At the end of September last year, I put an end to my obsession with tracking my meals.
I had been experimenting with diet and nutrition for nine months prior and decided it was time to test out whether I could take what I'd learned and synthesize it into a simple set of guidelines for eating clean that I could follow indefinitely with minimal effort.
In other words, I wanted to figure out a sustainable way of eating that would keep me healthy and lean long-term (as opposed to the shorter-term approaches suggested in my articles on burning fat and bulking up).
Well for the past six months, I've been sticking to a diet that is easy to follow, doesn’t require obsessive tracking, and better yet, is designed for sedentary people, like myself, who prefer to limit time in the gym as much as possible.
On this diet, I’ve managed to keep my body fat percentage within the 10-12% range quite easily, which for my body is the upper limit for having clear four-pack abs and somewhat visible six-pack abs.
Thus for lack of a better name, I'm calling it the "Sustainable Six-Pack Diet" for now, and the guidelines are below for anyone who wants to give it a try.
The Sustainable Six-Pack Diet For Lasting Health And Leanness
I believe the Sustainable Six-Pack Diet is a long-term solution for being healthy and lean without having to starve yourself or even exercise (though some exercise is undoubtedly a good thing).
The simple gist is to replace “fillers”—which I’ll define as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and other types of cheap, relatively low-nutrition foods often referred to as “empty calories”—with vegetables, meat and fat as often as possible.
But I’ve found that the people who find it difficult to reduce fillers in their diets tend to share one thing in common: the blind belief that relying on meat and fat to satisfy your hunger is inherently unhealthy and/or will make you fat.
Because of this belief, they restrict the amount of meat and fat they eat—some might even go vegetarian—and leave themselves little choice but to rely on fillers for the majority of their caloric needs.
Well I say let’s get rid of such silly beliefs and embrace the fact that we humans are omnivores by nature.
On the Sustainable Six-Pack Diet, you should be eating more vegetables than most vegetarians and enough meat to handily defeat a vegetarian in an arm wrestling match.
Six Guidelines for a Sustainable Six-Pack
- Make vegetables the majority* of what you eat in a given day.
- Complement vegetables in meals with as much meat (including fish and poultry) and fat (e.g. fatty meat, eggs, avocado, butter, olive/coconut oil) as you like while eating raw nuts/fruit as snacks if hungry in between meals.
- Treat fillers** like you would dessert: fine to eat on occasion but certainly not necessary at every meal. The only time you really “need" to eat fillers is for additional energy to get through or recover from a heavy workout, and even then, fillers still shouldn't dominate the meal.
- Eat simple meals that consist of unprocessed ingredients and are as close to their natural state as possible.
- Don't eat or drink sugar.
- Follow these guidelines 70%*** of the time while reserving the remaining 30% for social gatherings, special occasions, and other “cheat meals”.
* A majority based on volume (i.e. how much room is taken up on a plate) should be fine.
** Fillers refer to grains and starches such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, beans and other types of cost-effective, relatively low-nutrition foods that typical diets are based around.
*** How you define the 70% is up to you. It might be 70% of days per week, 70% of meals per week or even 2/3 (67%) meals per day. I personally find it easier to eat clean on weekdays (5/7 = 71%) and save my cheat meals for weekends. If something comes up and I feel like cheating during the weekdays, then I’ll just make it up by eating cleaner on the weekend.
- Increases nutrient density of meals by removing most processed foods and replacing low-nutrition fillers with vegetables and meat.
- Reduces caloric intake by relying less on high-carb fillers and more on protein and fat to feel full.
- Works for people with sedentary lifestyles who want to be lean without stepping into the gym.
- Minimizes impact on social life by allocating 30% of meals for “cheat meals”.
And that’s it! Once you wrap your brain around the idea that fillers aren’t actually necessary and that vegetables, meat and fat are not only more nutritious but also great at satisfying your hunger, the way of eating recommended in the Sustainable Six-Pack Diet should be super easy and, yes, super sustainable.
Lastly, I should mention that I purposely avoided getting into controversial subjects at the heart of most nutrition debates. I feel that when we get caught up in the debate of what’s “right” and “wrong”, we often lose sight of the fact that what works for one person may not work for another because no two human bodies are identically alike.
So don't get too caught up in the details.
Use the guidelines above to experiment and find out what works best for you.
You may have impeccable logic for why you eat the way you do, but if your diet isn't working to keep you healthy and lean, why not try something different?
On the other hand, if you feel healthy and look lean, then you’re probably doing something right and can pretty much ignore the details all together (including everything I’ve said in this article).
Perhaps Deng Xiaoping said it best when he said: “It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, if it catches mice it is a good cat”.
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