Methodology: Diet Experiment Phasing (Try #2)

I believe I’ve written before about how I want to phase my various diets over the life of this experiment.  I know I’ve written about it in my personal notes, but believe I have only covered it as part of another article.  Regardless, I’ve recently been giving some considerations to the original plan and have modified it to be a bit better at capturing what I’m trying to do.

The one constant that I’m trying to achieve is that I give my system enough time to stabilize into each diet and then really hit it’s stride with respect to it.  I also want to give my body time on each diet in case there are problems with nutrient deficiencies or problems with my body absorbing certain nutrients when eating a certain way.  Your stores of vitamins can take a while to get depleted, so just doing something for a month or so isn’t going to be enough time to pick up a noticeable drop in blood levels of certain vitamins.  Likewise, I don’t want any of the transition times to be messing with the potential benefits or detriments of each diet.  Three to four weeks is a good amount of time to reach equilibrium, and twice that much time is probably enough to see some interim results.  I’ve therefore chosen to make my scheduling easier and just do three months for most of my diet plans.

Originally I was going to jump right into one of the eating styles starting on January 1st, 2014.  However it occurred to me that I probably want to make sure I don’t have any latent food sensitivities that could be skewing me one way or the other.  There are several diet methods for determining this, which all include removing potential sensitivities and then one by one adding them back in.  It would be pretty easy to devise a plan, however I have heard JJ Virgin talk about her book, The Virgin Diet, on several podcasts.  I will be honest that if I just saw it in the stores I wouldn’t buy it because it has a tagline about dropping 7 foods to lose 7 pounds in 7 days.  I hate that sort of cheeky soundbite diet “advice” which is often misconstrued by people looking for a quick fix.  However listening to her describe the diet and its purpose it is clear that is just a catch phrase.  In fact it’s not even a big part of the writing in the book.  The book instead is about figuring out which, if any, of the 7 most common foods that provoke sensitivities you may be wrestling with.  I’ve therefore decided to start with this sort of diet first to see if I have any food sensitivities.  Between the initial reset phase and then the weeks of trying each food one week at a time, that will take up the first three months.

I used to be afraid that there was no way I’d get the hang of the paleo diet or the vegan diet.  After my week long experiments with each I’m not so scared anymore.  I therefore have decided that I don’t need to be gradually building to any. Instead I’m organizing each diet sequence more looking at what is going to be going on in my life at the time.  I’m going to try to be ultra-pure during each of the diet phases so I want to account for the realities of what I’m going to be tackling for each of the phases.  The first half of the next year look pretty standard for me, with respect to my running build up, so I can afford to go a little low carb.

Because I will be able to shun easier to get a hold of carbs, after the Virgin Diet I will craft a three month paleo diet.  That will take me into the summer of 2014.  Eggs figured prominently but all the other 7 potential sensitive foods are already excluded from paleo.  I therefore may have to make some alternative plans if it turns out eggs and me don’t work well together.  However by mid-summer I’m going to have to crank up my mileage as I begin my marathon training for the 2014 Space Coast Marathon.

To account for that I’m going to be switching to a pescatarian diet plan for the following three months, taking me into the autumn.  My pescatarian diet is going to be a whole foods lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with fish added as well.  I therefore will have lots of abilities to get carbs on exercise heavy days as well as to eat up heartily on really heavy mileage days.  This would also potentially be possible on paleo, but I did find it hard to wolf down more than 3000 calories in a day when eating paleo religiously, although I suppose I could just shove sweet potatoes into my face until I can’t stand it anymore.

Following the pescatarian diet I will be transitioning to a traditional Mediterranean diet.  What this looks like is still TBD, but it will be crafted after an amalgam of classic Sardinian, Cretian, and Iscarian diets.  I do fully intend to make one big exception, and that is the Christmas holiday.  I love my family’s Christmas dinners.  Many of the foods are actually probably pretty much in line with these diets, especially my all time favorite Scungilli and Octopus Salad.  However there are other foods that just won’t cut it.  Even after I reach equilibrium with a chosen diet, I doubt I would deny myself eating these foods once or twice a year, not just out of nostalgia but out of sheer enjoyment.  I therefore find it prudent to plan for this in my diet phasing.  By eating Mediterranean already I will be mostly in line with a lot of the traditionally served foods anyway. I still may end up getting my blood tested on the morning of 12/23 or wait an extra week into the first week of January to make sure I don’t have those two nights of splurging artificially skewing my results.

The Mediterranean Diet therefore takes me through to the end of 2014 and my second marathon (Flying Spaghetti Monster willing).  The beginning of 2015 will once again be my quiet time for running, and therefore a good time to be experimenting more aggressively with my eating styles.  The first quarter of 2015 I intend to eat a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (again assuming dairy and eggs don’t turn out to be sensitive foods for me).  After three months of that I will roll into full blown veganism.  The timeline after that is a little bit fuzzy.

My original plan was to do three months of my current diet, which is unfortunately more aligned with the Standard American Diet (SAD) than I care to admit.  However in recent days I’ve been reading articles and seeing podcasts of these extreme diet experiments by people on ketogenic diets and a diet called the 80/10/10 diet, consisting of 80% carbs, 10% protein and 10% fat.  I honestly doubt that either of these diets are easy to maintain in perpetuity, but I am curious if my system will have comparable reactions to it as theirs did.  Because I’m not looking at this as a long term diet and more a short term experiment, I think I’m going to forgo the full three months of those programs and instead target the minimum period to achieve equilibrium and see the beginning of changes in blood chemistry, which I’m targeting at eight weeks.  I may skip them altogether, I’m not quite sure.  However for now this is what I’m looking at:

  1. Virgin Diet (January through March 2014)
  2. Paleo Diet (April through June 2014)
  3. Pescatarian Diet (July through September 2014)
  4. Mediterranean Diet (October through December 2014)
  5. Lacto-ovo Vegetarian Diet (January through March 2015)
  6. Vegan Diet (April through June 2015)
  7. 80/10/10 Vegan Diet (July and August 2015)
  8. Ketogenic Diet (September and October 2015)
  9. SAD Diet (November 2015 through January 2016)

Based on the results of all my body measurements, fitness tests, mood journals and diary entries I hope that from all of this I can figure out which, if any, of these diets (or a combination of them) proves optimal for my body and then go onto the 10th stage, which is to begin crafting a lifelong diet based on those observations, confirmed by all of the expensive blood work and other medical tests which prove a positive correlation to those directly trackable day-to-day things.