Drew Price is a Registered Nutritionist who embarked on a unique project for Men’s Fitness magazine which saw him follow 12 different, extreme diet plans over the course of 12 months.
He tried IIFYM, The Paleo Diet, Warrior Diet, Anabolic Diet, Velocity, Carb Back Loading, The Slow Carb Diet, Get Shredded Diet, The Good Gut Diet, The Blood Group Diet and The Ornish Diet.
His goals were to find out which diets worked, and which diet plans were a waste of time? What are the costs to health and happiness, and how does each diet impact his long term diet ‘success?
In this episode of the podcast Drew shares his story. He talks about the highs and lows, which diet plan was the most effective, which was the most unpleasant and which one actually caused him to gain weight. He explains how the different diets impacted his social life, his stress levels and which one he found most enjoyable and why it was different from his prediction.
Drew also tracked all his blood work so he also shares which weight loss diet had the greatest improvement on his markers of health, which one cause the most amount of weight loss and which diet had the most detrimental effect on his gym performance.
Connect with Drew:
Scott: Hey Drew, welcome to the Podcast.
Drew: It’sgood to be here.
Scott: Can you give us a little bit more info about you: Who are you? What do you do? Tell us more about this project that you have been following for the last year.
Drew: I guess my job title is I’m a Nutrition Consultant but turning the clock back I did a biochemistry degree. I didn’t know what to do with it so I went and got a job in investment banking and around 4 years later I went back to university and did a Masters degree in nutrition and then did some other certifications like strength and conditioning. I have been working for over 10 years in nutrition so what I do is I consult for companies, I work with athletes, private clients, that type of thing. I also do a lot of writing. The bulk of what I do is spreading the message of nutrition and getting the information out there to people that is useful, i.e. the communication side of things.
Scott: Excellent. The last year, you have been following a different diet every month. How did that come about?
Drew: It’s an idea I have been rolling around for a long time. The funny thing about being a nutritionist is that you tell people “Oh no, you shouldn’t do this, you should do that” and often you are telling people this because you have read it in a book or you have had some clients that did well doing this versus that so you are recommending it. What I thought would be quite useful is if I went through the process of dieting myself, explored it a little bit in terms of the different types of diet out there – low carb vs. low fat diet, etc, just to give me a more thorough understanding of what people go through. It’s also a good excuse to get in front of people, so I have used this year to talk to a lot of professors etc. It’s good fodder for a column – it’s now a column in Mens Fitness. It’s been an interesting year of exploring diet.
Scott: Tell us a little bit more about the structure of the project, how did you decide what diets to follow and was there any selection criteria or did you just pick the most popular ones that were coming up on Google? Did you also have an order? Did you go from one diet to another for a specific reason or was it just a case of that’s how it worked chronologically?
Drew: The overview of the whole year is12 diets – one a month. It’sabout 3 weeks and a bit on with around 5-7 days off in-between each diet. Before and after I get bloodwork done and body composition tests done, I also had psych evaluations. I collect the data at the end of the month and then I move onto the next diet. The order of the diets was an editorial decision for the column because if you are sliding from one diet to the next diet which is kind of similar then it’s not so interesting. It’s about contrast so I tried to contrast each month. For example, the first two months was “If it fits your macros” and “paleo”. One is counting numbers and the other one is looking at food quality so it’s a completely different thing. That was an editorial decision. As far as what I put in there, I really wanted to slice and dice the way people think about diets – is it calories, or is it getting rid of a certain macronutrient be it protein or fat, or is it tinkering with the timing of intake, i.e. the warrior diet or carb backload. I looked at the different ways that people structure diets or try and tinker with diet and then selected one from each of those.
Scott: Just for the record, the diets that you have followed you did “if it fits your macros/flexible dieting”, “paleo”, “warrior diet”, “anabolic”, “wheat belly”, “velocity”, “carb backloading”, “slow carb”, “get shredded”, “good gut diet”, “blood group diet” and “the ornish” – a mix of ones that may be popular in the fitness scene, ones that have sold a lot of books out in the wider community, and some that are quite specific – your extreme faddy approaches that some people might not have heard of because they seem so ridiculous. Which one did you find the most enjoyable first off?
