Coming Full Circle

I’ve tried a lot of stuff over the years. It’s so easy initially, because when you switch to real food in place of processed and fast, there’s a spontaneous reduction in caloric intake for nearly everyone. That’s why both paleo and LC work so well initially for the fat people out there. Amazing how switching out processed crap for real food nourishes and satiates you better, and you naturally return to some measure of the real animal you were supposed to be in the first place.

But it’s a double edged-sword. It’s so easy for so many—so long as you resist the temptation to indulge too often—that an almost mysterious or magical element can seep in and some of us—me included—take (or took) some delight in believing we could just eat as much as we desired, so long as keeping it Real™.

Alas, it’s individual, too. Whether it’s because of just the right macro-ratios anyone happens to get right for them, their ability to keep reducing that intake as they lose weight and their base metabolic rate (BMR) comes down, age factors, gender factors… I don’t know. I have a hard enough time figuring it out for myself, much less advising anyone else beyond the basic principles to be applied…and then you’re on your own. Thankfully, I suppose, basic principles are so effed in general that just those alone make profound differences for many.

In the last 8-10 weeks I’ve been simply getting back to basics. What?

  • Real food (meat, fish, fowl, vegetables—including starchy ones—fruits, a few nuts now and then, a little dairy…mostly the fat).
  • Reduce drinking calories (including booze).
  • Intermittent hunger or fasting. Just don’t worry about being hungry. Do something instead.
  • No serious weighing or counting, but just a general sense of intake, ensuring it’s less than what you need to maintain body fat levels. Easy to do and your hunger can be your guide to that.
  • Choose very nutritious foods, i.e., eggs, liver, shellfish—including oysters, clams, mussels, and so on.

And fat begins melting away again.

What about the gym and the cold therapy? I tend to go to the gym spontaneously, when I feel I need to get that workout; but when I do, I mean it. I generally do 2 types of sessions, now: (1) DL and leg presses, both heavy, but also light enough to do 2-3 sets in a 6-8 rep range. (2) standing presses, bench or chest presses, and weighted chin-ups or pull-ups. That’s about it. Other than than, it’s play in the backyard with kettlebells.

As to CT, it’s just fun and invigorating, and so I do it, as well as time in the pool. I’m not convinced it has any effect that will overcome bad habits elsewhere. I have a new experiment along the lines of CT, more isolated…I’m still evaluating that. But, I’ve just got to say it: whatever you think you want to try, great. Try it. But I think that a solid diet and discipline in the amount you consume—with excellent, nutritious food choices making it the easiest possible—far outweighs anything else you can do, even solid exercise.

So just a short post, to make it simple. Simple is good.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. VW on July 28, 2012 at 13:58

    Yep. That’s about it. Good post.

  2. Pauline on July 28, 2012 at 14:03

    Great reminder – easy to get lost in making it more complex. Eat real food, find out how much is right for you. Explore. Have fun.

  3. Josh on July 28, 2012 at 14:34

    great post, it is too easy to over analyze… Just quit eating shit and live life.

  4. Diane @ Balanced Bites on July 28, 2012 at 14:36

    I like this one, Richard. I agree that often less is more. We get so spun up about micromanaging our diets and lifestyles, that we forget to just try to live and enjoy. The more we focus on living and just eating real food, the less pressure we put on ourselves, and the less stress we then feel – the more fat we can lose naturally – to a point where our bodies want us to and not more. I feel like often we’re fighting what’s natural because of societal pressures, but if we are doing what we know is healthy, we should give ourselves a chance to just live in it for a while and see where it takes us. Enjoy it :)

  5. Michelle on July 28, 2012 at 15:09

    I just wanted to drop a line to say I have had great success on this diet. I’m about six months in low carb/gluten free and about 2 months in dairy free and have never felt better!!! My libido is better and my hormones seem to be healing. My PMS symptoms seem to be getting better and better. I really believe in this lifestyle and will continue!!

  6. Andy on July 28, 2012 at 15:22

    This is the same thoughts I have come to. Sometimes I feel I have gained enough to ignore the whole paleosphare.

  7. Richard Nikoley on July 28, 2012 at 15:33

    “Sometimes I feel I have gained enough to ignore the whole paleosphare.”

