What I Eat and What I Don’t Eat – 2023 Edition

It has been 3 years since the last edition of this post. I also have ones from 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017.

Before I get into the foods, I’ll describe where I am now. I weigh 180 pounds (81.6 kg) at a height of 6’2 (188 cm). I’ve now maintained a 40-pound weight loss for 4 years. Thank you, Potato Hack and Potatoes and Protein.

One concern I had after listening to Peter Attia and reading my DEXA score from 2020 was maybe I lost too much muscle during the final phase of my diet due to the lower protein levels of the Potato Diet. I was also skipping breakfast. I switched over to Potatoes and Protein, but perhaps I could have done so sooner.

This year I planned to test higher protein, keep my exercise levels the same, maintain my weight, and then get a fresh DEXA. At this time, I feel like I’ve never looked better. I suspect the protein is working, but until I get a score, I won’t know for sure.

That was the plan. Then I got a hernia and a week from now I will get surgery. This will likely negatively impact my body composition in the near term, so any DEXA scan this year will likely be junk data. But minus the hernia, I’ve never looked or felt better.

My Avoid List

  • Gluten-based foods. This will probably always remain a mystery to me. When I consume gluten foods, I weigh more and my skin looks worse. Is gluten the cause or just a proxy for calorie-dense inflammatory foods? After 15 years of back-and-forth experimentation and expensive tests that have little credibility, I still don’t know. But from a risk perspective, I’ve decided to keep gluten-based foods out of my diet. I do not miss them.
  • Alcohol. Instant headache. Years ago, I gave up trying to find the “safe” headache-free option. It is all poison to me.
  • Cooking oils. I cook almost completely with water in my Instant Pot. No oils are needed. If I do need oil for a pan, I’ll use extra virgin olive oil (from California). If I go to a restaurant, which is rare, I try to order food that is either cooked in liquid or slower cooked (lower temp). This means zero fried foods for me. See The Seed Oil Debate Revisited for my reasons.
  • Liquid calories. Except for the occasional ginger beer and my morning protein shake, I don’t drink calories. I like water drinks such as Bubly and La Croix just fine.
  • Processed meats. Bacon, sausages, bologna, hot dogs, salami, etc. I also rarely consume pork.
  • Most Gluten-free substitutes. When I shop for groceries, I don’t seek out or buy GF bread, pasta, or other options. There is a grocery store in Seattle (PCC) that sells a flourless cookie for $1.50. If I want one, I walk a mile round trip to get one.
  • Higher fat dairy. I like a good full-fat yogurt or the occasional ice cream, but I seek out low-fat and fat-free dairy. It has more protein and fewer calories.
  • Junk food. Obvious. No chips, cakes, etc.

Minimize List

  • Nuts and seeds have moved from staples to minimized. Almonds were starting to cause me gut issues in 2021, so I swapped them for Brazil nuts. I ate too many. Now they are on the “don’t bring this food into the house” list along with cheese. It is too easy for me to overeat these foods.

Staples

  • Broccoli sprouts. I make a new batch every 5 days. Is this the most healthy food on the planet? The 2022 book Life Force by Robbins and Diamandis raved about this food for its potential anti-cancer benefits. Dr. Rhonda Patrick loves sprouts as well and has several videos on YouTube about them.
  • Lentils and legumes. For years after falling for the Paleo lies regarding the evils of legumes, I avoided them. Then when I reintroduced the food, I got bloated. The key to restoring the gut is to start with lentils and use smaller portions. Soak all other beans overnight. Rinse the soak water. Use an Instant Pot. Ease into beans like easing into a new workout routine. Go slow. Legumes are dirt cheap and healthy.
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt. I add blueberries and a small amount of vanilla protein powder.
  • My ugly protein shake with chia seeds and more. This is a nutrient-dense shake in the spirit of Bryan Johnson’s Blueprint.
  • Quinoa, steel-cut oats, buckwheat grouts. These GF grains cook up great in the Instant Pot. I add veggies, lean protein, and hot sauce to the quinoa and buckwheat. I add blueberries and protein powder to the oatmeal.
  • Chicken breasts. I went from consuming almost no chicken to having chicken breasts a few times a week. These are protein bombs with very little fat. Old school bodybuilders wisdom for the win.
  • Kimchi. Every day.
  • Raw carrots. The Ray Peat followers will approve of this.
  • Apples.
  • Tofu. Ignore the lies regarding soy and testosterone. I used to believe them myself. There are countless smart people in recent years who have debunked these myths.
  • Green onions and cilantro. I cut these up almost daily and add them to my soups or “Budda bowl” dinners.
  • Potatoes!

Baking chicken breasts in bulk.

Other Foods

  • Meat. I will occasionally have extra-lean ground beef in a soup.
  • Seafood. Canned salmon and sardines mostly. I’m still a peasant at heart when it comes to buying seafood.
  • Pastured eggs.
  • I like all fruits and vegetables. Even oranges!
  • White and brown rice.

