Gaming your digestive system: The Bacon Diet
Gaming your digestive system: The Bacon Diet
Iíve been a gamer for as long as I can recall and, for as long as Iíve been buying my own food, Iíve been on the gamer diet, too. This is by no means a positive, as Iím sure many other gamers can attest, as itís comprised of a lot of pizza, pies, McDonalds, and anything else thatís cheap and nasty. The mantra behind the gamer diet is stereotypically that if we have to make it ourselves, it had better be quick to make; if weíre going to buy it, carbs and grease are the vehicles by which flavour travel.
This gamer diet is all well and good if you intend on living the archaic stereotypical life of a geek: mumís basement, rarely showering and thoroughly addicted to any number of gaming vices. But a lot has changed since the birth of that stereotype. Gamers are now everywhere, a veritable Fight Club of everyday citizens united by our love of games. These days, we come in all shapes and sizes but, as with anyone seeking to make the transition from larger to leaner, there are many hurdles in our way.
Such was the case for me last year when my gut got so large that I had to lean forward to see my junk while peeing. I used to be built like a greyhound, but at the inevitable death of metabolism (age 22), I was forced to confront the fact that I canít eat like a pig and stay thin as a rake. By the end of my university degree (age 25), I was up to 117kg. Through portion control - eating meals the size of my fist, and more regularly - and sporadic exercise, I got that down to 105kg. But then inevitably, I fell back into old Ďgamer dietí habits, and it wasnít long before 28-year-old me was back up to 110kg. Something had to change.
Determined to keep my gamer diet and lifestyle, I initially turned to the gamification of exercise. Three-to-five times a week, I was hitting up Ubisoftís Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2012 on Xbox 360, where I learned a few important things. First, I was disgustingly out of shape. Second, Your Shape is the best example of Kinect gaming Iíve ever played, and really showcases the potential of the technology; particularly when itís compared with the controller-wielding limitations of Move and Wii Remotes.
For six weeks, I worked up a sweat on Your Shape, with my 110kg weight written on a whiteboard next to my starting date. The more I used Your Shape, the more my exercise stamina increased, and I felt better. Surely this would equate to some significant form of weight loss six weeks on? Wrong. As it turns out, I only lost one kilogram over that time, and I was faced with the terrifying reality that exercise alone might not cut it when it comes to slashing kilos. Apparently, frequently drinking beer and eating **** food can quickly counter whatever calories are burnt during 20 minutes of exercise. Who knew?
It was then that I smelled the delicious rumour of the Bacon Diet. A couple of friends of mine had been talking about it for a few weeks and, while I was certainly attracted to the concept - eating bacon for breakfast every morning - I didnít believe it was a real diet. Who would after that kind of sales pitch? Hell, when pushed for information, the diet description became more unbelievable: avoid anything with the word Ďdietí that isnít a soft drink, anything with Ďlow fatí on it and actively go out of your way to eat food items filled with high levels of natural fat. Weíre talking pork chops covered in cream, everything covered in butter and basically all the things youíre conditioned to believe are bad for you in this low-fat-loving world.
Over a two month period, I put the bacon diet through its paces: the first month, with no alcohol; the second month, with a lot of alcohol (albeit, no carb-heavy alcohol). After one week on the bacon diet, with absolutely no exercise, I dropped from 109kg to 105kg. Thereís nothing quite like instant weight-loss gratification to motivate one to stay the course. By the end of the first month, I was down to 99kg. Even reintroducing alcohol into the mix during the second month wasnít enough to stop the power of the bacon diet: I lost a further two kilograms. Still, with no exercise whatsoever.
The official name for what I affectionately refer to as the bacon diet is a Ďketogenic dietí. In some ways, itís similar to an Atkins diet, but the weight-loss properties of the ketogenic diet are more serendipitous than part of some new dieting fad. The diet was originally designed for children who suffer from epilepsy, and itís also been used to lower blood pressure for people with hypertension. As someone who slots in to the latter category, itís certainly a pleasant side effect, right alongside the weight loss.