Drew: Do you enjoy the process or do you enjoy the results – this is the kind of questions that come up and it’s really why I did the project because it gets me thinking more about these things. The most fun day to day was carb backloading. Personally, I don’t like eating too much in the mornings and I have got a sweet tooth so that’s carb backloading right there as you don’t eat much in the mornings, you go down the gym, you train, you come back and you get stuck into the Coco Pops. It’s that type of thing so that was fun, but other diets have got better results but they weren’t as much fun so if I was to single out one as the most fun it would be carb backloading but people I talked to would say “wasn’t it ‘If it fits your macros’ because then you get to eat what you want”, but I don’t enjoy counting each meal, plugging numbers etc so it’s been a bit of a surprise about what I found fun as opposed to what I thought I’d find fun.
Scott: Let’s go the complete other end of the scale – which did you find the most unpleasant routine to follow?
Drew: Again, it’s one of these questions that has a lot of different facets. The most unpleasant diet I found was “velocity” because with the “velocity” diet you’re just drinking shakes all day. I like my food but here you have four different flavours of protein powder, you are consuming it five times a day for 26 days.
Scott: No solid food at all for 26 days?
Drew: There’d be one solid meal every Sunday. Broccoli has never tasted so good! That diet wasn’t very much fun. That was the least fun in terms of what I was actually eating but in terms of the process, “if it fits your macros” I found to be a real pain. It makes a massive impact on your life if each time you eat something, you have to find out how much you ate, find out what the composition of that is and then log it into your App. Mobile phones make it easier but it is still having a huge impact on your lifestyle. The “velocity” diet on the other hand was easier because your meal was ready in 10 seconds so actually from some points of view, the “velocity” diet was very easy, much easier than “if it fits your macros” so there is lots of different facets to these questions.
Scott: What was the most socially difficult one? Which one impacted your routine the most? I’m assuming it could have been the “velocity” because you couldn’t have gone out for anything at all unless it was “Excuse me waiter, can I have a protein shake please?”
Drew: Yes and it would’ve been “Can I have a protein shake from that specific brand?” as well.
Scott: Yes and a couple of pints of – you guessed it – protein shake!
Drew: The “velocity” diet was kind of easy in some ways as five times a day, you made a shake and you could make them all in one go and keep them in the fridge and just divide them up. That was actually pretty easy and if you went out, you just had soda water. There is an impact but there is other things like “wheat belly” where what I was expecting was to be able to go into the restaurant and eat food but then I have got to go and tell the water that I can’t have any gluten whatsoever so then I’m suddenly that nightmare customer, so it’s really about expectations. With the “velocity” diet you don’t expect to have any fun so you can go out and it’s easy as you just have to drink soda water. Whereas with “wheat belly” you expect to go out and live a normal life but it’s very difficult.
Scott: Continuing this, looking at the pros and cons, which approach did you find the most satiating in terms of which approach filled you up more so than others? Again, maybe it’s looking at minimising the negative, so which approach were you least hungry on?
Drew: Obviously, it’s an important question as hunger is one of those things that really kills peoples motivation to stay on a diet. I think I’d have to say the “slow carb” diet which is by Tim Ferriss in his 4 hour body book, although you can find it on his blog for free if you want details. It was very satiating because it’s built around protein and high fibre carb sources such as beans, lentils, etc. It was also a very easy diet because it’s based on the idea of using as few as choice as possible. Basically, if you’ve only got three choices of breakfast, three choices of lunch and three choices of dinner, it’s very easy to know what you’re going to have so you just make sure that they’re all nice choices and you’re away. There wasn’t much to remember as it was a pretty simple structure.
Scott: Did you train at the same level or throughout the programme, as in did you always train ‘x’ amount of times per week or did you train your routine? How many times a week were you training roughly?
Drew: What I tried to do throughout the whole of the year is minimise the compounds, so the training is the same month to month. If one month I was training loads and the next I wasn’t training at all, then that would skew the results. Obviously this isn’t science – I’ve got a big blog post on my blog about the fact that this isn’t science, although I’ve tried to use scientific techniques. The training routine is built around strength training, a bit of conditioning and a little bit of cardio so it’s a 3/4 days a week type of plan – basic lifts, deadlift squat, pressing, that type of thing. There’s a little bit of conditioning, and circuits etc. The volume changes week to week but the volume over the month is the same so the template is the same month to month. With “velocity”, as you’ve alluded to, it was easier to stick with some diets than it was to others. When you’ve just had protein shakes for the last 2 weeks and your macronutrients look like 160g of protein but only 14g of carbs and not much more of fat then doing a lot of cardio isn’t really top of your Christmas list, but I got through it.
