THE BLOG OF
DR. JOSH C. SIMMONS
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HOW I EAT: 40 LBS DOWN AND STILL EATING STEAK

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Since I’m a type A, kind-of-neurotic person, I tend to do things way too far in advance. A lot of people got fat during the COVID lockdowns but I just went ahead and got to my fattest right when the lockdowns started in the Spring of 2020.

I got fat how most people get fat. Diet and fitness fall lower on the priority list when you’re trying to keep your head above water financially and emotionally speaking. I was in the process of closing the door on my academic career and beginning a new journey as a software developer, these things seldom happen overnight. By the time diet becomes less of a priority there are already wolves at the door - it is the purpose of virtually every major food producer to give you the easiest access to the worst food. The “whole wheat” bread you eat has added sugar, celebrities acting as nutritionists advise you to “go vegan” without being clear about the massive health risks of doing so, and every restaurant and fast food joint (except for the super high end ones you can’t afford to eat at) make all of their dishes with industrial seed oils. In the 70s you could mostly just eat sensibly and be a reasonable weight. In the modern era, most food is designed to make you fat. We no longer have the luxury of being able to not care about our diets.

Being fat is not healthy [1]. It’s important to accept your body at any state. I accepted that I had gotten fat. I didn’t hate myself but I wanted to become fit - mostly for health reasons, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t partially for vanity - maybe dignity is a better word, I didn’t feel attractive when I was fat, I felt embarrassed for having neglected my body.

I’m unsure that society still holds fitness and vitality as worthwhile goals. When I was at the beach, my body looked like most other people there - most Americans are either overweight or obese, a trend that increases every year and shows no signs of slowing. When I was at the mall I saw fat mannequins and fat fashion models in posters. I had friends that were vegetarian and of reasonable weight but they seemed to have more health issues than normal (one friend actually began losing his teeth!) and were easily fatigued so that didn’t seem like a great path either.

Everyone’s body is different and consequentially different ways of eating will better suit different bodies (there are some general immutable principles though, some of which I’ve already hinted at, that I will post in a future essay). What follows is a rundown of what style of eating is working for me.

Six days a week I eat almost entirely animal products with some fruit and an occasional root vegetable.

My body does okayish with grains but they mostly feel like empty calories to me and I couldn’t really pinpoint any specific benefits rice, bread, etc. were giving me. Research seems to suggest that our bodies tolerate grains but that we’re not evolved to eat them. If I was working a heavy manual labor job and lifting/running daily outside of work I’d consider re-adding grains but they seem like an easy way to make my body fat with minimal or no upside.

Vegetables don’t agree with me. My digestive system seems to be unable to process almost any vegetable in its entirety. In addition to this I don’t like how vegetables taste and I don’t crave them - to the extent that I’m surprised anyone does [2].

I mostly eat meat. I typically enjoy fattier dishes like ribeye, pork shoulder, and salmon. I crave meat, it fills me up and sustains me, and I feel like I have a natural and steady energy after eating it.

I also eat cheese and eggs. Once adjusting to a less sugary diet, cheese begins to taste sweeter and more diverse than when I was eating preservative laden breads, pastas, or prepackaged and processed anything.

I have fruit when I need energy or when my body has a sweet craving. I’d like to start eating more local-growing fruit but currently I really enjoy pineapple, mango, papaya, and dates.

The one dietary need that's not met adequately with the above approach are a few micronutrients. I believe that if you need to take supplements - such as vegans do with vitamin B - your diet is not complete. Nutrients should come from real food. Organ meat contains these missing micronutrients but I don't like to eat more than a bite or two of organ meat at a time because of how bold the taste is - this presents a time issue, it would be extremely time consuming to cook a few bites of liver every day. What I'm doing now is cooking liver, chopping it into small cubes, freezing it, and then simply swallowing a few with breakfast. This is still largely unprocessed whole food but it gets me around having to cook a very small quantity daily. I'm currently experimenting with various organ meats and recipes to see if I can find a more straightforward solution.

Here’s what a normal day of eating looks like for me.

  • Breakfast: dates, Finnish squeaky cheese, a handful of cold leftover ribeye, coffee with heavy cream. Cheese is dipped in the coffee :) Swallow a few hunks of liver.

  • Lunch: Ribeye, baked potato, plenty of salt, butter, and bacon crumbles (admittedly processed and with nitrates).

  • Dinner: A huge helping of pork tenderloin, some paleo bbq sauce (pineapple juice based, no fake (or real) refined sugar, no seed oils), red wine.

  • Dessert (movie night): Massive bowl of sliced mango, goat cheese with honey drizzle.

One day a week is my “free day”. Anything goes - that includes not eating anything unusual.

I used to refer to this day as “cheat day” but I’ve changed my thinking around this a bit. I don’t try to eat junk food on this day, rather I give myself license to eat whatever I crave. Some weeks that’s a huge steak, other weeks it’s a tall stack of sugary, doughy pancakes. More often than not it’s a combination of both. I might have some fried eggs with runny yolks, as would be permissible on any other day of the week, but on my free day I might pair that with a really nice crusty piece of sourdough to mop up the eggs - some culinary combinations are irrefutably good, like eggs and toast, and it would be non-negotiable for me to give them up permanently.

This used to be a necessary outlet for me but now it’s more of a discipline break. If you plan failure points, God won’t have to give you as many random ones. It also serves as an occasional reminder of how bad my body feels after eating things more in line with a standard American diet.

Is this working?

I began to work towards this way of eating at the beginning of the COVID lockdowns. I was about 225lbs and 25% body fat in the Summer of 2020. Now, two years later, I’m at 185lbs and 16% body fat [3]. My last physical showed an insane amount of improvement in my bloodwork. I have significantly decreased my risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. I feel great. My body looks much better. My energy is stable. My mood is more consistent. I was able to perform as labor coach for my wife on only a few hours of sleep over a three day period.

Every diet-related metric has improved for me since ignoring populist advice on diet and nutrition and doing my own experimentation to find out what works best for my body. Backed with measurements to support my ideas I am confident that I am nourishing my body in the best way possible.

I don’t know what’s best for your body. Joaquin Phoenix and Olivia Wilde don’t know either. Nutrition is an imprecise and shifting science with conclusions that overwhelmingly align with the most financially lucrative ideas of the day [4].

Your own body is the only tool of measurement that can provide definitive answers about what nourishes it best. Speaking of, I’m off to eat a delicious plate of steak, cheese, and fruit.

[1] I originally had citations for this but it should be common sense so I deleted them.

[2] About 40% of vegetarians admit to eating meat when drunk. About 70% of the secret meat-eaters said that they lie to friends about the slip up. A third of vegetarians ‘eat meat when drunk’

[3] This process was not linear. If I look at a graph of my weight over time I can see that the spikes correlate with stressful events in my life - like selling a house and moving.

[4] The sugar industry funded research in the 60s to vilify fat and glorify sugar, a conclusion that would influence mainstream diet guidance in the West up until very recently. Are we to believe that this was a one-off? How many times do I have to lie to you to earn your trust back?

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