Jack Toumey

My Diet Evolves...

Thinking about food again

My Diet Evolves...

I've come a long way with food.

When was 5 or 6, I remember eating out with my mom and getting things like caesar salad and minnestrone soup. I still remember my mom's homemade vineagrette too. I heard a story once that a waitress was offering me chicken nuggets or something, and I requested the scallops.

When my mom tried eating super health food for a while (brown rice, seaweed, vegetables, etc), I remember following along with that too.

Now, this isn't to say I never ate junk food. I've always loved mint chip ice cream and Red Vine licorice. When I was in elementary school, I would lie to my dad that I had to bring cookies into class for something (my birthday, a holiday, etc), so I would make a double batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (mom's recipe), and I'd hide them in my sock drawer until they were all gone. To this day, they are my favorite cookies.

I also used to steal candy sometimes (we're talking around ages 8 to 10). I'm not sure why. Maybe I thought I'd never be able to have it otherwise. But there were a handful of times that I took candy bars from the general store, while my dad was unwittingly distracting the lady at the register. I also had some pretty epic Mission Impossible-type moments where I would sneak around the house after my bedtime, trying to get ice cream without being caught. This included timing the paces that my dad would make (like bedroom to laundry room and back), hiding under tables, listening for pins to drop several rooms away, etc.

My First Health Craze

In sixth grade, I played Pop Warner football. There was a weight limit that I was 20 pounds over on the first day of tryouts, so the coaches came to tell me that I would have to move up a weight class. All of my friends were in the lighter weight class though, so I didn't want to. I started bawling, like any mature 11 year old would.

I decided then and there that I would lose the weight to make the original team I set out to make. I went on a very strict diet, which was designed by one of the coaches on the team that also happened to be an amateur bodybuilder. We're talking potatoes with zero butter or sour cream (and low salt!) and grilled chicken breast for a meal, for instance. Just the blandest food ever and only whole foods, as I recall.

Secret time: I also tricked someone that I really looked up to at that time, who was a summer camp counselor at the park that I spent my summers at, to tell me how to make myself throw up. I told him it was so I could finish a merit badge for my Boy Scout work. I would do this, somewhat regularly that summer, as part of my mission to lose the weight.

The short of it is that I did lose that weight, and I ended up making the team and starring on the offensive and defensive lines. I still had to weigh in naked basically every week.

In 7th and 8th grade, I started wrestling too, and I faced more weight class restrictions. My diet was more lax during these years (and I no longer made myself throw up), but I still had a definite eye on eating for performance. I remember in 9th grade, I would religiously eat pasta on Wednesdays/Thursdays so I had extra energy to burn during my football games.

Part of me really wonders what I did to my body's growth during these years. I was restricting nutrients during basically all of my puberty's growth spurts, as I was nearly at adult height by the end of my 9th grade year. But I digress...

The Second Wave: Post High School

After high school, I was committed to eating junk food and not exercising unless absolutely necessary. I think it's a natural reaction for someone who grew up with this much discipline and restriction.

That being said, it really wasn't who I was. Just leading up to this period, I had personally solved a couple health problems of my own. I developed plantar fasciitis when one summer when I was 13 or 14, probably because I was running around all day, doing athletic things while wearing skate shoes. When I was 17, I researched plantar fasciitis and learned how to self-heal instead of using shoe inserts for life like my doctor wanted me to.

Also, when I was 19, I had developed some back problems as a result of bad desk posture and a car accident (which I was not at fault for, I would like to state for the record). Once it got bad, I first visited a chiropractor before again taking matters into my own hands and using a combination of yoga and sleeping posture to permanently heal my back. I've had no pain since then, and the chiropractor at the time clearly had x-rays that demonstrated scoliosis prior to my personal treatment of it.

Also worth mentioning is my run-in with a dental issue, which I think was around the time I was 20-21. I had developed some kind of infection in my tooth, per the dentist's x-ray that showed decreased bone density in that region. I had been told that a root canal was necessary so that this bone infection didn't spread to my jaw and cause major issues there. Just before made my root canal appointment, another health-minded friend pointed out that losing teeth can cause major health issues down the road, since it is so hard to prevent infection in their absence. I decided to try the natural path. I ate super healthily for a few weeks, which was all I allowed myself before I promised to have the surgery done, and by then the infection was gone. No more pain, and follow up x-rays revealed no more infection.

Events like these showed the true promise of healthy living to me. The Paleo craze was just starting to kick up at this time, and what I got really into was a variant called Primal that started with Mark Sisson and his blog Mark's Daily Apple. It was basically more of a hippy version of Paleo, in that it became more of a lifestyle than just a diet. It looked at every aspect of health, considered evolutionary implications and modern research, and attempted to reason out the most natural as well as rational way to live.

