I didn’t have any one particular topic in mind when I registered this domain. I knew I wanted to write about lifestyle choices and books. Probably the most essential part of a healthy life is a solid foundation in diet and exercise. So, for my first post I figured I’d talk about Ori Hofmekler’s The Warrior Diet, which thus far has been a solid influence on my daily routine. I’m no fitness or nutrition guru, but as someone who’s willing to give lifestyle changes a shot I think I’ve found something that’s working well and is going to continue to work well for a long time.
What is the Warrior Diet?
Like any other diet, the Warrior Diet has a methodology to follow. First and foremost, you eat one big meal at the end of the day, or as Ori calls it, “The Overeating Phase.” This is always the first thing that throws people off, since it seems every person on the planet “should” eat three to six times a day. Ori breaks down in detail that historically humans have been more active through the day, eating light fruits or whole grains in the afternoon. Our modern diets ideally should follow this. He doesn’t recommend a total water of coffee fast throughout the day, but it’s an option. When dinner time rolls around (the meal should end no later than about two hours before bedtime), you eat until you’re more thirsty than hungry. Your meal should start with the least aggressive tastes and end with the most aggressive. A typical meal would start with a fresh salad or greens, move on to beans or meat for protein, and end with healthy carbohydrates. Think potatoes or quinoa, not tons of white bread or pasta. Oh, and obviously skip all the processed garbage. Trans fats, pure refined sugar, stuff like that. Anything that comes in a box is probably not so good. Stick to fresh food, organic if affordable. Meat and dairy that isn’t hopped up on antibiotics or steroids.
Obviously, there is some wiggle room on what’s considered appropriate and healthy. Ori also recommends switching from higher-carb to higher-protein days, focusing the higher carb days the night before a workout day. There are plenty of recommendations for experimenting and adjusting which is a pretty smart way to write a diet, which isn’t a short-term fix but a lifelong habit.
Ori makes some pretty rad claims in the book. He points out that the way the average human eats nowadays, we are constantly eating highly processed, nutrient-lacking food that is more often than not just sugar and unhealthy fats. The sugar spikes our insulin levels. The remaining insulin gets turned into fat while our bodies become temporarily more sluggish, our minds less alert. The constant insulin spiking leads to insulin resistance and stubborn fat. The spiking also causes us to become hungry more often, leading to more food, more spiking, so on and so forth. Obesity, diabetes, high insurance premiums, a nightmare shell of a life.
The Warrior Diet is intended as an antithesis to this. Eat once a day and let your body metabolize everything at once. Use the associated parasympathetic response to your advantage and get a good night of rest. Wake up, have a little coffee, and let your unstressed digestive system and metabolism carry you through the day. Have an egg or yogurt for lunch. Since you aren’t constantly spiking your insulin, your body’s sense of hunger will subside and let you focus on getting things done. The science behind this is pretty straightforward and points to research on controlled fasting and its largely positive results.
I originally became interested in controlled fasting a few months ago when I was having constant hunger cravings throughout the day. I’d wake up, feel hungry, and have a piece of fruit. By ten o’clock I’d walk by the vending machine and be tempted for something like a granola bar. I’d be lucky to make it to lunch without giving in. Lunch would usually be something healthy, like a salad. By three or four I’d be starving and unfocused. Dinner would be around six and by eight I wanted to eat again. After a couple months of this I had gone from 160 pounds to 167 pounds. Not a huge jump by any means, but I was gaining a gut and with various amounts of work stress and a long commute I knew I needed to make some lifestyle changes before this cascaded to the point where I would be at my peak weight of 220.
I won’t lie, I was worried about suddenly limiting my food intake throughout the day. You spend most of your life eating whenever you feel hungry and the thought of “going without” seems scary. Fortunately, I was able to get some serious mind over matter and I took the plunge.
