Swan Diving off the Wagon

If there’s one thing that makes a diet tolerable, it’s cheating.When I was on the high fat diet my gym initially suggested, I was told in very clear terms that I could not cheat. That the diet worked only as long as I maintained a zero carbohydrate, high fat regimen and did not deviate from it. No exceptions, no cheat days.

The diet has two redeeming features. The first is that it really works (although maintaining your exercise is a good idea if you don’t want to purge a ton of muscle as well), and the second is that it only lasts 15 days. It’s a bit brutal on your body and any doctor will tell you that you’re not doing your cholesterol levels any favors by eating so much red meat and dairy products, but the proof is in the … well, “pudding” seems inappropriate, but the results were there.

I lost a ton of fat, a ton of weight and two notches on my belt buckle in 15 days. Results were measured with a scale, calipers and a tape measure. Say what you will, but that’s not just dehydration. Especially since the high fat diet makes you thirsty as hell and I went through a couple of liters of water per day.

After the diet, we went on holiday. To France. Obviously there was no way the diet was going to survive close proximity to a French bakery, and the croissants had their moment in the sun (not that there’s all that much sun in Normandy). So did the wine. So did the baguettes. So did the … you see where I’m going.

Coming back, I feared the worst, but my coach had warned me that it may not have as much of a negative impact as I thought. I hoped he was right.

The initial diet is hard on your body. I had lost a little muscle mass during the 15-day high fat diet despite high intensity training. Every-Single-Morning. But the results were good: My fat had dropped a lot more, and the coach thought there was a good chance that some normal food and a few rest days (Ok, 10 rest days), would result in my adding some muscle as my body got a chance to adapt to the new demands I was putting on it and take in some real fuel (in the form of croissants, yay!)

The weigh and measure on my return did what it was supposed to do – it reinforced my confidence in the fact that the coaches at my gym know what they’re doing. I had added – without doing a day of sport – a pound of muscle. I had also added a little fat around my middle, but only a tiny fraction of what I had lost in the 15-day diet.

Again, this is checked with a scale, calipers and a tape measure.

In the gym, I’m lifting the same weights as before, but with much less fatigue. We’re adding weight to most exercises as of next week to ensure the training stays challenging.

I fell (jumped) off the wagon and landed on my feet.

Of course, if I trust my coach to be right, then I have to take on board the advice he’s given me going forward. This is somewhat less enticing.

I probably had about twice the rest and recovery that I needed, and had I restarted the training earlier I would probably have avoided the fat gain but still had all the benefits of the muscle gain. If I continue to indulge, I will rapidly gain the weight I lost back again, so I need to get back on a controlled diet immediately.

This time it’s a low fat (high protein, low carb) diet, so expect a few changes in the recipe ideas going forward. Weight loss will continue but will be more gradual and less consistent. I should find it much easier to add muscle.

Given how much protein you’ll be eating, it’s hard not to add muscle.

Taking an occasional cheat meal (occasional means rare) will be less damaging to my progress because the low fat diet is less vulnerable to the occasional carbohydrate, but they will slow progress.

So to summarize: I went to France, ate croissants every day (I had to drive 30 minutes to get them and I got up every morning just to make sure I had them before everyone else woke up for the day), ate bread with every meal, went to a cocktail party pretty much every single evening, finished the break with a wedding party in which I happily indulged in cake, risotto, bread and pasta and the net result was that I added a pound of muscle and feel stronger and healthier.

I know it’s only because of the efforts I made immediately beforehand, but still… Pretty cool.

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