Scott: Was “velocity” the one then that impacted training the most because of a host of factors being the lack of carbohydrate, the lack of real calories and it probably wasn’t that nutrient dense or were you supplementing with a multivitamin at that point?
Drew: Yes, I was taking a multivitamin – a greens powder – but I was taking a multivitamin all the way throughout the year. It was nothing fancy, just the widespread 100%, get it down the High Street kind of multivitamin. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. The impact on training seemed to collate quite well with how much body fat I lost. With “get shredded” and “velocity” – the “get shredded diet” is a jumble variety, it’s high protein, moderate fat, low carb but it impacted training in the same way that “velocity” did. It was dragging my sorry arse to the gym and then dragging it out in a worse state an hour later, but that correlated with the fact that those diets actually caused a lot of fat loss so you get out what you put in.
Scott: We’ll come onto results in a second – I want us to leave that as the one at the end that we’ll look at. You obviously have a strong scientific background, which of the diets that you followed were based on the shadiest science – the ones that had the most ridiculous claims that you were doing things that seemed to lack any scientific justification?
Drew: In terms of diet books that when you’re reading it and you’re thinking “this is interesting” like the “warrior” diet for example, I’ve never read a diet book that has a chapter about falconry in it. That’s not your usual type of diet book.
Scott: Did you just say falconry?
Drew: I did, yes.
Scott: We are talking about the nature bird? Was that a method of food acquisition? Did you send your falcon out to pick up some road kill?
Drew: Yeah, we’d get the rodents, they’re very lean! In terms of reading a book and thinking “hang on, where’s the evidence base for this” because Ori Hofmekler who came up with the “warrior” diet goes on a lot about Ancient Rome and you’re left scratching your head but actually it’s a bit like leangains or 16-8, it’s one of these high frequency, low duration, intermittent fasting type diets where actually the science is catching up now, we’re beginning to understand what it works. There’s books where you’re thinking “where’s the science”, you’re scratching your head and reading chapters and falconry and then there’s other diets like “the blood group” diet that I’ve just done where it seems to be based on science at the outset but unfortunately since the diet was developed, science being what it is, it changes, we go back, we overturn our old ideas and that’s happened with this blood group type of diet. In a nutshell, the “blood group diet” is basically you get a different prescription based on your blood group because supposedly your blood group is a marker of how your forebears ate, i.e. your genetic heritage. Obviously, genes drive to a large extent metabolism, how you deal with stuff and physiology and so on.
Scott: The blood group diet is essentially saying that if you are AB then you should be eating turkey versus O Positive should be eating more chicken. It seems pretty ludicrous, right?
Drew: It’s not intuitive is how I would put it. I’m blood group O so I do better on red meat apparently than I do on poultry. The foods are broken down into three groups: a good, a neutral and an avoid group. A good meat for me is a red meat, a neutral meat for me is poultry and I should avoid pork, even the lean stuff, apparently I should avoid that, but show me the science.
Scott: As far as I’m aware, there’s zero science to support that an individual of a certain blood group should eat in a certain way, right?
Drew: That’s seems to be the case. They’ve tested it and that might all change again but I think the main problem is that the contention that O’s are ancient and that AB’s are newer, and so on and so forth. I’m not an expert on current genetics of blood typing but what seems to be the case is that actually that research has been overturned so that really takes the foundations away to some extent.
Scott: That seemed to have happened as well throughout the process of you actually doing that because if you look at carb backloading which Keifer’s was reporting that we want to keep our carbohydrates until later in the day after we’ve had a heavy work out and again we become more insulin sensitive and so on and his critics of carb backloading were saying that his studies didn’t even make sense in that his countless references in the book often weren’t even used and some of them were in irrelevant populations – I’m pretty sure that there was a study done on cats that he’s used. Interestingly, in the last couple of months he’s gone back and said that the whole so based around the insulin hypothesis is now null and that he is almost withdrawing a lot of his claims that he’s said and is saying “well actually specific meal timing doesn’t make that much of a difference and it all comes down to 24 hour energy balance”, like all the critics were saying.
Drew: It’s not the first time and I guess it’s one of the reasons that people are so confused and disillusioned and annoyed with people like you and me who sit in front of them and tell them what to eat because like “ornish” for example, low fat, high carb, moderate protein type of diet, if you go back 10 years people are saying “of course that’s right” and that doesn’t seem to be the case. The problem with all of this is that to do good science in nutrition is very difficult. You can’t get the funding and the ethical sign-off to lock 1,000 up in a hospital ward for their whole lives and test them out on different diets. That doesn’t happen so it goes to the very heart of what nutrition is in terms of a science and how we use that information to help people and we are not doing a very good job at the moment. It’s one of the reasons that I did this project – to get to the hard facts.
