A reader asked me to share some about my nutrition. Here we go -
I don't consume at all:
*Tobacco in any form
I think cutting bad stuff out goes a long way towards doing things correctly.
I quit drinking in 2006... basically, I reckon the downsides from liquor aren't worth the upsides. Now about this, I get asked sometimes, "Is it awkward to go to a bar?" For the first six months it was. Now, it's not. I get a club soda and have no problems.
Likewise, I quit pretty much all recreational drugs at the same time in '06, depending on how you define it. I've gone back and forth with caffeine over the years - originally I quit caffeine in '06, but I saw some good research on metabolic advantages from caffeine. I do take vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and fish oil. Beyond that, I'll take anti-inflammatories like acetametaphin or ibuproifen (the active ingrediants in Tylenol and Advil) if I've got inflammation from training or I'm ill. I'd be open at some point to trying nootrophics under the guidance of a physician, but I've been picking up low hanging health fruit first. Human Growth Hormone also looks promising, and I'd consider synthetic testosterone if I needed it to keep my testosterone levels up later. But all these are for health/longevity purposes, not for pleasure, with the possible exception of caffeine. I go back and forth on caffeine, maybe I'll quit it someday. For now, it's not an issue for me.
I used to love tobacco. I'd roll my own cigarettes, smoke pipe tobacco, cigars, and sheesha... I loved tobacco. I gradually quit - first I quit cigarettes (incuding rolling my own) in 2006. I still smoked cigars, because I did it infrequently and really liked cigars. I quit cigars in '08 I think, at which point I still smoked sheesha, the Arabic water-pipe style tobacco that's much cleaner and much lower tar. Still, that was only offering pleasure at the expense of toxicity, and I finally quit all tobacco in 2009.
In 2009, I quit eating all mammals. I'd quit pork a few years earlier, now I cut beef, venison, and other mammals out of my diet. My reasoning here is that I'd be better served always choosing chicken, other poultry, or fish over mammals. It's not for ethical reasons; rather, I think shifting from beef to chicken every single time that's a good decision.
To this, people sometimes say, "Oh no, I couldn't live without steak!" That's fair. I used to love steak. It's delicious. But honestly, I think I'm getting 90%+ of the pleasure most people are from their meals. There's many ways to prepare chicken or fish. I eat pretty well and I'm not deprived. For dinner tonight, I had chicken in a slightly spicy red curry sauce, hard boiled eggs, rice, two kinds of vegetables, and a little tofu on rice at an Arabic restaurant. Delicious. Honestly, just as good as any steak.
It took me two years to quit sweets - I did it recently. Now I consume no "pure sweets" - right now, I'm not fanatic about if there's a little sugar in a curry sauce or otherwise decent bread, but someday I'll look to cut all sugar out. It's too tricky to do while traveling, but I don't have any desserts or sugary stuff. I still eat fruit, and occasionally somewhat fresh fruit juice. I've got mixed feelings on the fruit juice, but I think the micronutrients from fruit are worth it.
My ideal diet is:
*Plain oatmeal for breakfast with tea or coffee
*Chicken and rice or tuna and rice with vegetables for lunch
*A light dinner with maybe some soup and fruit.
I don't eat my ideal diet often, sadly. My diet is much more heavy than I want it to be... lots of bread. Also, I'm pretty good at staying away from junk food, but I still indulge in chicken sandwich/fries sometimes.
I try to avoid liquid calories, unless I'm ill or nursing an injury. Even then, the only liquid calories I drink is somewhat fresh fruit juice.
I'm not fanatic about sugar in a curry sauce or baked into otherwise unsweet-bread... it happens. I try to avoid it, but I don't make a huge deal of it.
Eventually I'll cut out almost all sugar, and probably most flour. I increased the amount I eat vegetables a lot over the last two years, but I'd like to do it even more. I might cut out all junk food entirely - I don't eat much junk, but sometimes. I'm not sure how good or bad it is to occasionally fried chicken, french fries, pizza. Certainly, that stuff isn't good for you, though there might be advantages to having some outlets... I don't know. I'll think about it more, I'm still refining my diet.
