My Journey Across Dietary Ideologies, Where I Am Now, and Lessons Learned

Photo credit goes to Matt Buck.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu

Note: this post is very ranty, but it should provide you some great insight into the world of dieting methodologies.

I used to be confused.

Frankly, I used to be quite stupid. I used to be the very person I like to criticize today.

It’s eye-opening, and often breath-taking to look back at the person you used to be. The things you used to say, the things you used to do, the things you used to believe. Maybe you still hold some of these same beliefs.

But, my guess would be that you’ve changed.

I know, because I’ve changed. I’ve changed a lot. I mean, just look at some of the shit I used to say in my old posts.

I used to tout what was popular. I used to have a silly opportunist mindset, attempting to get attention by writing about hot topics instead of being genuine.

I wrote a post touting the benefits of Bulletproof Coffee, which has since been deleted.

I wrote a post touting the dangers of eating carbohydrates in the morning, which has since been deleted.

Deleting these posts was a mistake because I am no longer able to display how far I’ve come as a writer and as a person. I just couldn’t allow these things to be associated with my site, as they are not consistent with the message I want to send. This thing is my baby, and I put a lot of time into it.

With this post, I want to take you guys back in time a bit. I want to lay out the journey I’ve been on over the past several years, particularly pertaining to dietary beliefs.

I want to give you an inside look into the mind of a man confused, and the journey that took me from complete confusion to reality and an entirely new mindset.

The Beginning

I was always a chubby kid.

I never really took much notice, it was just who I was. However, once I got into lifting weights and becoming aware of my dietary habits, I began to notice how shitty I looked compared to some of the other kids my age (16 at the time).

It really took a toll on my self-confidence. I’ve always been a very introverted person, and being self-conscious about the way I looked didn’t help.

So I started lifting more seriously. I was deadlifting three times per week (seriously, WTF), and I remained weak as hell (no surprise there). Around this same time, I joined the Bodybuilding.com forums.

In hindsight, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. However, at the time, it was the worst.

I took advice from anyone and everyone simply because I didn’t know any better.

I listened to the advice that said to cram my face with as much food as possible if I wanted to put on muscle. You know, eat big to get big right? Well, being the ignoramus that I was, I took this to the extreme.

I was pounding PB&J’s like it was my full time job, and in between chewing I was pounding chocolate milk. Now, this approach may have been heaven sent for a super-skinny guy who is never able to put on weight, but it was the wrong approach for a skinny fat, kinda chubby, non-genetically gifted dude.

So, you could probably guess what happened. After a few months, I went from a skinny-fat 175 to a fat fat 210-215 (don’t remember the exact weight, nor do I care to). At the time, I felt great. At least I thought I felt great. The scale was constantly moving up, a sign that I was packing on some mass.

It’s funny how you can trick yourself into believing that you’re looking and feeling good. I would look in the mirror and see someone who was getting big, in a good way. However, it all changed when high school graduation came.

I’m not the type of person that takes a ton of pictures, so I never really saw what I looked like other than what I convinced myself I was seeing in the mirror.

So, I took a look at the pictures from my high school graduation, and my stomach dropped. Holy shit, I was fat! As soon as I saw the pictures, I told myself that I was going to go on a “cut”, and find the best diet plan possible.

That’s when I found Carb Backloading.

My Carb Backloading Journey

So after spinning my wheels trying to find that “perfect” program like so many others, I came across a program called Carb Backloading (CBL). If you haven’t read my post displaying my Carb Backloading results, you can do so here.

Anyways, it looked great on paper. I loved the idea that I could go the entire day without eating carbs, and then eat as many as I wanted and whatever kind I wanted and still get results (I often leaned towards ice cream).

The results were outstanding. I started to tout all of the benefits of this magical eating program to anyone who would listen, and I began to read Kiefer’s (the creator of CBL) work as if it were gospel.

If you don’t want to read my Carb Backloading results post, here’s the some of the fat loss progress I made:

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(The lighting in the first pictures really doesn’t show how bad I actually looked. You can take my word for it or not.)

As you can see, nothing spectacular, but great progress (for me) nonetheless. I was finally beginning to feel good about how I looked.

The problem is that I was bordering on a mild eating disorder at the same time. You see, I can eat a lot of food.

If a diet program gives me the freedom to eat whatever I want and as much of it as I want, I’m going to take up this challenge.

I was eating entire cartons of ice cream, a pizza, pounds of ground meat, potatoes, and rice; all in the same night. I didn’t notice it at the time, but looking back I realize that I was a huge binge eater. And even worse, I would feel like shit if I didn’t binge until I felt like shit (weird, huh?).

Also, I began to develop some digestive issues, including serious stomach pains after eating boatloads of ice cream (surprise, surprise) and pizza.

So I began to do some research on digestive issues and their link to dieting, and like so many others, I found myself entrenched in the world of Paleo.