Scott: When you were looking at them, did you find that the marketing around certain diets drew you to ones rather than others, or could you see how the marketing around them could make them seem more appealing? The whole idea of “wheat belly” is we’ll pick a singular food or food type or ingredient and we’ll blame it. So in the case of “wheat belly”, wheat’s bad so let’s cut it out and it’s a very sensationalist approach to nutrition and that’s probably why the diet is so popular. You give it a cool buzzword and that makes people try it out. Where with something like the “good gut diet” that you followed is a little blander in that title and is perhaps a reason maybe why less people followed it so how important, do you think, marketing and sexing up the publicity in the title is with regards to getting people to jump onboard?
Drew: It’s absolutely massive. Obviously, it goes in waves so you have to kind of ride that wave. Obviously intermittent fasting has been a biggie for the last 3-4 years so you have a lot of books coming out about that but before that obviously it was Atkins that was massive. It’s about marketing, yes, but it’s also about what your friends are doing. It’s about word of mouth. At the end of the day the marketing is basically selling you an idea, a dream – I can lose fat and I can do it easily and actually that’s where “wheat belly” and diets like “wheat belly” are really good from a marketing perspective because what you do is you get the whole of the nutrition, those thousands and thousands of the different types of foods that you eat, those thousands of different nutrients because you’ve got phytonutrients and things like that, you know there’s hundreds and hundreds of them, it gets all of that and just says it’s simple, it’s just that thing there and it just singles out one thing so you’ve only got to concentrate on one thing and from a marketing perspective, it’s brilliant – keep the message simple, sell them the dream, that’s good. If you are giving advice, one of the worst things you can do is give too much advice, make it too complicated. If you ask me “what should I do to improve my diet?” and I give you 400 things to remember, then none of it gets done but if I just say do one thing then it might get done and that’s kind of what diets like “wheat belly” are.
Scott: Let’s cut the suspense then Drew, let’s look at some results Obviously the goal was, I’m assuming, fat loss for all of them whilst maintaining muscle mass.
Drew: The overall goal was fat loss, but depending on how I’d structured it, I was looking at maybe some kind of fat loss diets and other kind of more muscle gain diets depending on how one is doing body composition wise because I didn’t have this all mapped out at the beginning but I knew the types of diets that I wanted to cover and then I thought I’d kind of tailor it, i.e. if I was losing too much weight then I didn’t want to waste away so I’d stick a couple of more body building diets in but the overall goal was fat loss.
Scott: How did you track progress? You mentioned body composition, was that skin folds or DEXA?
Drew: I tried to get DEXA and I was told in no uncertain terms that 13 DEXA scans in a year was a very bad idea
Scott: Yes, unless you’re made of led!
Drew: Exactly! That was struck off the list. Then I thought I’ll get calliper measures done, but the only problem is that I travel quite a lot and the problem with callipers is – and this is a tip for anybody who’s thinking about getting calliper measurements done for body fat and wants to use it again and again – is that you have to get the same person to do it. That was off the menu because I couldn’t promise myself that I’d be in the same place due to work. It came down to bio impedance which has a bad name as it’s maybe not so strong at getting a very accurate reading of body composition but it does give you a good trend. It’s very easy to do and actually the machines are pretty good now so I got two different types of machine, two different brands of bio impedance done, and I also used self calliper measuring as well as another log and then drew an average between all of those things and that was the results. It’s not ideal – the ideal one would have been DEXA but not from a health point of view.
Scott: Yeah, or hydrostatic weighing but again a little bit pricey and a little bit limited, especially for travelling. Let’s cut to it, hit me with it Drew, if you look at it on an individual basis, what was the most effective diet for fat loss in terms of which caused you to lose the most amount of body fat?
Drew: That would be the velocity diet.
Scott: So the one that was probably the greatest calorie restrictive diet that you followed. Do you know what calories you were on on that?
Drew: Off the top of my head no, I can’t remember. It’s somewhere in the region of I think 1,700.
Scott: 1,700? Just from protein shakes?
Scott: What do you think your TDEE, or, for the listener that is not aware, the total daily energy expenditure, so basically the calories that you maintain your weight at, would be?
