it.”
Yup, and all that bad stuff (read “lactose”), which makes you fat.
- “But how much sugar do you put on your blueberries?”
No fruit, remember? That makes it easy to put exactly 0 sugar on them.
- “You eat brown rice, right?”
Wrong. It’s a grain. Don’t eat grains. Yes, I know – brown rice is awesome. So are blueberries. So are strawberries. So are oranges. But I don’t eat them for most of the week.
- “Your cholesterol must be high.”
Slightly, but no higher than before I was on the diet. Nowdays, as I am getting most of my protein from whitefish, I’d wager it’s dropped significantly.
- “So-and-so is doing the same diet as you, the [ketogenic|Whole 30|paleo|Mediterranean] diet.”
Nope. Not the same. Similar for sure, but not the same. Why? Keto is more strict. Whole 30 allows things that are not allowed in Slow Carb, and vice versa. Paleo – as I understand it – is just meat and veggies. Mediterranean allows for some grains, Slow Carb doesn’t.
My Slow Carb Diet (The Peter Diet?)
To be completely fair, my Slow Carb experience has evolved, and it’s been tweaked to suit me. Also to be fair, I have NOT lost massive amounts of weight on this diet. In fact, at times, I’ve put on a few pounds. But I feel great, and, well, you can’t deny I have a lot of fun downing three or four chocolate donuts in a single sitting (or as I walk from donut shop to donut shop), or order an entire plate of nachos and a beer, then look at the waitress and say “Oh don’t mind me; I’m dieting.” Don’t believe me? Here is what I had for lunch and dinner a couple of weeks ago, and I had a late start. It was Friday – not supposed to be my cheat day, but when my friend offered to buy me lunch and a drink, I couldn’t refuse, so I bumped it up a day. I shared these foods with friends, but ate most of what you see below by myself.
I also allow some things that are not explicitly addressed or are questionable on the diet. This includes olives. They’re a fruit, but there’s no sugar in them. Tim also puts an emphasis on legumes (for me, usually red lentils or black beans), which, on occasion, I may skip for days at a time. I also use 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream in my coffee every day, and if I’m out, I may add a splash of half and half or light cream (but never straight milk – skim or otherwise) to my coffee.I also routinely cook with lemon or lime juice (which supposedly lessens the body’s insulin response).
For several months, I would – mostly out of habit – still suck on throat lozenges or cough drops to address my post-nasal drip, but then I stopped.
Note: If anyone can make an unsweetened cough drop, please let me know – I want this.
Also, I go through phases where I get most of my protein through (unsweetened whey or hemp) shakes, and sometimes will eat cottage cheese every day for stretches. I also allow grains and other restricted foods after resistance training (another point of debate), and my 1-2 glasses of permitted red wine are sometimes… large.
Do I occasionally slip? Yes. Do I make up for it shortly thereafter? Yes. I do my best to not allow “special” occasions to come up too often. Why? Because every day can be special, if you let it. Seriously – how many holidays, birthdays, networking events, friends from out of town, etc., can you pack in to a single month? You’d be surprised, but if you pay attention, you’ll find opportunities to eat poorly at every corner. Try to resist. If you fall off the wagon, get back on. It’s the Slow Carb diet, after all, so the wagon isn’t moving that quickly.
Another part of the diet that I skip is not counting calories. There’s no calorie counting on SCD, but I do anyway. I think this is my way of getting my inner OCD fix.
Over the years, I’ve started and stopped the diet a few times. This latest stretch has been going since last September – my longest run yet. Have I experienced massive weight loss? No. Am I happy with my body? Pretty happy. Could I be in better shape? Yup. Could I be in worse shape? Hell yes. If you’re thinking of trying a diet, do it. Stop making excuses and do it. If you say “I could never-” then stop, SMACK YOURSELF FULL FORCE IN THE FACE, and don’t say that again. Unless you would literally die from not eating a food for a week, you are just lying to yourself. Trust me – I’ve been there.