You know what? I felt friggin’ great right off the bat. Sure, I wanted to snack a little at first and there were a few times where free food showed up at the office and I jumped on it, but overall things are going great. I don’t get particularly hungry during the day. I can maintain focus more easily, so I get the bonus of being more productive.
I dropped back to 160 after about a month of this. I’m a little concerned that this was too fast, but I’m keeping an eye on myself. Most days I just have a coffee with a bit of milk for lunch, but I’m probably going to switch over to a small cup of Greek yogurt and some frozen fruit. Total fasts aren’t necessary and I might be overdoing it a bit. I’ve also gotten criticism from coworkers and family members about sticking to the diet plan. Even though I feel great, am less hungry, and eat nothing but the best things I can convince my girlfriend to cook with (she’s such a sweetheart), I’ve had people claim I have an eating disorder. Fantastic, right? I guess you’ve got to deal with the ignorance of others when you go the way of the warrior.
Of course, I had an incident where I went to a buffet and ended up overeating until I vomited. I’m not sure if my stomach has started to shrink as a result of my dietary changes, or if I was psychologically “making up” for a perceived deficiency, or if I was just a combination of excited and exhausted that resulted in an overdone meal. This was definitely an indicator that I best check myself before I wreck myself. Besides, I hate wasting food.
I did recently go for a routine biometric screening and my blood pressure clocked right in at 120/80. The nurse practitioner said this was perfect. I bet if I eliminate a little stress and maintain a healthy diet it’ll taper off a little more. We’ll see if the lipid count and everything comes back normal. I’m anticipating good results.
Ori hits a lot on philosophy of food all throughout the book and that was probably the most important factor in my adherence to this diet plan. One topic includes the hunter versus scavenger mentality; people who scavenge whatever food that comes their way quickly deteriorate into diabetic messes. Hunters actively seek healthy, appropriate, lively food. This could be literal, like any of my country folk relatives hunting deer, or more figurative like how my girlfriend and I pick and choose the finest, healthiest raw ingredients we can get our hands on at the supermarket. Ori also covers how slaves were historically fed often to encourage dependence on their masters, which has the obvious modern analogue to the modern diet (You must eat three times a day!). Finally, and most importantly, is this emphasis around the concept of satiety. Meals should cooked and include a complex array of textures, tastes, colors, and nutritional content. There is so much respect for food in this book and the emphasis on making a truly balanced meal and taking the time to really enjoy it. It’s a breath of fresh air really. As Ori points out, the Warrior Diet is not based on limitations. It’s based on freedom and romanticism, daring to handle all the day’s challenges before finally coming to a restful close with a well-prepared meal.
You can’t make a bunch of claims without hitting at least a few little snags. Ori contantly uses the word “detox” in a vague way, though I’m pretty sure he means allowing the body to process out whatever unnecessary fat/cholesterol/carbs/encountered chemical additives throughout the day. I feel like a little more explanation as to what we’re supposed to be detoxing would be helpful, or maybe I just need to read some sections over again.
He also has a section devoted to controlled-fatigue training, which is a bit beyond the scope of my experience at this time. A lot of the exercises recommended require several weights or more equipment than I currently have access to. I’ll start some of these exercises in the future and maybe do a post on that when I’m much closer to the embodiment of health, but for right now my cheapskate mentality would really like some exercises that fit the controlled-fatigue training style with a lot less equipment.
I was surprised to see no footnotes through the entire course of the book. It turns out all the references were at the end, which I found rather annoying when he was constantly referring to medical studies. Speaking of references, he also said something about three hundred Spartans fighting a million Persians. I suspect numerical inflation might have been at work here.
Ori also devotes a chapter to totally destroying other, more “commercial” diets. As right as Ori probably is, there’s no need to kick your opponents when they’re down!
I was impressed with the book as a whole. For those of you who want to consume the knowledge, get some perspective, and learn some alternative habits, read this at your local library. It’s a quick read. I’m keeping a copy for reference since I’d like to revisit this again in a few months and see if I get something else out of it the second time around.