Drew: I’dhave to work that you. I’ve been a bit lazy and haven’t worked that out.
Scott: For someone your height and build, it’s probably going to be anywhere between 2,500 – 3,500.
Drew: Something like that, yes. It depends, for this year, everything was the same but outside of this year, my training changes.
Scott: How much scale weight did you lose on velocity?
Drew: That was 3.5% body fat, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but actually I put muscle on at the same time, which was bizarre. I don’t quite know what happened there. Obviously, a lot of water was lost as well.
Scott: Of course. Did you do anything like looking at markers of health, did you have anything there that positively impacted cholesterol or fasting glucose?
Drew: In addition to the body composition analysis, the inbody scans etc, I also had been getting bloodwork done every month so that’s a different profile which is HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides etc and also getting some idea of the visceral fat as well. Visceral fat is the fat that lies next to the organs, so underneath the muscle as it were, not the stuff you can see in the mirror but the slightly more dangerous stuff. I was getting a scan of that as well. A diet that impacts on all of those factors pretty well was “paleo” which was interesting from the point of view of fat loss, both visceral fat and the fat you can see in the mirror, even although I wasn’t measuring anything, I was just eating (paleo for those who don’t know, in simple terms you don’t eat dairies, grains or legumes – you eat meat, vegetables, a few nuts and seeds, a bit of fruit, etc).
Scott: We’ve got a big review of the “paleo” diet on the website so for those who want to know more about “paleo”, just head onto the Food For Fitness page, click on “blog”, and then you’ll see the ultimate review of the “paleo” diet there.
Drew: The “paleo” diet is about food choices, it’s not even about food amounts, it’s not about is it high protein, or high carb, or high fat, which is a mistake that a lot of people make. Actually it really just talks about the types of foods, there is no one “paleo” diet in terms of the amount of protein or fat or carbs or fibre, but “paleo” without counting I lost fat, retained muscle, positive impact on cholesterol levels so LDL went down, HDL went up, triglycerides went down as well so that was all good and that was a bit of a surprise. From the point of view of bloods, that was good, “get shredded” was good, basically any time you were eating whole foods and getting a decent amount of protein and getting decent fats then things tends to sort themselves out.
Scott: Did any cause you to gain weight?
Drew: Yes, with “gluten free” and the “wheat belly” diet, I gained a few kilos on that and not only was it all from fat, I actually lost muscle as well.
Scott: Oh dear. With the “wheat belly”, did it control for calories or was it simply just eat anything so long as it doesn’t have gluten in it?
Drew: The thing about the “wheat belly” book is if you are trying to avoid gluten, if you’ve got a sensitivity to gluten, it’s a really good resource. The last quarter/last fifth of the book is a brilliant resource. It goes into loads of detail as to where gluten is found, how you can avoid it, tips and tricks, it’s really good. From the point of view of a diet that I can go out and get my teeth into, there’s not much information there. It’s kind of like, don’t eat wheat pasta eat corn pasta and that type of thing and it tends to be a higher fat/lower carb diet but it’s all very vague.
Scott: With “wheat belly”, the whole premise of it annoys me a lot because if you look at the actual research on either celiac or gluten sensitivity, so non-celiac gluten sensitivity, it affects less than, according to data that came out in 2013, 0.5% of the population, so telling 99.5% of people who can tolerate gluten to avoid it, seems to me like it’s just making healthy eating harder than it needs to be and making people worry about something, but again it’s, what we talked about before, the sensationalism of blaming a singular food.
Drew: It’s find the villain and then just hammer it, like sugar etc.
Scott: Back in the 90s it was fat.
Drew: It’s a clear message though and it’s something that you can put in one sentence – brilliant. It’s perfect. The point is that nutrition is complicated so these kind of things simplify it, and people love that with good reason because they’ve gotten a lot of complicated, mixed messages over the last 50 years. The gluten free diet is not only difficult, I found it to be quite ineffective. Talking about gluten sensitivity, obviously it’s not what this Podcast is about, but I believe that there is obviously the stats that you just mentioned is credible data, but I think there may be a population that we’re missing that there’s a gap in our diagnostic techniques. There’s a population that do have a sub clinical issue with gluten and there may be other factors like gluten’s effect on gut flora etc but I think there’s a few people who’ve read the “wheat belly” diet and it’s really not the diet that they should be looking at in terms of what’s going to work for them. To be fair to the author, it’s William Davies off the top of my head, Dr. William Davies is a cardiologist, he does go into a lot about it’s gluten but it’s also the form you’re getting it in, i.e. the doughnuts.