I went very hardcore into this diet and lifestyle, with all the exuberance that a 21 year old could have. I would eat pounds of meat in a day at times. I would eat fruits with the rind on, including mangoes and oranges! I would eat the seeds of apples. Mind you, neither Primal nor Paleo really tell you to do these things, but I was gung ho and willing to take it to 110%.

I came up with some awesome food concepts at this time, to be fair. I intellectualized chocolate down to a science and developed great ways of making it at home, even considering potential profits of starting a business with it. I came up with what I still believe is the best burger I've ever had (lettuce wrap, 1lb grassfed beef patty, sauteed onions, bleu cheese, apple, strawberry, avocado, cucumber). I got pretty good at combining spices too, since I could start with the same base ingredients and come out with very different dishes (e.g. Swedish vs American pot roast).

Eventually, I think I burned out because I was already super healthy, and the effort of eating healthy wasn't making me any more healthy. As I started to become an adult that needed to commit his life to achieving in the workplace, health took second place. And whenever I wanted to meet up with friends, I had to sacrifice my health ideals there too.

Now: The Third Wave

All of that was a long-winded bit of context for my latest thoughts on food.

One thing I've developed a habit for in just the past couple years is coffee. On one hand, I have an addiction to the adrenaline kick that it gives me, and I love the taste of iced coffee with cream and sugar. On the other hand, I started drinking up to 6 cups of coffee per day, and my body doesn't process caffeine too well to begin with. This is one of the things I've tried to quit in the past few months, with decent success. What has stayed is my interest in drinks, rather than merely drinking water all day.

I also am starting to lift weights again, so I need to find extra protein sources to help meet macro requirements. Naturally, I reached for the whey protein, even though I know it's not really that good for you, nor is the 16 oz of regular milk that you drink it with. Most adults, including myself, don't process large amounts of milk very well.

I've found a combination of three things seems to most greatly satisfy me:

  • Broth
  • Greens drink powders
  • Preworkout and natural fruit drink powders

I've developed my own concoction of broth from beef protein isolate (28g protein per serving), dehydrated grassfed butter, dehydrated beef liver, and bone broth. This comes with all the nutrients I need to feed my active body. I realized that I should 'lean into' the beef protein and drink it with its natural taste instead of pittifully attempting to mask it with a candy flavor.

The semi-downside of this new drink of mine is that I have to drink it hot, and I am habitually a cold drink drinker. I replace that cold drink mouthfeel of iced coffee with the other two items on the list.

The green drinks are basically giving me a serving of various vegetables, probiotics, and such along with a bit of an earthy taste. It's interesting, and it's a nice mix up for my day over just having to drink water all the time. There's nothing too excessive in the drinks, so I could have them every day if I wanted to.

The fruity drinks are a little more performance oriented, and they represent more of a treat in my mind. I don't think it's super good to drink them everyday, but they do give me a boost, and they taste good.

One last thing that helped me kick coffee for good, aside from these drink replacements, is the return of my love for dark chocolate. Sometimes, I just want something really bitter, like coffee, and dark chocolate gives me that without too much sugar or bad caffeine highs/crashes.

In terms of general food, I've been very inspired by my recent discovery of the Bulletproof Diet, for a couple particular reasons.

For one, it's food timing. It promotes not eating for half of every day. The food window for vegetables and meat is noon to bedtime, and the food window for carbs is 6pm to 8pm, roughly. Naturally it's a low carb diet, and it promotes one day a week of carb reloading. But what's really interesting about this day is the idea of protein fasting too, and by eating under 15g protein for a single day, you really allow your body to cleanse itself. It makes me feel better, but I also believe there are real longetivity benefits to it.

For two, it's relatively moderate compared to the Primal and Paleo diets when it comes to things like meat and green leafy vegetables. It promotes getting a majority of calories from fat, eating a moderate (not too much) amount of meat, and also not scarfing huge amounts of salad everyday (not pointing fingers, but Primal at least encouraged if not dictated this habit when I was into it several years ago).

It also comes equipped with a bit more of the latest research into various minor optimizations regarding food choices. For instance, there's some good discussion yet again about anti-nutrients, which Paleo/Primal was just beginning to uncover. These things crop up in so many foods, and their minor but constant effects on our bodies are sometimes hard to detect.

It's a return for me to good whole foods, which I prepare at home and eat on a daily basis. After kickstarting my fitness regime about 6 weeks ago now, I am ready to add one more log to that fire. I have to give a lot of credit to my newfound life stability that I am able to make my own health a priority again.

I really kind of hate tracking my daily food intake because it both takes away from the enjoyment of the simple pleasures and requires extra willpower, but maybe I'll put together a post at some point that tracks out a week or so of what a good diet, to me, looks like right now.

Until next time,

Jack