Well, the four weeks are up and the final result of my MyPlate experiment is…
Weight: 156 (down 1.5 lbs from my start weight)
Body Fat: 12.6% (down from 13.1%)
There’s my Post-MyPlate self portrait there at the head of this post.
I have a little secret. I suspected going into this experiment that I wouldn’t gain weight. I lost 80 pounds on a diet that included plenty of grains, and I’d never experienced any digestive issues or symptoms of grain intolerance in the past. So I doubted I would suddenly explode into diabetic obesity, or develop leaky gut, or become crippled by mineral deficiencies. And the calorie allotment MyPlate gave me was right in line with how many calories I normally eat (a few hundred less actually, so I upped my calorie target after the first week produced a 4 pound weight loss). Of course, I DID gain weight, quite a bit, when I followed a strict paleo diet with the same calorie target, so I knew there was a chance I’d gain. My big questions were: how would it affect my energy levels? My post workout recovery? The effectiveness of my workouts? Would I see a change in body composition? After not eating grains for a year, would I experience digestive problems?
I hypothesized that I would experience little change in most of those areas, as my macronutrient ratios stayed roughly the same (I switched out mostly fruit for my added grain servings). For the most part, that is what happened. The one area I noticed a marked change was my energy level during workouts. It was phenomenal. I’ve had some workouts these last few weeks that have been practically life altering! Specifically, my endurance level increased dramatically, and I was able to keep working long after I would normally have become fatigued and stopped. I ran 7 miles one day, 3 miles more than I’d run in one shot in at least a year, probably closer to 2. All I can attribute this to is that I was getting a greater percentage of my carbs in the form of starch, rather than sugar (grains instead of fruits). The amount of carb I was consuming was pretty much unchanged. As always, I was getting 350-400 grams a day. Perhaps some of you readers have some input on this?
It was also substantially less expensive than my typical diet of mostly organic produce. Score!
The one negative I experienced is some increased knee pain (I have osteoarthritis in both). This could be a total coincidence (change in seasons?), or a reaction to something I added (gluten?) or was getting less of (some micronutrient plentiful in fruit but not grain?). I’m going to be paying close attention over the next few weeks as I transition back to my typical diet to see how it progresses.
A word on why I believed I gained on paleo: it was the carbs! I wasn’t getting enough. I was averaging around 250 grams a day, and my energy was in the toilet. When I was able to muster up the motivation to work out, it took days and days and days to recover. I had DOMS for 4 weeks straight. Not fun. Because my energy was so low, I was moving less, both during workouts and just in my daily life. Less moving = lower calorie burn. Lower calorie burn on the same # of calories = weight gain. Sure, I could have simply eaten less, but WHY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT If I can eat 3000 calories a day and feel great on a plant based diet, why would I want to eat 2200 calories a day and feel like a slug on paleo?
My final word on MyPlate: it’s pretty decent, assuming one doesn’t have a grain intolerance. I was easily able to meet all my micro- and macro-nutrient needs, with calories left over for additional fruits/veg, protein, or even chocolate (which really should have it’s own daily requirement IMO). There was nothing in the MyPlate guidelines that required me to eat pizza or soda or twinkies or high fructose corn syrup (or refined grains or seed oils, for that matter). In fact, the guidelines discourage all those things. I was able to stick to my preferred diet of real, whole, plant-based foods, and stay 100% within the guidelines. My weight and body fat remained stable (which can NOT be said for the four weeks I spent on a strict paleo diet). My energy was good and I recovered well from workouts. It was cost effective and relatively easy to maintain. It gets a better score than paleo, for me.
I’m tossing around ideas for my next N of 1, some of my ideas are: high carb/low fat (80/10/10 perhaps), the Alkalarian Diet (which sounds like total woo, but actually something I would enjoy, food-wise!), and Raw Foods. Anyone want to vote on which one I should do? Or suggest something else?
If you haven’t checked out my Facebook page yet, head on over there now! I’m posting much more actively there, including daily workouts.
Just want to point out that when you started “myplate” you were already metabolically healthy. I am a nurse practitioner and I work very closely with those with metabolic syndrome. I find when they reduce their processed food intake and grain intake regardless of calories they become more metabolically healthy. After reaching a point where they have more lean body mass and have come out of metabolic syndrome then following a more free diet with in calorie balance works. You would be amazed at what wheat bread does to my diabetics when keeping a blood sugar journal vs a food with similar calories that is less “starchy.” I love your take on health. I think you are fighting the good fight, but just wanted to point out that there are exceptions for those that are in disease states.