Scott: That’s the thing, when people say “I cut out gluten so I felt much better”. “Well, what foods did you cut out?” “Well, I stopped eating biscuits, I stopped eating the bacon roll every lunch time.” “What did you replace it with?” “I was eating more fruit, I was eating more veg, I was eating more protein.” And you say, “well you there go, is it not the fact that you just ate less crap and you ate better quality food in general, not specifically that it was gluten that was the issue.” Interestingly Drew, the fact that you gained weight is also something worth exploring because it then comes down to so although you’ve changed your focus of what foods you were eating but without that focus on portion size and food quantity, then obviously you moved yourself into a calorie surplus and were consuming more total calories that you needed, hence the weight gain happened, which can’t happen with some people when they follow an approach which doesn’t put any constraints on the food that because it’s down as OK, it’s seen as a free food, so if we use the “paleo” diet when they don’t really mention anything about quantity, someone could eat a copious amount of nuts really large quantities of energy dense meats, like salmon or steak with fat still on it, which are good quality, nutrient dense foods that most people wouldn’t say are bad essentially, again this is the problems with the good and bad food labelling which is a whole other subject, but people can still eat too much of a good food.
Drew: Exactly. The thing is you can eat too much of anything.
Drew: To contrast that, that perspective on the “wheat belly” diet or the “paleo” diet, what I found with “wheat belly” is that while you’re not allowed wheat pasta, so have corn pasta, I really like corn pasta and if you stick a nice tomato sauce on it – brilliant. The point is that it’s not very filling so you can chuck down loads of the stuff. “Paleo” on the other hand, I have a soft spot for the “paleo” diet, full disclosure, but I think that it’s the basis of a good diet, I don’t think it’s “the diet”, it’s not the be all and end all. The point is that with the “paleo” diet, if you are eating lean meat, lots of veg and even nuts and seeds, you are eating foods that are filling. There’s something known as the “nut paradox” where people that eat lots of nuts don’t seem to put on weight and they should be because it’s very energy dense but it’s the act of chewing, it’s the fibre in it, it’s maybe the phytochemicals found in the nuts themselves that are altering your appetite, later on the in day altering behaviours and so on whereas a big bowl of corn pasta is probably not going to the same for you. Portion control or calorie counting/macro counting is a difficult one because calorie counting doesn’t work in so much as that you can’t count calories because calories on packets are inaccurate, you don’t know how many calories you expended accurately so that’s half the equation chucked out the window there so calorie counting is hard and macro counting is hard. I think portion control or using a combination of portion control and the right types of foods like slow carb, so lots more protein and lots more fibrous carbohydrate then that is a good combination – you’ve got rough portion sizes but you’re eating the right foods to fill you up. Does that make sense?
Scott: Yeah, I think again it comes down to this idea of individualisation and what may work for one person might not work for the other. Personally, if I require to get a bit leaner then I will track my macros because I’ve found that it’s an approach that works for me, it allows me to not sell myself short in the sense that I can eat as much food that my allowance is and, like you’ve said, we can’t accurately get our calories in or out – we don’t know them but we can estimate and so long as we are consistently estimating and using the same approaches or the same kind of food then we have a rough idea and it seems to work, so for me that works quite well. For other people, like you’ve said, like you, who don’t like tracking macros, then something that focuses more on the food type and the actual portion size is your method, it’s your approach of choice. It’s very individual. Let’s start winding up – what would you say that are the lessons you’ve learned from this whole process? Has it changed your approach to anything in particular? Has it really been an eye opener or has it almost confirmed what your suspicions were about each of the approaches before you started?
