Less Peasant, More Bodybuilder

In previous posts, I’ve discussed my version of the Peasant Diet. Check out How I Used the Peasant Diet to Lean Out which was posted a year ago. In that post, I covered how I used a diet of high-volume unprocessed food – mostly carbs – to drop from 222 to 200 pounds without feeling hunger.

I strongly believe that if you design a diet that minimizes hunger, you will minimize the risk of regaining the weight.

After an inactive winter due to an injury, it would have been normal for me to gain some weight back. But I didn’t. By April, I was down to 197. That is when I declared victory.

I had lost weight without experiencing hunger and I was able to maintain that loss for a year even during a period where I was sidelined with an injury. I consider 197 to be the upper bound of my ideal weight.

The Peasant Diet was a great tool to get to that point, but as I recovered from my injury, I knew my activity would increase. I’d likely regain some muscle and get leaner. As you get leaner, you need higher levels of protein to preserve lean muscle mass. This was discussed in my P-Ratio post.

So starting in July, I began increasing protein and scaling back on potatoes. It is working. I’m down to 192 and look great. I know winter is coming, but I think I’m ready for it, just like I was last year. The skills I learned from the Peasant Diet easily apply to the higher-protein version (Bodybuilder).

Seattle fall

Seattle fall photo I took years ago.

Side Effects I’m Experiencing on the Peasant Diet

I adopted the Peasant Diet in 2016 after Richard Nikoley and Karl Denninger got into a feud on Twitter.  You can read about that story in the post Designing a Modern Peasant Diet. The short version is that when Karl threw out the term “peasant diet” as something negative, it inspired me. It was the basis for a powerful story. I was able to create a diet of pre-industrialized foods that were both nutritious and cheap.

The staples of the diet are potatoes, legumes, eggs, oats, and vegetables. Whole grains and canned fish are also fine. The diet is lower in fat and higher in resistant starch and fiber. For me, the protein levels tend to be moderate but can be dialed up if needed.

When I started the Peasant Diet, I was at 222 (height = 6′ 3). Today, I am at 194. Not only did I lose the weight, but I kept it off. The reason I feel I maintained the weight loss is that this diet has low food reward and because of the high volume, I did not experience hunger. I believe controlling hunger during a diet is a major key in preventing weight regain. You can do this via food volume, higher protein, or restricted eating windows.

Side Effects

Because the diet is so powerful and I’m at a great weight, my primary goal now has shifted from fat loss to muscle gain. During my injury, I lost muscle. Now that I’m on the right path with my knee, I decided I needed more calories to support my gym efforts.

More calories mean more meals that aren’t Peasant. Now I am eating dishes with richer and more complex flavors. These are foods that I ate regularly before I became a Peasant. I noticed 3 changes with me.

#1 Spicy Foods

Before the Peasant Diet, I was fearless with spiciness. I made kimchi all the time, even ghost pepper kimchi. Korean food and Thai food were never a problem. Bring on the heat! Not anymore. I’ve lost my desire to eat spicy foods. When I do pick a dish from cuisines that use spices, I now favor a low level of spices.

Spicy foods now don’t sit well with me. I’m sure I could get back to my old self if I wanted to, but I also don’t have a desire to make spicy foods a regular part of my diet.

My kimchi

#2 Fatty Foods

With the exception of dairy, I have lost the desire for dishes with a high-fat content. The foods still taste good, but my stomach often feels worse later. When I go out for food at a restaurant when the dishes tend to be high-fat, I look for the lightest fare, even though it is not what I would consider the best tasting option.

#3 Meat Cravings Are Way Down

The longer I go on the Peasant Diet, the less I want meat. I still eat meat, but I want it far less. Fish and lean chicken are now much more appealing to me than pork or beef. I don’t think I’ve had bacon in 2 years. Apparently, this is common. The less meat you eat, the less you crave it. When I was a vegetarian for ~16 years, I never craved meat.

Chasing Calories

If I need more calories now, I know where to get them, because I already solved this problem years ago. In 2012, when my diet was super clean and my activity level was high, I embraced ice cream. It worked, but then I kept pushing it because experiments were fun back then. Then I got injured. Then I gained more weight than I wanted.

Today, I feel I am wiser. I’m still primarily Peasant, but on high activity days, I can reach for a small amount of ice cream. This year I will gain muscle and maintain leanness.

Declaring Victory! How I Lost and Kept Off 25 Pounds

It was just over a year ago that I decided I needed to lose 20-25 pounds. But before I started on my diet, I knew the challenge wasn’t losing the weight, but keeping it off. That is where many people fail. There is no shortage of success stories, but they often regain. I’ve read estimates that between 70 and 95% of people that successfully lose weight will regain the weight. Often they gain more.

My belief based on the research I did a year ago was that using willpower would be a long-term losing strategy. If setpoint theory has any validity then the brain will both remember the higher preferred weight and the hunger signals experienced during any weight loss. Then when your willpower drops, the brain will ramp up hunger and take you back to your setpoint.

So following a simple “eat less, move more” plan without addressing how the brain would respond to hunger is a poor strategy. The key that I tested and proved for myself during my diet is to create a calorie deficit by minimizing hunger.

My 2 tools were:

  1. Volume (Peasant Diet, Potato Hack, Volumetrics)
  2. Protein (Old School Bodybuilder)

I’ve talked about these approaches at length in other posts, but the short versions are that foods with a high volume and low calories fool the brain. The stomach doesn’t measure calories. It measures volume. Given the same volume, boiled potatoes will have far fewer calories than French fries. And protein is known to crush appetite.

I have more ideas and thoughts here: Fat Loss Cheatsheet: What Works and What Doesn’t (for me)

Why Victory Now?

In March 2017, I weighed 222.

By August 2017, I was down to 202.

Today, I weight 197. That is a 25-pound loss. (Height 6′ 2.5) 

Why did I wait so long before declaring victory? A few reasons:

  1. When I reinjured my knee, my activity fell. I needed to maintain my lower weight at a lower activity level. If I didn’t, I’d need to change my plan.
  2. If setpoint theory is correct and I use a conservative 1/2 pound per week reset, then my fat loss moved much faster than my setpoint. But now that we are just over a year, it has caught up. This means that because I’ve been at my lower weight for several months now, I’ve likely locked in the new lower setpoint. This is all my speculation. The science is still being debated. I took a conservative view of the debate.
  3. I have spent more than a year building habits with the Peasant Diet and the Potato Hack. And lately, the Fasting Mimicking Diet. I’m very skilled with these tools. I’m well past the learning curve. I know how to use these methods to get immediate and predictable results. Muscle memory. Like driving a stick-shift.

I know that thousands of people have read my various posts on the Peasant Diet and the Potato Hack and it is likely that I inspired a few people and hopefully they are having success. If you are, leave a comment. May your success inspire others.


Photo by Japheth Mast