Sunday, April 18, 2010
The Harcombe Diet - The Preamble
Those who know me well, know I'm a bit obsessed with eating healthy. Many also know that despite my best efforts at eating well and exercising regularly, I've been struggling with weight gain for the last two years. At the moment I'm about 25 pounds over what I consider my ideal, healthy weight. Deep down, I know that I'm still an active, healthy individual. I run, bike, hike, lift. But all the activity just makes the extra weight even more frustrating for me.
Prior to this struggle with weight, I was not a proponent of any diet. I fully believed if you lived a healthy lifestyle (wholesome food and exercise), dieting (which I'll define as restricting calories or lessening your food intake) was unnecessary. But with my weight gain came desperation. In the past year I have tried a number of ploys to drop the weight. In addition to increasing my exercise--both in frequency and intensity--I have also tried the Atkins Diet (high fat/low carb), the South Beach Diet (low-fat/low carb), going low-fat, and going vegan.
Through each I initially saw a small weight loss. But for varying reasons (and I won't go through all of them now or this will be a very long blog) they didn't work--and they didn't fit in with my core lifestyle beliefs.
The other day Mark heard a radio interview with Zoë Harcombe about The Harcombe Diet. He thought it sounded right up my alley and steered me toward her website. Once I started reading I couldn't stop. In fact I bought her book as an e-book so I could read it right away.
I won't be able to fully explain her 360-page book on here, but I do want to explain the main points. First and foremost (the reason why Mark brought her to my attention) is that she believes in eating pure, wholesome foods: fruits and vegetables, meat, eggs, whole grains. Basically, food in its natural form. I have been striving to eat this way for quite some time. But let's face it--nobody is perfect. Harcombe also believes that the processed foods and sugars--through spiked insulin levels--have led most people to have one or all of the following conditions which hinder weight loss and encourage gain: Candida (yeast imbalance), food intolerance and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Her "diet" is not so much a diet as a change in lifestyle--getting back to nature but with some extra key steps. It happens in three Phases. Phase I is the most stringent and lasts five days (long enough to work, short enough to stick to it). It's purpose is to detox the body--bringing to light and getting rid of the three conditions mentioned above. Phase II is a bit less restrictive, but focuses on eating pure and healthy. Finally, Phase III allows you to stray a bit from purity, but for the most part maintain a pure way of life. In other words, the author realizes that never having a piece of cake again as long as you live is asking a lot. So you do the best you can, but allow for real life. Nowhere in the plan do you restrict your calories. You feed your body when it's hungry. You do not restrict carbohydrates, but you do separate the fats from the carbohydrates. I will get into that more as I enter Phase II. I'm really not doing her book justice in a few short paragraphs, so I encourage you to go to her website--even read her book to get a better understanding.
As I mentioned before, we eat fairly pure already.I'm actually getting ready to start a certification program in holistic nutrition. So sticking to this way of life is not a far stretch for us. However, I have a few vices that I feel are fueling my weight struggle and causing the conditions she mentions. And I believe, for the most part, I will need to let these go. The biggest vice of them all for me is caffeinated coffee. Yes, that's right, I'm going to try to give up caffeine. Caffeine causes your insulin levels to do all kinds of wacky things. And I drink a lot of strong coffee on a daily basis. In fact, other than days here and there when I've been sick, I probably have not gone a day without a cup of coffee in close to 20 years. The second vice is sugar. My sugar addiction certainly isn't as extreme as my coffee addiction, but it's there. I put a half teaspoon of sugar (or honey) in my coffee every day. I put brown sugar in my oatmeal. Cereals (even what appears to be healthy granola) have sugar. Cans of tomato sauce have sugar. And yes, chocolate has sugar--and I love chocolate. It's everywhere.
Are you still with me so far? Good.
Starting tomorrow I will embark on Phase I of this plan--the detox plan. Mark is doing it with me. He's not a coffee addict, but the man drinks a tremendous amount of sugary orange juice every day. For Phase I we can have all the meat (which for us will be fish because that's the only meat we're eating these days), eggs and vegetables (except for the high carb colorful ones--carrots, corn, eggplant) we want. We can have decaf tea or coffee and water to drink. For five days no dairy, wheat, wine. She does offer soy as an option for vegetarians, but notes that some people have an intolerance for soy. Since I have been eating a ton of soy lately, I'm going to cut it out as well.
Harcombe openly admits that the first five days are tough. Your body will be craving it's addictions like crazy. She even warns you may feel flu-like as your body rids itself of all the nasty things. I'm already nervous about a life without caffeinated coffee. (Luckily, in Phase II you can add red wines back in in moderation. I'm not sure I could deal with losing both wine and coffee). For just the first five days--no dairy or fruit. It can be added back in during Phase II.
Again, you can learn more about the diet by visiting her website. The reason I'm on here typing away today is to say that I'm going to blog about my progress in this lifestyle change. For the first five days, I will blog everyday about how I feel (mentally and physically) without coffee and sugar in my diet. I will weigh-in tomorrow morning (and to my horror, share that weigh in with you) and then again after the five days...and after that on a weekly basis. I will let you know if I cheat (which will help me be accountable for my actions).
So stay tuned! And let me just say upfront to any co-workers reading this, I apologize ahead of time for any crankiness resulting from my caffeine/sugar withdrawal. It's going to be a tough week.
For now, I'm going to sit here an enjoy my last cup of good, strong coffee--and later, a glass of wine!
- J.J. Kunkle
- I am the owner of The Fit Life, LLC. The Fit Life, LLC offers fitness instruction and nutrition counseling in a holistic way. I focus on personal training using mainly your own body strength--very little equipment. I also hold a certification in holistic nutrition. Because nutrition counseling regulations are very strict in Ohio, I'm still working on what nutrition services I can provide to my clients; however, I'm happy to provide general nutrition information. I enjoy teaching TRX, Indoor Cycling, and Boot Camps.
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