Recommendations for you:
I recommend you don't take anyone's specific opinion as gospel. The biggest thing is to find out what your body responds to. If you want to know how you react to specific foods, then get on a consistent, simple diet for a while, and then try to add or subtract things and see how your energy goes. You can do this casually, or you can try to put specific ratings to it throughout the day.
It sounds like it'd take some work, but it doesn't, really. I did this a few different times, and my largest surprising finding is that dairy really sinks my energy level a while later. I don't think that's true for everyone, but I pretty much try to avoid all milk and most other dariy.
Finally, I'm a big believer in "hard quitting" things - deciding never to have them again. This depends on your personality type, but for me, it's much easier to not drink at all than to drink in moderation. Much easier to never smoke than to smoke occasionally.
Particularly with things that are slightly inferior choices - like eating beef instead of chicken or fish - it's actually a great convenience to not even consider beef. "Hey Sebastian, you want a burger?" Reply: "Nope, thanks." I don't even have to think about it.
That's worth a lot, it saves me lots of thought cycles. That said, I know lots of people that consume stuff in moderation, so it depends on your goals and personality type. For me, hard quitting things and never having them again makes my decisionmaking really easy and helps me improve my health.
Final piece of advice - if you do refine your diet, two things to avoid are being preachy about it or being shy about it. It takes a while to learn, but don't apologize for your dietary choices or get sheepish. At the same time, don't preach or say that you've quit defiantly. Just be cool about it, politely turn down offers, and usually don't explain why if you're not asked unless it's relevant.
Your experiences with nutrition in the comments?
Excellent advice here, including the last bit. Considering dropping alcohol as well. Dropped my beloved tobacco 2 years ago and its been great, but my experiments with not drinking for a few months have delivered mixed results. I've been testing another plan for the last 3 weeks: drinking the ideal number of drinks. I've set a rule that I can (and should) have 2 drinks of good wine every evening. It's been working out exceptionally well so far... we'll see.
Yes I've been on similar journey - I've been a pescetarian for 9 years and It works great for me. I've been exploring a carb less diet but being french I'm dealing with a lot of old tradition :)
My experience is try something and see how it makes you feel, when I went and tried a carb less diet combined with crossfit training, I started having better workouts but I also started craving meat something that never happened before.
The key is to try and be open and don't judge people for there choices!
I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.
Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:
First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.
Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.
Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.
If you try to become excellent, normal people will judge you. Fuck them. Seriously, I said it and I meant it. Fuck 'em. I gradually quit drugs, drinking, tobacco, refined my diet, quit sugar, etc, etc. - every time I heard discouragement and crap from people. Fuck them. When I dropped out of high school, I heard discouragement and crap from people. When I dropped out of university to start building a company, I heard discouragement and crap. When I started traveling, I heard warnings and discouragement and crap. If you try to be excellent, you're going to constantly be hearing warnings and discouragement and crap. Listen a little if the person seems to know what they're talking about, but don't be discouraged. If you're trying to be expansive and they're telling you to be cautious, they're probably wrong and you're probably right. No one else says this, so I'm happy you emailed me - I'll say it. Fuck them. They're not bad people per se, but people do terrible things. I quit sugar or starting eating healthier and people want to drag you back down, "C'mon, have one slice of pizza... it's just a bite of cake... c'mon, you can have one drink..." - I still can't explain exactly why people do it, but I think it's to protect their own identity. As you become excellent, you show them what they could be, and it hurts them. Viscerally. So don't be too upset, your excellence hurts people to some extent. Expect constant discouragement from normal people. Eventually you'll build a social circle of high-achieving, ambitious, expansive, cool, worldly, giving, encouraging, awesome people, and then you'll be successful and normal people will envy and hate you, but you won't care because you'll have transcended it. So yeah, discouragement and warnings and crap? We all get it on the road to success. Don't take it too seriously. Don't hate people for doing it, but don't give in either. Sebastian Marshall