Drew: With regard to lessons learned, I think the main lesson is that a lot of the information out there that is very dull and maybe the stuff that we don’t want to listen to because it’s a bit boring and entails work like keeping track of your portion sizes or tracking macros, that seems to work would be the overall message. This year has been about exploring different components of diet and seeing what can work because we know that tracking macros works, but it won’t work for everyone and it’s about, as you say, what works for the individual. It’s really about if that works, what else could work and obviously this is just for me, this is n=1, this is just an experiment on me, but it’s opened my eyes to the structure of diet, how different diets impact your life because if course there’s the psychological element to this which is hugely important because if there’s too much impact on your lifestyle or your happiness, or social happiness, then the diet is not going to stick around, and that’s been a big eye opener for this year because what I’m doing also is monthly I’m filling out psych evaluations and having a structured interview and finding things like “if it fits your macros” was very stressful for me, that was a bit of an eye opener. I might get used to it and it’s my job so suck it up and get on with it, but it’s not everyone’s job so that much stress is that going to work for everyone? You get on with “if it fits your macros” and that kind of macro counting, flexible dieting tracking thing but I know that you won’t use that with all of your clients because you realise that it works for you but not for your clients. There’s been a lot of lessons learned. I haven’t finished yet with the whole year so there’s going to be a lot of sitting down and reflecting but it’s been interesting.
Scott: What would the take home be then Drew, the actionable point? Don’t diet? Look to take the best from everything and try and follow a sustainable lifestyle approach? Pick things that work for you, eat at a frequency that works best, and ensure that you’re in a calorie deficit? Or would you say, yeah go for it, pin your colours to one mast?
Drew: First of all, don’t pin your colours to one mast! I used to walk around with a set of rules that I used with clients, there was five rules: based your diet on whole foods, eat more protein, don’t drink your calories, etc. Really, the big element for this year for me has been the psychological social element of it – so how does it impact your life? That’s, I think, the main thing. The stats on diet are terrible, i.e. 90% of weight is regained by dieters in 1-5 years or half the people that did a diet regained more weight than they lost in 4-5 years – these stats aren’t very good. What people have got to find is the approach that works for them long term. A lot of diets work short term but very few work long term and it’s not a diet, it’s an eating style. Your diet is something that you do for the rest of your life and if there was one main takeaway from that, it’s that you’ve got to find what works for you and that is a difficult process. No one wants to spend a year going through 12 diets. What we know works with dieting is getting the prescription right, getting the support framework, i.e. getting friends and family onboard – and then monitoring and adjusting. Those three things are very important but it’s finding the prescription, so number 1 is finding that prescription that’s right for you. The prescription that’s right is not always about what’s on the plate, it’s about what it’s doing to your life around the diet.
Scott: I think to not make people disheartened with the stats you gave about losing weight and regaining it, it is certainly possible to lose wright and keep it off and if you look at stats on people who have successfully kept weight off, if you look at NHANES data and so on, there is those who have taken the most flexible approach in the sense that they haven’t been unnecessarily restrictive, they haven’t done anything extreme like had nothing but protein shakes, they haven’t demonised a single food, it comes down to food quality and portion size so it’s quantity and quality, it’s those that are eating, for the majority, nutrient dense, quality foods that they like, for most of the time, but they are still including things that don’t really help out too much like chocolate, or a packet of crisps, on occasion but the majority of their intake is on point and they include exercise and that seems to be what works in the long term.
Drew: It’s a lifestyle.
Scott: Exactly, it’s a lifestyle. In one word then Drew, are diets shit?
Drew: Most are.
Scott: That’ll do! There’s a tonne of things that we could keep talking about and we could go on for about an hour but I know that people are probably bored of us droning on. For the listener who may have any questions about this and I imagine that there will be quite a few, if you head over onto the show notes page, you can leave a comment at the bottom of the page and myself and Drew I’m sure will get back to you. The show notes for this page are on www.foodforfitness.co.uk/podcast/27 and you can leave your comments and your thoughts about the show and any questions that you may have. Drew, before we go, where can the listener find out more information about you and how can they hear more about this project that you have been following?
Drew: I’m a columnist for Mens Fitness so this is being covered in the column and there’s a few more months to go on that column, or that particular phase of the column. You can pick up a copy of Mens Fitness in all good newsagents today. The blog is www.dietsareshit.com. I’ve just started getting that up and running. It’s following behind the actual diets I am doing quite a way so people have got time to catch up. I’m on social media as drewtrition – Instagram and Twitter and Drew Price Nutritionist on Facebook. The blog is the main thing – that’s where the information is going to be.
Scott: We’ll put links to that on the show notes and we’ll tag your pages again. Drew, thank you so much for coming on mate, it’s been an absolute pleasure. There’s so much we could talk about on this subject – dieting is endless but it’s great to hear your experiences and it’s unique, I’ve never heard of anyone who’s done what you’ve done and I’m really looking forward to seeing the book when it comes out. It’s been great, thanks again, I really appreciate it.
Drew: Cheers, it’s good to be here.
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