Typical Meals

  • Morning – Ugly Protein Shake
  • Breakfast (gym days) – Low-fat cottage cheese or eggs over potatoes (3-4 min pressure in Instant Pot, cooled in frig overnight for resistant starch)
  • Lunch – Most lunches I have are soups. Lentils, legumes, tofu, or extra-lean ground beef. I make my beef stock. Load up on veggies. Sometimes served over white or brown rice. Before the soup, I’ll eat a portion of sprouts covered in kimchi.
  • Dinner – Lean protein (chicken breast) over a non-gluten grain (usually quinoa) with veggies.

My Overall Theme

There seems to be agreement in nutrition that you can have a diet higher in fat or higher in carbs, but not both. That leads to poor health outcomes. I choose carbs over fat. It’s what works best for me.

I favor foods that are higher in volume (fewer calories by weight), higher in protein, nutrient-dense, and not hyper-palatable. The foods I eat taste good, but they don’t taste so amazing that I continue to eat past satiety.

Unlike others who get fixated on a single approach for optimal health, I’m assuming I don’t know what is best. Since no single way has been proven optimal for everyone, I mix different practices that seem promising. And it is working well for me.

22 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the update MAS, always fascinating mate. You have the keys to leanness and good health right here, all in a sensible easy to follow fashion, hats off

  2. I think I need to try sprouting broccoli. Do you have any tips, tricks, special equipment you have discovered to make the process simpler. Where do you buy quality broccoli seeds? I see several tutorials to follow once I get the basic equipment and supplies. Thanks for another great idea!

  3. @Rod – I am on my 7th bag from Rainbow Heirloom Seed Co. (Waltham 29 Variety), which I get on Amazon. Beyond that I just follow the YouTube tutorials. I do not soap clean my seeds like Rhonda Patrick. That seems extreme to me.

  4. Interesting update. I’ve been eating deli meat and cheese rollups. Something I picked up from Sonofgrok. He was a contributor to Mark Sisson’s blog during the heyday of the paleo movement. 🙂

  5. Does your energy, mood, mental clarity, productivity, etc. trend towards better as your diet/lifestyle evolves? It sounds like your weight and physique does. I’ve always been curious how much improvement its possible to get in those factors via consistent lifestyle. How much below our potential do most of us live?

  6. @HS That’s a great question overall. Unpopular opinion–I’ve always found that my mood, productivity and energy are best on weeks where a over eat and gain weight. I definitely feel like I sacrifice short term energy and productivity when I eat to maintain or lose weight. Hopefully eating healthy and staying fit will have long term benefits though.

  7. @HS – The short answer is no, because I have never had a truly unhealthy diet. It has a gradually improved with tweaks along the way. But I’ve also gotten older. I can’t A/B test everything, so I can look at blood work as a marker that I’m heading in the right direction.

    A year ago I ran my numbers through the mortality score calculator which is based on a huge dataset and I was 16.58 years younger than my chronological age.

    https://www.longevityadvantage.com/mortality-score-and-phenotypic-age-calculator/

    Day to day mood is probably more impacted by sleep and exercise recovery than diet. Unless that diet is poor or inflammatory for the individual. Gluten and alcohol for me. For Tom Brady it was nightshades.

  8. Interesting to read your continuing development of ideas.

  9. @MAS – Interesting. I’ve never managed to be as strict as you long term with diet. I find it easier to add healthy things than avoid all the bad things. There are several short term affects I notice from lifestyle. The one diet/mood connection I’ve noticed is I feel much worse if I don’t eat much produce or at least some mostly whole plant foods.

    I’ve noticed that gentle/moderate cardio or any activity that gets the blood moving boosts energy and mental clarity significantly. Sleep does as well, though I would say cardio is more potent. Intense exercise decreases mood and energy in the short term. I’m curious of the long term potentialities, though I’d have to get better at avoiding bad stuff.

    @Jim – There has been a fair amount of buzz lately regarding zone 2 training and its affect on metabolic flexibility. I suspect (though take this with a healthy grain of salt), that one reason it can feel worse to reduce calories is the body struggles more metabolically when catabolizing vs when calories are plentiful. I suspect this (and experienced this somewhat) effect can be avoided in the right context.

  10. The thing with nuts and seeds is interesting. “It is easy to overeat” you said. That is right. I realized quickly, that when I eat any kind of fat, fruit, concentrated calories or too much of even potatoes or rice, it is easy to overeat for me too. But I should say more specifically, it is hard not to overeat when I start to eat. I also realized that when I overeat with these things, I have to wait about 8 hours to eat something again, or I will have some serious gut issues. After 8 hours I can feast again without issues. Gut issues also happen even when I eat say 10 almonds with breakfast- no issues after that, but when I eat my lunch 4 hours later, issues will start. I just have to wait 8 hours to eat again. I can eat even dairy, gluten, etc., etc., in this way.
    I think what happens is that when I reach my liver capacity, I will start converting everything in fat and it will prepare me energy for next 8 hours, so I have this urge to “overeat”. And when I will add something sooner than 8 hours, I will wreck my migrating motor complex.
    I was experimenting more with this and when I follow some rules, it is pretty easy to be functioning this way. Like I cannot eat much of meat and eggs, cause these will lead to hypoglycemia and hunger sooner than 8 hours. I also have to keep my fat and fructose over 50% of calories, my protein low and in 1:4 ratio with glucose. Also is better to avoid too much water in meal (even in rice, potatoes, etc.)- cause this will lead to feeling heavy. And whole wheat bread is still better than white. This way I have 8 hours of good mood and energy, I can do my cardio 2 hours after meal and then still be functioning normally. Btw by overeating or feasting I mean still eating in some moderation, not to feeling like to throw up after meal.
    Question is, whether this way of eating is good or not, haha.
    Have anyone of you experienced the same thing? What is your opinion?