    That should be everyone’s honest goal. It is mine. It’s all about the new (of which there are yet hundreds of millions). When you’ve got it, get outta here and get on with your life unless you just want to help out and give back for the sake of the new in comments, which I appreciate and which is a wonderful exercise of good will towards men and women.

  8. Kate Ground on July 28, 2012 at 20:33

    So, yea. This giving back stuff. Because in other posts of yours pointing out caloric intake should not be ignored, (the duh factor) I changed my approach and now I find I may not be eating enough. I may have slipped into starvation mode. But I am not hungry. It’s hot, I don’t want to eat much, but my weight isn’t changing. It increased and now has stalled. Any suggestions? I need more food, but which way do I go? More fat? More carbs? More carbs idea makes me nauseous. But then so does more fat. I want to get back where I was. And Sarah Ballantyne wrote a good piece on IF and hormonal changes, so I don’t want to do that. Sir Richard, whatcha think?

    • Richard Nikoley on July 29, 2012 at 10:57

      Had to know for any individual, Kate.

      I think the biggest problem for people, both in terms of diet & exercise, is doing the same thing, day in, day out. I like the idea of “exercising” in terms of food, too. Let’s say you eat 1,500 kcal per day out of an esimated 2,000 need for weight maintenance. Then instead of eating 3 500 cal meals every day at programmed times, how about mix it up a lot, and even some days where you eat 3,000 one day, nothing the next.

      That’s really all I can think of. When I hear people talk of being in a supposed daily caloric deficit but still not losing, all I can think of is this: then fucking force it. “Body, you think you’re going to guard that fat? Bullshit, because I’ll just stop eating, I’m even going to go out and go for a hike, them lift weights, etc. Then let’s see you guard that fat.”

      But that’s just me. I do not think short term bouts of IF like up to 48 hours does piddly squat to compromise lean tissue.

      • Kate Ground on July 29, 2012 at 12:32

        Actually, a great idea! Freak my body out…

      • Richard Nikoley on July 29, 2012 at 13:06

        Yep, when all else fails, toss your body a loop outside its biochemical comfort zone. Trust the biochemistry. It has millions of years of adaptation in the worst of times.

  9. Lily on July 29, 2012 at 07:36

    I’m one of the rare people who GAINED tons of fat upon switching to Paleo (sort of switching “back” given my childhood).

    In addition to “eating whatever I felt like” (as long as it was real food — -and let’s be honest: I pretended Reeses PB Cups were included), that meant I ate and ate and…

    I am a 5’2″ woman working a desk job and I’ve eaten more at table than Big Men my entire life–even as a size 4 or smaller.

    Malabsorption. I had to take RX supplements as a kid up until I stopped giving a crap in my 20s (still had malabsorption). I continued to eat platefuls more than everybody around me (sometimes getting fatter and sometimes thinner) my entire life. When I got off grains and legumes that caused my Celiac gut to have malabsorption?

    I started packing on layers of fat after the first month.

    That’s why I’m looking at things differently (May was the last Reeses PB Cup I had). I CANNOT eat everything (even what I call whole foods or what’s known as Paleo) that I want to. I’m somebody who can eat and eat and eat and has done so for 40 years. I grew up on a working ranch, for christssakes. You go out and haul wood and sling 70lb bales of hay as a LITTLE GIRL for 4 hours a day and see what strapping on a feedbag looks like! And you don’t get a day off. You do this everyday except when it takes longer because you’re unloading 7 tons of chat for the drive to one of the barns…Growing up that way shouldn’t have “led” to a deskjob! I’m used to eating massive amounts and I use food for comfort, even if it’s 4 boiled eggs. I’m also used to not eating for 14hours a day. It’s going to take more experimentation on my part!

  10. TMS71 on July 29, 2012 at 11:15

    Ehh – I don’t know. I enjoy reading about the newest research and theories. Its fun to me. I do agree with the gist of this post regarding eating though. Keep it simple and NO you can’t eat in excess of your caloric needs and continue to lose weight just because you are eating ‘clean’ or ‘paleo’ or low carb or whatever. If you find a way to make paleo food hyper-palatable and hyper-convenient you will tend to overeat it – it doesn’t matter if it conforms perfectly to the paleo template. In that case you need to use some restraint. Sorry but that’s life.

