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Over the last year and bit I’ve conducted countless productivity experiments on myself—here are a few of the larger ones—and to date I have failed, or partially-failed, at just two.
Coincidentally, both of the experiments involved food; for the first I tried to eat only “soylent” for a week, and for the second I aimed to lower my body fat from 17% to 10%, while gaining 10 pounds of lean muscle. (I succeeded at gaining 10 pounds of muscle, but my body fat is currently 18%—expect an update on this experiment in the next few weeks!)
I think there is a very simple reason I failed at both of the experiments: I enjoy food too much. I’m forever thinking about what I’m going to eat for my next meal, and no joke, I vividly remember pretty much every meal I’ve ever eaten out. I have no idea what my now-girlfriend was wearing on our first date a couple of years ago, but I remember that I ate a half-chicken meal with a side of rice and mixed vegetables at the Richtree Market Restaurant at the bottom of the Rideau Centre in Ottawa. I also remember that the chicken was a tad dry, and that the rice was delicious.
Needless to day, it’s with a bit of trepidation that I’m going vegetarian for 60 days, but I’m pretty excited to see how the experiment turns out.
The productivity connection
The connection between your diet and productivity is relatively straightforward, but incredibly profound: what you eat and drink directly impacts how much energy you have, and energy is the fuel that you burn over the course of the day to be productive. The more energy you have, the more potential you have to get stuff done, and vice-versa. With the possible exception of sleep and exercise, nothing affects your energy levels as much as what you eat and drink.
People become vegetarian for a number of reasons—like for their health, religion, budget, or because of their respect for animals—but I’m becoming vegetarian mainly in the name of productivity.1 When food so strongly affects how much energy you have, I would be remiss if I didn’t give this experiment a shot, particularly when the benefits of going vegetarian can be so great.
The perks of being a vegetarian
There are a crazy number of benefits to going vegetarian—but only if you do it right, which can be difficult.
Without proper planning, it can be difficult to get enough protein and other nutrients like iron while eating a vegetarian diet, and many people also find it frustrating that they have fewer food options at restaurants and family celebrations. It sucks to be “that guy” or “that girl” with the weird food requirement when someone else is cooking you a nice meal.
But it appears, at least on the surface, that investing the time, energy, and willpower into becoming a vegetarian is well worth the effort. A number of separate studies have found that vegetarians:
- Have “a 12% lower risk of death compared with nonvegetarians”, and are much less likely to be overweight2
- Have better moods than people who eat all kinds of meat, and people who eat just fish3
- Have lower blood pressure, and a significantly lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes4
I’m definitely not a doctor or a nutritionist, but the research seems to suggest that going vegetarian will give you more energy than eating meat—provided you do it right.
Over the next 60 days my plan is to eat a predominately whole-food, plant-based diet that will consist mostly of:
- Starchy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
My diet also will not consist of:
- Meat, poultry, or seafood
- Dairy products
- Highly-refined foods, like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil
My new eating regimen is similar to my pre-vegetarian diet, only I will replace meat with alternate protein sources, and minimize how many refined snacks I eat.
Over the last several weeks I’ve been slowly transitioning away from obtaining protein from meat, poultry, and eggs, to obtaining more and more protein from beans, legumes, grains, and nuts, and just yesterday I made the jump to eating no meat or dairy.
To help me stick to the eating plan over the next two months, I’m going to:
- Team up with my girlfriend, who will do the challenge with me. Over (at least) the next 60 days, my girlfriend is also going vegetarian, and our plan is to prepare all of our dishes together. This will not only cut down on how much time we take to prep and cook our meals; it will also help us carve out time to spend together, let us compare notes on where we can improve, and anticipate any obstacles that might come up.
- Prepare the tastiest meals possible. I know that I simply won’t stick to my eating plan if the food isn’t delicious, so I’ve bought, borrowed, and downloaded a ton of vegetarian recipes that look incredible. (By the way, if you have any favorite veg recipes, please send them my way! I’ll be sure to cook them up for the experiment and share how they went.)
- Cook a bunch of dishes in advance to have as snacks. Technically a diet that consists solely of Doritos and Mountain Dew could be considered vegetarian, so I’m also going to cook vegetarian snacks in advance for when cravings inevitably arise.
- Supplement protein from grains, beans, and legumes with vegetarian protein powder. I’ll still be working out most days of the experiment, so I plan on consuming additional protein (especially after workouts) through a vegetarian, pea-based protein powder.
- Have a bi-weekly weigh-in, and social penalties as extra motivation. For extra motivation, every two weeks I will weigh-in, and at the end of the experiment post a graph of how my body fat and body measurements changed. I’ll also tweet every time I stray from the diet.
This experiment will be a tough one for me to say the least, and I have no clue how it will turn out—though my fingers are crossed that it will turn out better than my last two food experiments! I can’t wait to share everything I learn over the course of it with you.
I’m also trying out vegetarianism partly because of my Buddhist beliefs, though that’s not my primary reason for conducting this experiment. ↩
Source: http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/04/vegetarians-may-live-longer/?xid=rodale ↩
Source: http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/7-reasons-vegetarians-live-longer ↩
Source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/763435_2 ↩