The Paleo Diet

Paleo became my religion, and man did I preach it. I began to exclaim the vast dangers of gluten, the evils of dairy, and the gut destroying capabilities of beans and legumes.

The Paleo Solution was my Bible, and Robb Wolf and Loren Cordain were gods.

I was turning into the very person that I fight against today. Without realizing it, I became extremely dogmatic, suffered from serious confirmation bias, and I constantly engulfed myself in the Paleo methodology.

It made since, you know? Eat like your ancestors, processed food is dangerous, sugar is toxic, etc. I never looked at the actual research on my own, I just took what the Paleo pushers said as fact.

After being Paleo for a little while, I felt good. I had energy, I slept well, the digestive issues were gone, and I was happy with my body composition.

The problem was that I was literally scared to eat. I was scared that a product might contain wheat or processed oils or flour or sugar or gluten or anything. Yep, once again, I took it to the extreme.

And I needed more. I needed to get more extreme, more strict, more obsessed, because Paleo wasn’t enough. The came along the Bulletproof diet.

 The Bulletproof Diet

On and on down the hole.

I found the Bulletproof diet after researching coffee for no reason (seriously, I’m obsessed with all things coffee), and I found this weird coffee recipe called Bulletproof (BP) Coffee. If you haven’t heard of it, you basically take a shit load of grassfed, unsalted butter and some MCT (or coconut oil) and blend it with your coffee.

According to the creator of the recipe, BP coffee will optimize your cognitive function and give you long lasting energy. Sounded great, so as usual, I jumped right in.

I also bought into the Bulletproof Diet concept, which categorizes foods based on their “Bulletproofness”, and ranks them from green to orange to red. Dave Asprey (the “creator” of the BP diet) even refers to the diet as upgraded Paleo (fitting huh?).

The macronutrient composition of the diet is as follows: around 50-60% of calories from healthy fats, 20% from protein, and the rest from vegetables. Again, this made sense to me. You know, carbs are evil, your brain is made of fat so you should eat a ton of fat, right?

So, my carb phobia begins. I made everything “Bulletproof”, started eating a shitload of butter and coconut oil, fatty meats, and avoiding carbs like the plague. Just like with Paleo, I bought in without reading the research for myself. It was like I didn’t have a mind of my own.

I bought into everything Dave said, including the “fact” that he ate 4500 calories per day with no exercise for two years and lost weight. Crazy huh? Damn right it’s crazy, and I believed every bit of it.

After becoming entrenched with Dave Asprey’s work for a few months, I was completely bought in. I was drinking Bulletproof coffee every single morning, smelling like butter all day, losing weight (even though I didn’t want to), looking worse, and performing like absolute shit in the gym.

What was wrong? How could I be eating the most perfect diet ever created and not getting results?

Reality Kicks In

For the first time, just a few months ago actually, I started reading.

Not reading the preachings of some nonsensical guru, not reading the personal anecdotes of how this diet or that diet worked so well for someone; I started reading the research.

At the same time, I started reading trusted guys in the nutrition industry who actually objectively scour the research for the correct information, not opportunists looking to make a quick buck.

I realized that everything I had been believing was complete nonsense. All the carb phobia, sugar is toxic, butter is king, Bulletproof diet, toxins, clean and dirty foods crap was totally wrong and based on fantasy rather than evidence.

I started reading the work of Alan Aragon, Lyle McDonald, James Krieger, Jamie Hale, Anthony Colpo (his book The Fat Loss Bible is one of the best fat loss books I’ve ever read), Leigh Peele (check out my review of her book here), JC Deen; people who are passionate about the truth.

And, equally important, they’re passionate about smashing bogus pseudoscience that is leading people to be scared, overly restrictive, and obsessive about their eating habits.

Now, understand that this is not a callout. This is not a post to grill popular diet methods. This is not a post to question the agendas of the popular dieting gurus. I don’t have anything against the Paleo diet or the Bulletproof diet if they give you results and make you feel good.

This is a post to show you the journey of someone who is now more passionate about finding the truth and destroying dogma than ever before.

Sadly, people will believe anything, and I’m living proof. Most people have regular jobs, families, and priorities that prevent them from diving into the research and thinking for themselves. These are the people who are an easy target.

These are the people who fall into the trap of believing gluten is poison for everyone, calories don’t count, and that carbs are the devil. I want to make an impact in the fight against dogmatic claims and diets that base their claims on fairytales and fallacies.

The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned

Question everything.

The reality is that there’s no secret solution. There’s no magical nutrient that will make or break your progress, there’s no magical macronutrient composition that will allow you to bypass the laws of thermodynamics, and there’s nothing magical about certain nutrient timing or meal frequencies.

The reality is that not everyone has a food allergy. Not everyone should be eating a low carb diet. Not everyone should be drinking buttered coffee. Not everyone should believe dogmatic claims.

The most important factor in successful diets is a caloric deficit and being able to have flexibility in order to adhere to the diet over a long period of time.