  11. Erik on July 29, 2012 at 11:48

    I find lately that I’m coming around to the same sort of sense; I don’t have as much time to read blogs anymore. Switching up my macros doesn’t kill me. Aiming at nutrient density makes me feel good. But I’ve run into a problem, anyways:

    I feel tired and weak. My micros are great, lots of liver and egg yolks and veggies and fruits, etc. I’m avoiding the things I know do me harm. I’ve never restricted calories as I’ve never needed to lose weight, just fix my health, but something has occurred to me regarding energy intake: I simply may not be eating enough.

    I ate more, and had more energy, when I was having health problems. I ate more, and had more energy, when I was fixing the issues bit by bit but still “cheating” with safeish junk food. Now I’ve fixed the issues and don’t cheat, and… low energy. Which doesn’t make sense until I realize that I’m consuming fewer calories.

    So, new experiment: hit the rice, suet, potatoes and butter harder than usual and see if it changes anything.

    But stress could also be a factor. That’s where simplicity, the realm of the basics, can be a real help.

    • Richard Nikoley on July 29, 2012 at 12:14


      Funny how individuals differ. My highest energy days are fast of very low intake days. I’ve gotten where I usually don’t like eating ginormous meals, anymore.

      • Erik on July 29, 2012 at 16:47

        Yeah, IFing used to work great for me too… I think some combination of stress and insufficient overall intake led to some adrenal fatigue. As you noted, many find that switching to “paleo” automatically reduces their caloric intake; in my case, that appears to have been a problem. I suspect that once I get the stress/adrenals sorted out, as long as I make sure my overall intake is enough, fasting should feel good again.

      • rob on July 30, 2012 at 04:45

        Eating real food and IFing can be really challenging especially if you are physically active. Eating 2,500 – 3,000 calories in a 4 or 6 hour gets to be like a job.

        Lean meat doesn’t work at all, do the math and “You can’t get there from here.”

      • Erik on July 31, 2012 at 10:05

        Yeah, that’s it in a nutshell. I probably run best on the upper end of the calorie intake spectrum. No car, I work on a grass-fed beef ranch, like to go a bunch of places each day… I can’t do that silly 2000 calorie day thing.

        Fortunately I’ve never really been into the “lean meat” thing. Last night was a BIG chuck roast, well-marbled, so that was good. Lately I’ll toss a bunch of suet in a pan with a few veggies and basically make a big bowl of fat, or down a couple bananas on the go, or make a huge pot of rice in thick bone stock (boiled so that the fat emulsifies in the stock). Even after just a few days, I’m feeling a difference with making sure I’m getting enough for energy and rebuilding.

        I used to IF mostly in the winter when I was a little less active, so that may have made a difference.

  12. Pauline on July 29, 2012 at 14:12

    I also can’t always eat ALL real foods, some of it I still have problems with. Paleo has healed my skin issues. But I think starch is still a problem and so is milk. The usual suspects the ones I eat daily. So I am also going to try an mix it up a bit. Do a short version of elimination diet for 5 days. And see if that clears things to baseline to re-introduce and see if I can notice a direct re-action in my body with milk and later starch. If all else fails keep trying.

  13. mark on July 30, 2012 at 07:29

    Nice post… Lots of studies coming down the pipe implicating carbs(even complex ones) to mental health (adhd, Schizophrenia, type 3 Diabetes/alzheimer’s)

    I would still recommend a higher fat/lower carb plan overall.

  14. Chris Butterworth on July 30, 2012 at 13:49

    I like this a lot – there’s gigantic power in simplicity and the ole 80-20 rule. Maybe you don’t get all the way to perfect, but who’s keeping score? If you can get 80% of the way there, easily and efficiently, and without having to dissect and analyze your every move, workout, and meal, you’re more likely to stick with it. And pretty soon you end up as one of the healthy folks.

    Perfection doesn’t matter nearly as much as continuous improvement..

  15. leo desforges on July 31, 2012 at 05:40

    i think many posters have nailed this one. If simple, eat real food approach is working (must describe what this means for YOU) then dont change it! But is it is NOT working, or stops working, well then… change it.

    I think that we have noticed the ebb and flow of richard’s nutritional strategies and can recognize similar trends in our own. This is human, embrace it! Please stop suggesting that you (not you, Richard) have found the one true way, because that way will change over time, guaranteed.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.