I’ve been talking a lot about the slow carb diet recently and have gotten a ton of questions and so I’m gonna try to answer a few of them all together here. A WARNING: I’m not an expert and I’m not endorsing anything. Diet and weight loss and body image and all that stuff is really personal and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Besides, I think you’re great just the way you are.
What is slow carb?
The diet began with The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, which is still the best place to start. But you can also get a really thorough understanding of the plan from this crowd-sourced Reddit guide.
Here’s the elevator pitch:
- No carbs except from vegetables and legumes. Starchy vegetables like corn, yams, etc. are also out.
- Have 30g of protein within 30 minutes of waking up
- No fruit
- No cheese or really any dairy except a bit of cream in your coffee
- Eat the same stuff over and over
- Every seven days, take a day off and eat like a garbage human being.
That’s about it.
How’s it working for you J-Man?
Pretty good! I’ve managed to shed about 25 lbs. since I started in mid-March. Considering we’re a week into August, that may not seem very fast, and it’s true. The cool thing for me is that I know exactly why that loss isn’t higher. We’ll address that in an upcoming question.
Why do you think this is working for you?
I know what my trouble spots are as an eater, and they are all connected with carbs. Cereal, bread, you name it, I’m down with it. When I’m eating foods like that, I feel very out of control of my diet. So by avoiding them, I feel much more in control.
But I think the bigger factor is the cheat day, which has two purposes. 1. It’s supposed to keep your metabolism from stabilizing or something like that. 2. More key for me, is it makes the whole thing a heck of a lot more mentally sustainable.
If I want something bad for me, I remind myself to fuck it up on Saturday. I’m DYING by the end of Friday. The interesting thing about Saturday though is that after eating some trash, I’m reminded of how fleeting that pleasure is and how it’s really not worth the trade off. Plus, if you do a cheat day right, you also get to the end of it DYING to get back to a healthier way of eating.
Isn’t it hard to do?
Yes! Sort of! At first.
When I started, all I could think of was the stuff I couldn’t eat, and that was really difficult. Plus, it was a transition period for my body not getting a steady drip feed of sugar throughout the day. But the longer I’ve been on it, the easier it is to maintain. When I used to eat, that decision felt like an addiction impulse, keeping the sugar high going. Now I eat when I get hungry. That doesn’t sound like a meaningful distinction until you experience it.
There are definitely tough periods, times of temptation especially mid week, but that’s a LOT easier to handle when you can think “You just watch your back, new kind of Fruity Pebbles with twice the marshmallows, because come Saturday, I’m gonna come back to this store, I’m gonna buy you, and i’m gonna lay waste to you. The shelf below the non-marshmallowed Fruity Pebbles and above the Cocoa Pebbles will be uninhabitable scorched earth when I have unleashed the hell I plan to rain down upon you.”
What do you even eat?
Almost every morning, I eat two eggs with two-eggs worth of egg beaters, black beans and hot sauce. Sometimes I’ll add guacamole, but most of the 7:30 ams I have experienced are INCOMPATIBLE WITH GUACAMOLE.
For lunch, I’ll usually do a salad with meat and black beans. Maybe some chili.
For dinner, I tend do do a lot of Mexican-style dishes, beans and meat and vegetables, or a more classic protein and vegetable dinner, like chicken and broccoli or what have you. I have also experimented with grilled chicken and no-sugar-added marinara over spinach noodles. Not bad!
It’s harder when you’re eating dinner with a family who isn’t on the plan, but usually i just omit the carbohydrate from their dinner and I’m fine. Plus, beans are always there for me, just waiting for their moment.
Oh, also, at night, I find it hard to sleep without some carbs on my stomach, so my dessert every night just before I go to be is two tablespoons of unsweetened almond butter. If you flex your self-delusion gland hard enough you can almost pretend it’s sweet!
The important thing is that whatever you eat, you gotta eat a lot of it (erring, of course, towards a lot of vegetables.) If you feel hungry on slow carb, something has gone awry.
On Saturdays, which Charlie now calls “Daddy’s Sugar Day” I start with a high protein breakfast because I feel like garbage if I launch straight into carbs. But then, oh god, the things I will eat. It’s horrifying. Here is an honest to god accounting of last Saturday:
- Croissant sandwich with eggs, bacon and sausage.
- Two pieces of french toast
- A pancake I ate off Charlie’s plate like a fucking monster
- Some Jelly beans
- Beef pho, shrimp rolls and a grilled pork bahn mi
- A Twix ice cream bar
- Half a pepperoni and sausage pizza
- Like three chocolate chip cookies I baked
- A bowl of Trolls™ cereal (like everything Trolls-related, it was a delight)
Do you exercise?
Not a lot, I should more. I do tae kwon do twice weekly, but that’s about all the structured stuff. I hope to introduce more soon.
You travel a lot, is this sustainable when you’re on the road?
Well, OK, yes. I mean, you could do it. Airports are tough and you have to be smart about which restaurants you pick, but it’s feasible. I just don’t wanna.
For starters, I usually have a lot going on when I travel and I don’t want to have to be constantly thinking about what I’m going to eat. But also, I’m in a new place with new food and I don’t want to miss out on those new experiences I may not get another crack at. So I go on sabbatical, and just try to eat sanely.
With other diets I’ve been on, periods like this would wreck me. I’d feel like such a failure I wouldn’t return to the plan. But since I’ve been on slow carb, I just contextualize it as a lengthy cheat day, and get back on the wagon as soon as I’m home. It’s tougher after longer trips and I almost always put on weight, but it’s doable. I feel equipped to handle it.
Do you follow the diet strictly otherwise?
No! I mean I try to, but I’ll allow myself the occasional indiscretion provided I stay within the spirit of the diet. What does that mean? Well, for example, you’re supposed to try avoid sugar free sweeteners. Ferriss allows for 16 ounces of Diet Coke per day, but that seems to be because he really likes Diet Coke.
Anyway, I’ll have some sugar-free sweetener in my coffee most mornings. I like my coffee that way, and denying myself that would make this a lot harder to maintain. Ferriss and a lot of the slow carb community isn’t militant about this stuff. The rule isn’t “Violate and be banished.” but more like “Try it, test it, if it works for you, then it works.” It’s evidenced based rather than religious, for lack of a better term. That’s appealing to me.
Ferriss also recommends a supplement stack called PAGG I haven’t tried, because I’m suspicious of supplements.
Should I do this?
Uhh, I have no idea, dear reader. Does it sound like something you could never do? Probably not. Does it sound like something you could do, but would hate? Then maybe give it a shot, you’re tougher than you give yourself credit for.
Bonus question: Would you like my unsolicited feedback on why I think this diet is unsustainable/unhealthy/less effective than something else?
I would not.