That’s it. Dieting is not a religion, although some people take it to that extreme.

Your particular dieting protocol doesn’t make you morally superior than anyone else.

Dieting doesn’t have to control your life.

There is a way to be flexible, eat the foods you love without worrying about toxins and carbs and sugar. Being flexible and finding a plan that you can adhere to is the only approach that will work in the long term.

It’s too simple for some, so they have to go out of their way to seek out extremes on both sides of the spectrum. I have no problem with someone saying a specific diet worked for them. I do have a problem with those who take their results and push them on everyone else.

I do have a problem with those who are so dogmatic with their beliefs that they refuse to change their minds regardless of the research presented to them.

I do have a problem with the person I used to be, the things I used to believe, and the way I used to go about learning.

I have a problem with lies, and I’m committed to displaying the truth. I will make mistakes as I did in the past, but I’m committed to learning along with you all. I’m committed to helping my readers find the truth along with me.

You don’t have to believe the false claims and marketing schemes. You don’t have to believe in nonsensical ideas that cause you to become overwhelmed and obsessive. Have a mind of your own, and make decisions based on what’s best in your situation.

Thank you for reading.

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Also, leave a comment in the box below with your thoughts, and I would love to hear your stories if you desire to share. Seriously, let me know what you think.

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Comments

  1. Barry says

    When you were on a high fat diet, what were your cholesterol numbers? When I started eating more eggs and coconut oil, my cholesterol skyrocketed.

  2. Jake Johnson says

    I honestly didn’t get blood work done (I should have), so I have no clue.

    Was it your HDL or LDL that skyrocketed? That’s an important distinction to make. From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty normal to see cholesterol levels go up after bumping up saturated fat intake, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s HDL that went up. Even a small increase in LDL isn’t always a bad thing either, as it depends on a variety of factors.

    I would check out this video/blog post by Drs. Spencer and Karl Nadolsky: http://www.leanerliving.com/lean-docs-talk-cholesterol-and-statins/

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions.

    Jake

  3. Emma says

    Hey, so this is pretty close to what my boyfriend and I have gone through in the last year or so, thanks for posting. I’m curious, though: you seem absolutely convinced that this time you’ve got it right, and the people you’re following are telling the “truth”. My issue with that is there is always some study that can prove anything, and I don’t have the time (nor, truthfully, the inclination) to read through all these studies in detail and verify their p value and study design to see if they’re something I’ll buy into. To me, it seems like these folks could equally be selling something (like their books), and thus should also be approached with caution. Does that make sense? It seems like you’re honestly passionate about it, but weren’t you also the same about bulletproof coffee not so long ago? What verifies these people for you? I’m certainly not trying to attack you, I’m just skeptical. Thanks for sharing

    • Jake Johnson says

      Hey Emma,

      To be honest, I’m not absolutely convinced I’ve got it right. Like you said, things can always change. What I meant by those last few paragraphs is that I’m committed to telling the truth to the best of my ability, based on the evidence that we have available. You’re right, I was gung-ho about Bulletproof Coffee, but the problem was that I blindly followed an idea that wasn’t backed by any evidence (and honestly, the whole “Bulletproof” concept is pseudoscientific and misleading in many ways). And that’s a fair point about others trying to sell their products as well. This is a profession for many people, so I don’t blame anyone for trying to make money. However, when people make their money selling shady concepts that are not backed by the evidence we have available, then there’s a problem.

      The difference is, the people that I read now are always looking at the research (Alan Aragon, James Krieger both have their own research reviews) and making their recommendations based on the evidence. I don’t blindly follow their advice, but I trust their information because of their track record and the fact that they base everything off of the hard scientific evidence in combination with anecdotal experience rather than pseudoscience.

      So, I’ve found the approach that’s right for me. But what’s “right” for me may not be “right” for someone else. This post was to show that no one should blindly follow a concept just because it makes sense or because it has worked for others. You should find what works for you (whether it’s Paleo, Primal, low carb, high carb) and stick to it.

      Thanks for commenting, and I’m glad you’re skeptical as it allows you to take all information with a grain of salt.

      Jake

  4. says

    I love this. Finding what works for us is a process of trial and error, but unfortunately not many people are willing to admit where they went wrong, which is silly! Life is about educating ourselves and evolving, both of which are crucial for growth.

    Thanks for sharing your story, and for what it’s worth I have made many of the same mistakes and now tend to agree with your thought process.

    • Jake Johnson says

      Jen,

      Thanks for commenting, I’m glad you liked the post. And I agree with you 100%, I think all of the experiences I’ve had in the past have helped my knowledge tremendously, and I’m thankful that I had to go through them. Admitting I was wrong was certainly difficult to do, but like you said, it’s all about growing and evolving.

      Also, I’m beginning to see more and more posts like this one (people explaining their experiences and learning from their mistakes), so it looks like we’re moving in the right direction!

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