What I learned by doing diets the wrong way

Apr 13, 2021 | Fit2Fat2Forty

This is my second Fit2Fat2Fit journey. My first was ten years ago, when I turned 30, and now, as I was approaching 40, I wanted to do it again to see how my body, ten years older, would react to gaining and losing a bunch of weight over 9 months or so. I had learned a lot on my first journey and had thought about things I wanted to incorporate into this journey that I hadn’t done the first time. One of those things was a mini-experiment where I compared four popular diets in order to educate not only myself but my clients, friends, and others in the community I belong to on all of the different diets available to people. 

When I was about halfway through the weight gain period of my Fit2Fat2Fit journey, having gained roughly 30 of the 60 plus pounds I added to my frame, I began my experiment. I picked four popular North American diets-Keto, Paleo, Vegan, and Vegetarian, and spent a week doing each of them poorly to see what would happen. Then, during my weight loss phase, I would revisit each diet only this time; I would do them by the book. My goal was to see how badly you could execute each diet but still be within the boundaries of adhering to it, as well as to see if one diet was clearly better than the other when I did them correctly. So what were the results? Let’s get dirty.

My goal was to see how badly you could execute each diet but still be within the boundaries of adhering to it

Week 1: Dirty Keto

Dirty Keto involves eating a lot of butter, bacon, cheese, keto cookies and ice cream, and lots of sugar-free energy drinks and sodas. Eating a lot of fat is hard on your digestion, and I paid for it in, well, toilet time. My stomach was unsettled, I had frequent diarrhea and was often nauseous. That being said, my blood work told a different story. 

My triglycerides, which are the main body fat component found in humans, remained low at 76.  Anything under 100 is good, so a score of 76, even though I was eating keto cookies and keto ice cream with bacon all day long, was a great result. Another interesting fact was that my sleep actually improved during the week, which I would never have predicted.  As for my weight, I couldn’t believe that I actually lost 2.6 lbs over the course of the week!

Week 2: Dirty Paleo

Dirty Paleo still sounds pretty clean. For this week, I indulged in many fruits and fruit juices, which meant a lot of sugar and paleo-friendly foods like fruit bars, granola, pancakes, cookies, and anything else that said paleo on the label. My digestion improved a lot from the week before since I was eating leaner meats and much less fat. The fruit also tasted delicious. However, what was a surprise was that my triglycerides bumped up from 76 on Dirty Paleo to 120. Not terrible, but interesting that they went up by 45 points.  Dirty Paleo also won the golden weight gain award, as I packed on 4.6 lbs over the seven days. 

Week 3: Dirty Vegan

Going Dirty Vegan is basically like cracking the doors open on carbs. There is a lot of junk food out there that fits into the vegan category, and I made sure to take advantage of all of it. Oreos, Twizzlers, soda, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, I ate it all. But by the end of the week, how I felt and the story the data told had me raising my eyebrows. Not surprising was the rocket flight my triglycerides took, launching from 120 on Paleo to 488, which is really high, but that is the effect processed carbs have on our bodies. However, the weight gains that I expected to exceed the gain from Dirty Paleo did not materialize, as I added only 2.6 lbs to my growing waistline.  Dirty Vegan also adversely affected both my sleep and my digestion. This was due to the huge spikes in my blood sugar followed by huge crashes as I consumed so many carbs and very little protein. 

Week 4: Dirty Vegetarian

Dirty Vegetarian was very similar to Dirty Vegan, as I witnessed my triglycerides accelerate through the outer atmosphere, proceeding from 488 to 538. I ate pretty much the same foods as I did during vegan week, except I added things like mac and cheese, bean and cheese burritos, and cheese pizza — anything without meat. I gained 1.8 lbs over the Dirty Vegetarian week.  

Over the next month, I continued to gain weight, and by my 40th birthday on December 27th, I tipped the scale 62 pounds heavier than when I started six months prior.

Doing things the right way

Now it was time to start my journey back to fit. For the first month, I focused on mild exercise and trying to stop the cravings for the junk food my body had grown accustomed to. After that, I decided to compare the four diets and do a healthy version of them to see if one was better than the other. 

Spoiler alert: I lost weight on each of the four diets. That was because, when done correctly, they each put you on a caloric deficit, which is the key to losing weight. When more goes out than comes in, you’re on your way to success. But was one diet more successful than the rest? Let’s compare.

Spoiler alert: I lost weight on each of the four diets.

Week 1: Clean Keto:

Let’s look at some markers here on Clean Keto. CRP is a measure of your body’s inflammation. A normal reading is less than 10 milligrams per liter, and a healthy reading is around 1 mg/l. After my week of Clean Keto, my CRP was .74, which is pretty low. Also, during healthy keto week, I slept really well, my performance at the gym was strong, and my digestion was good. This isn’t surprising as I know my body does well on this diet.  During this week, however, I didn’t lose weight. 

Week 2: Clean Paleo:

Clean Paleo week consisted of whole, healthy foods-nothing processed. I avoided foods like cookies and cakes and whey bars and ice cream. I ate meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and berries. While my CRP crept up from .74 to 1.2, I slept ok-not great but felt good in the gym despite being a little tired. I lost three pounds by the end of the week.

Week 3: Clean Vegan: 

Clean Vegan was clear sailing. My food tasted good, and I focused on lots of fruits and vegetables, and I slept a little better than the week prior. My CRP dropped significantly from 1.2 to .37-the lowest of all the diets so far. Like Clean Paleo, I lost three pounds over the course of this week. 

Week 4: Clean Vegetarian

Clean Vegetarian week’s food is very similar to Clean Vegan week, consisting of veggies, fruits, and nuts, but I did add a tiny bit of dairy. My CRP went from .37 on vegan to .52 on vegetarian-maybe that’s the dairy-but I lost the most weight, dropping 3.8 pounds. 

So what does all this mean? I put my body through the wringer trying to compare these diets, and from what I can tell, the most important lesson I learned is this: no one diet is truly better than another. They can all work when done properly. Every person’s body reacts differently to certain diets, so it is important to do some testing and blood work to determine what is best for you. For me, I feel most comfortable on a keto or paleo diet, but I don’t mind the plant-based diets either because the food tastes so good. 

The most important lesson I learned is this: no one diet is truly better than another

When it comes to health and fitness, there isn’t one diet that fits every single person, so find what works for you. The most important thing is consistency. Stick with it. Eat whole foods, and maintain a caloric deficit, and you can’t help but experience weight loss. 

To learn more of these details, head over to fit2fat2fit.com/back2fit, or you can follow me on social media @fit2fat2fit to dive into more of these experiments with me. 

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