  11. Well, I forgot to tell main idea of previous post, which was that I would try to eat all fat and fruit in last meal and see whether there will be some gut issues or weight gain.

  12. @Samson – I don’t know what to tell you about your situation.

    When I had stomach issues several years ago, I fixed them by:
    1- reducing my eating window
    2- switching my coffee to cold brew (much easier on gut)
    3- only eating fruit before noon

    Things gradually improved for me.

  13. Any sense of what your calories and macros look like on an average day?

  14. @Dawn – I do not track, but if I had to estimate, I’d guess 50% carbs, 25% fat, 25% protein. Calories would be whatever is maintenance for moderate activity at 180 pounds.

  15. Chris Highcock

    Nov 9, 2023 — 1:39 pm

    Thanks for the update.

    As I get older – 55 now – I feels like I know how to eat to get lean ( high protein low fat lower carb) and I know how to eat to feel good(high carb low fat moderate protein). I just want to work out how to combine the two!

  16. @Chris – I think the key is carb selection and preparation. I make a lot of soups with legumes in my Instant Pot, which I use almost daily. No butter or other fat bombs. Just beans, broth, veggies, and spices. High in carbs, moderate protein, low in fat, and high satiety.

    Potatoes, quinoa, steel cut oats, and buckwheat groats are other staples. You can be lean AND happy.

  17. Haha, we have a similar approach (heavy n=1 experimenting) but almost the opposite conclusions 🙂 I drink calorie-dense fat (heavy cream) because I hate the bloat from fiber, and I restrict the carbs (typically 20g/day or so, mostly from the cream). Also I restrict protein heavily (for now).

    My concern with “uncertainty -> average all the opinions” is that this doesn’t at all guarantee that your result is more correct. If one of the opinions is correct and the others are wrong, you’ll by definition be more wrong the more you average away from it. It’s a statistical trick that IMO doesn’t really play out well in the real world, where uncertainty is not Bayesian but Talebian.

    You like the instant pot? I’ve been thinking of getting one, mostly to make bone broth, meat stews, that sort of thing. I do think there’s some wisdom to “soup.” Soup/stew just feels right, doesn’t it? Any tips on buying one, or are they all pretty much the same?

  18. @exfatloss – Maybe I didn’t explain that point clearly. Perhaps a future post? The take away is I keep the good ideas and discard the bad ones. I don’t go “all in” on a single strategy. I test. I’ve maintained a 40 pound weight loss now for 4 years and I do it effortlessly.

    I love the Instant Pot. I’m making soup right now.
    I got this model –> https://amzn.to/3smbx46
    I don’t know if it is the best one. It works great for me.

  19. > The take away is I keep the good ideas and discard the bad ones. I don’t go “all in” on a single strategy. I test.

    I actually think that going “all-in” on a strategy is the best way to test it. But I try not to stick to a strategy too long if it doesn’t work.

    E.g. I lost 100lbs on keto over 2 years. Then I gained it all back still on keto over 2 more years.

    So clearly keto “stopped working” – but it took me several years to admit it to myself. I thought I must not be ketoing hard enough. And in a sense, I was – I just didn’t know in which way, and that keto probably wasn’t causal in my weight loss to begin with. It just happened I ate low-protein low-PUFA for 2 years due to living abroad.

    Iterating and experimenting and chucking the stuff that doesn’t work is the only strategy, I agree on that.

    Thanks for the rec! Will see, I technically don’t need the pot, I think I just want it. I might buy it for Christmas haha.

  20. Chris Highcock

    Nov 12, 2023 — 1:46 am

    Do you ever potato hack anymore?

  21. @Chris – I do not strict potato hack at this time. I’m at my ideal weight and testing higher protein to see if that improves my DEXA score. I’m also recovering from my hernia surgery, so higher protein is important to me now.

    I don’t know the right answer, but I suspect that once a person is within 10-15% of their ideal weight, to shift towards “potatoes and protein”.

  22. Chris Highcock

    Nov 20, 2023 — 5:29 am

    @MAS for some reason I have only just come back to your blog after some time, but I had forgotten how useful it was! As noted above I can get very lean on a traditionally bodybuilding approach of tracking everything, keeping protein high and calories under control. But I don’t feel great. constipation, high stress etc. I feel good on Ray Peat style higher carbs, sugar fruit, milk etc but tend to get fatter when I do that….. I just need to get the balance. I’m back to potatoes again.

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