It has been 20 months since finishing active weight loss drive and switching to the maintenance mode. Readers of The Time Machine Diet know how it was formulated – food, meal timing, exercise and all that. Naturally, a lot has changed since then. I described most of the changes as they came. It’s time to put them all in a single post for your convenience – and mine, since I will be able to refer to a single post instead of tracking down scattered bits and pieces. So here it goes.
There are three major elements to my current way of life, and one of them wasn’t included in the book at all. Since it’s a new addition to the arsenal, and because of the changes it spurred in other aspects, I’ll start with it.
Light environment modifications.
You can read the details in this post if you missed it or could use a refresher. Here I will summarize the practical steps without underlying science and technical details.
- I make sure all my tech devices have blue light blocking software; after 6-7 pm I additionally use blue-blocking computer glasses.
- After sunset, I wear blue blocking glasses when artificial light is on and/or when watching TV.
- I avoid LED and CFL lamps. Incandescent or halogen is lighting of choice, and in the room where I tend to spend time in the late evening I prefer warm bulbs (2300-2700 K).
- Upon waking up, I try to get morning sunlight in my eyes, preferably being outside.
- I wear no sunglasses outside. Nor do I use sunscreen. I build up sun exposure from early spring, and protect my skin during peak UV light time by staying in the shadow and wearing protective clothes.
As a result of these steps, my sleep has improved immensely. Energy level is up, without any need for midday naps. I also noticed much better thermoregulation with greatly improved tolerance to both cold and heat. Another big change is related to meal timing, so I will mention it in the next part.
Food composition and meal timing.
- Some of things I stopped eating during weight loss stage made their way back into menu, but in a controlled manner. Rice, potatoes etc. never became a frequent, let alone daily, part of the menu, but they are not off the map completely now. Even a sweet treat of an unhealthy kind might make an occasional appearance. None of that works as a kryptonite – there is no addictive element to these foods anymore, and none of the occasional indulgence turns into binge. Rather, I have a feeling that they work to increase my metabolic flexibility – they play a role of hormetic, if you will. After a party with clear overconsumption of a sweet stuff I am not hungry till noon, or even for an entire next day. It’s very different from my obesity days when one overeating day would lead to an increased hunger on the day after – do keep in mind this difference and do NOT take this observation as a permission to indulge if you are in weight loss mode.
- Things that never returned in my ration are grains and sugar-laced beverages. My bread is made from fermented buckwheat or from buckwheat flour (both recipes are in the book); I also use this recipe for crackers. Black bean pasta is a perfect substitute for a wheat-based one.
- Majority of my regular food intake consists of meat, eggs, fish and seafood, leafy greens
- Meal timing. This part includes two components: intraday meal spacing and seasonality.
Intraday: As a result of the light modifications, my hunger window naturally shifted to the first half of the day. It’s remarkable change considering that my entire life I was one of those “hungry in the evening.” I often see people trying to fight this by sheer willpower, experimenting with meal composition and applying other tricks. I would suggest them start with correcting their light regimen first and see if that helps. Most days I have coffee at 8 AM, breakfast at 9-10, and second meal anywhere from 1 to 3 PM. That’s it, I am done for the day; it’s just cold and hot drinks from that point till sleep time (Interesting studies showing benefits to such timing are here and here). There is no fanaticism to it, of course; if there is some social food-related occasion at later time, I will adjust that particular day without second thought.
Seasonality: My carbohydrate consumption loosely follows the natural change of seasons. It slowly increases in the spring, reaches its peak in the summer with berries and in the fall with fruit, drops toward the wintertime and stays close to none till next spring. Rough idea of what exactly to eat is, “look around – if it doesn’t grow, you don’t eat it.” The underlying concept is, there should be a match between information our body receives from the environment (light, temperature, length of the day) and food intake – this is how we developed over millions of years, and this is our most natural form of coordination with environment. Refrigerators and transportation across the globe eliminated our dependency on the season change and local food availability; very convenient but goes against our evolutionary background. Again, there is no need in strict fanaticism here; I am not trying to pick the exact sort of apples that grows in my neck of the woods, for instance. It’s a general idea of mango not being the right food in January in Canada.
- Resistance training is my main form of exercise. High intensity till failure is my preferred kind, although now and then I do more traditional form.
- My cardio is HIIT on a stationary bike.
- Long walks is a constant part of daily routine.
- I am not going deeper into details on this since it hasn’t changed from the last time I described my routine. Please read it here and here.
One more aspect I’d like to touch on here is challenging your body with change. Just as with HIIT where change of pace from all-out to lazy provides disproportionally large benefit, sudden change of course might be beneficial in other fields. The best example of course is Intermittent Fasting vs. constant caloric restriction. Keeping with spirit of such approach I try to alternate between fast and feast – unrestricted food intake during nice dinner with friends is usually followed by a fasting day. Another example of this would be a day or two of ketogenic menu after a day of increased carbs – delicious berries U-Pick in season, anyone? While I am a low carb eater rather than a strict keto, I find that occasional dabbing for a day, or three, in keto territory is quite beneficial. One necessary remark here: by keto I mean whole foods, not the weird artificial concoctions laced with ungodly quantities of oil diluted in butter and mixed with lard and tallow, sprinkled with MCT. Meat (not lean cuts), eggs, fatty fish, seafood – that’s my keto, with fat and protein in ratios provided naturally in those foods.
One necessary comment: please notice that we are talking about Maintenance Mode here. I am not confident that these principles would be applicable to active weight loss stage; it’s a tad more complicated, depending on your individual metabolic health and particular phase of your journey.
If you look at all this from the point of view of evolutionary adaptations, this pulsatile way of life makes perfect sense. Period of great comfort and insulation from the environmental assaults is not even a blip on radar on a historic scale. I mean, how long has it been since we got central heating, uninterrupted supply of food from all over the world, artificial light available 24/7, comparing to the time we relied on a cave as dwelling, fire and heat supply and food that we were able to kill, catch or dig up? My bet is on body better adapted to the challenges of chaos than to constant comfort.