Of course, which is why I repeatedly state that people with medical conditions should work with medical professionals and not get their health care from diet books or internet personalities.
That said, I ate grains when I was losing weight/recovering from metabolic syndrome and it really didn’t hider my progress.
The increased knee pain could be from the increased mileage in your running
I think you should do 80/10/10 and the raw fruit vegan diet. I’d love to see you debate with FreeLee FruitLoop and smash her with your sense logic and scientific knowledge
I have never commented before, but can I say, YOU ROCK! I love following your posts- I am so sick of some of the religious dogma and food police behind certain “diets” I myself have celiac and have lactose intolerance (and multiple autoimmune diseases), so I already feel so restricted in many ways. I think you are such an inspiration, and I thank you for your wonderful posts!
Hey, this is great. I eat clean and am a trainer.. I too gained weight ( 10 pounds in 3 weeks) eating a Paleo diet. When I went back to my other food plan, which is No flour, no sugar, but weighed and measured clean food. Grains, Protein, Veg, Fruit, Fat… I began losing again. Proof for me, that those kinds of diets don’t work for everyone. I’m feeling stronger in my classes, less gassy ( gross but true) and leaner..
Great post Amber! May I ask what a typical days menu looked like on this one? And I would love to see your do 80/10/10 or McDougall (LFV). You look great!!!
I tried 80/10/10 and only made it three days, lol. I felt fine, but got SOOOOOO sick of fruit, and I love fruit! I just couldn’t stick with it, it was too restrictive.
So happy I found your blog! I love that you are doing experiments on yourself to see what works FOR YOU. Awesome! Keep it up!
Thank you SO much for sharing this… very interesting and I’m going to do my own “experiment!” I’m currently doing 30 days of strict paleo and plan to play around with different things once I’m done with the 30 days to see how my body responds… It will be fun!!! I truly appreciate you and your posts and being a “guniea pig” for us… you rock!
You might have low energy doing something like a totally alkaline Robert O Young diet, 80/10/10 might give you a lot of energy but not much in terms of muscle gain/mass (best for runners, cyclists and those type athletes). Raw foods – well an alkaline diet and 80/10/10 are both raw (or mostly raw as in alkaline diet) which is great. I’ve done them all but don’t work out as hardcore as you do (I aim to though) and for me a plant based mostly raw diet is what works best for me but hey that’s me.
Thanks for the input, Elainie! One of these days I WILL try the 80/10/10 thing. I think it would be fun to eat all that fruit! I love fruit!
I’m confused. Is this the diet you were using when you were “cutting?” Or, is this post cutting? Did I just miss the final results from when you were trying to get down to the lowest body fat possible?
Oh wait – I see – you referenced an old post on FB. Never mind. My bad.
Wow- that’s fascinating! I honestly expected the results to be much different. Thanks for sharing and being a guinea pig for us!
I really like self-experimentation! Except when it goes awry, but that doesn’t happen too often.
Thank you for sharing this! It helps me to gain some perspective. Paleo is AMAZING for me. I continue to get leaner and have more energy, but I have found that I need to be *very* low carb. When I eat any fruit or starchy tubars, I wind up bloated and feeling sluggish. When I stick to mostly protein and fat, I do very well. It’s so good to be reminded that what works so amazingly well for me, doesn’t necessarily translate to working well for someone else. Thank you for sharing your experiences and findings!
Yes, we are all so different, aren’t we? Thanks for listening with an open mind!
Amazing! You should be so proud of yourself. By the way your skin is beautiful!
The knee pain could be from more running than normal. About grains vs fruit and energy, I think the energy from grains may be slower release than from fruit, I feel more energized from bread and pb than an apple and pb.
Good catch, Amy! I hadn’t considered that +energy/endurance could have led to +activity which could have exacerbated my knee issues! Something to pay attention to. Thanks for the input!
This post about safe-starches may interest you as well: http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/is-there-any-such-thing-as-safe-starches-on-a-low-carb-diet/11809
It sounds like the starches were really helpful for you so I wonder if keeping that level up but doing it in starchy veggies/tubers vs grains might help you see the performance uptick and reduce the osteoarthritis pain back down? Thoughts? I have a post on dense carb sources on a paleo diet, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, but just to see some #s to do some exchanges on-screen:
Thanks for sharing your experience!
That’s what I’m thinking too, Diane. I may experiment with non-gluten grains and see what happens with the knees, I have to admit I really like rice. But yes, I’m going to swap out some of my sugar carbs for starch carbs long term, I really like the effect! Thanks for the input, I’m bookmarking your link.