Without going too far into the science (or at all - Ed), the ketogenic diet fools your body into entering starvation mode, feeding off fat sources instead of drawing them from the carbs that tend to plague our diets. Put simply, staying true to the ketogenic diet means your body will be actively eating away at stored fat, even if youíre sitting on your arse playing games.
The ketogenic diet is not without its side effects, though. Dehydration is the most noticeable downside which, for me at least, actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As someone who rarely drank water throughout the day, a regular feeling of dehydration forced me to drink up to six litres of water per day. Staying hydrated is essential for keeping the ketogenic on the safe side of things, as your body is working harder while on the diet. Ignoring the hydration urges can lead to complications, including your kidneys shutting down and, well, death. Thatís why itís important that you consult your Doctor before you attempt the ketogenic diet (or any diet, for that matter). But a bit of a mortal threat isnít too dissimilar from what we gamers (digitally) face day in, day out in the online arena, right?
Other detractors include factors such as your breath, sweat and urine, which may smell different - probably worse - particularly during the initial days of the diet as your body purges carbs. There are also flu-like symptoms that can occur in the initial weeks of the diet but, in my experience, the presence of a mild headache or pressure in my sinuses, meant that I needed to hydrate more. Hydrating alleviated the symptoms.
Thatís the bad stuff out of the way. The good stuff, aside from the obvious next-to-no-effort weight loss, is there, too. I had more energy; more than Iíd ever had before. Apparently, this is an uncommon trait of the diet - particularly during the initial weeks - as the opposite tends to be true. I found that I was falling asleep faster and deeper, while my mental faculties were operating at a level I hadnít experienced before. The nasty reflux I used to get after eating a carb-heavy meal vanished, and I found that I could gorge on ketogenic diet foods as much as I liked, without feeling uncomfortably full or worrying about portion control.
Best of all, Iím not the only gamer to guinea pig the diet and come out with a positive result. Fellow gamer Todd Williamson discovered the ketogenic diet on Reddit and, like me, didnít believe it was real. After further research, he decided to give it a go. Over the course of four months on the ketogenic diet, Todd went from 139kg to 108kg. Yeah, thatís over 30kg in four months. Granted, he was more disciplined than I was. After the first two months and 15kg lighter, Todd introduced exercise to his diet in a big way: seven days a week, 30-minute sessions, alternating between lifting weights and treadmill running.
Todd took up exercise because he felt like doing it; not to lose more weight. Thatís a serendipitous motivation I can relate to, as well. Pre-ketogenic diet, Both Todd and I had absolutely no interest in exercise. My short-lived flirtation with Kinect-powered exercise was more motivated by laziness - a desire to workout in my own home - than by actually wanting to be serious about regular exercise. Nowadays, Iím exercising five-to-seven times per week: I alternate between powerwalking, body weight training and Pilates (fantastic for building core strength and supporting your back, which likely suffers from Ďgamer posture).
When I asked Todd if heíd recommend this diet to other gamers, his response was simple. ďDefinitely. Itís a diet that lets you snack on cheese while playing games.Ē As if the motivation of initial weight loss isnít enough, the further you get into the ketogenic diet, the more you realise that your body is craving less of sugary and carb-heavy foods. For me, looking at the scales once a week and seeing descending numbers was enough to motivate me. For Todd, it wasnít the scales or his reflection; instead, it was comments from friends and family members that really let him know they noticed the diet was working.
One of my friends recently told me he thought Iíd lost too much weight on the diet. How many diets let you eat cheese, meat and butter, and have the problem of you losing too much weight? In fact, such is the energy boost provided by a fat-rich meal that hunger cravings become less frequent. Todd got to a point where he would sometimes only have one meal a day and be satisfied; even if that one meal was an entire chicken (and he was still losing weight).
Toddís final thoughts on the ketogenic diet were simple words of wisdom that any gamer can get behind. ďItís dieting with the cheat codes enabled. Eat cheese and bacon, donít count calories, lose weight.Ē The promise came with one crucial disclaimer. ďThe downside is, if you cheat on the diet, you will fail.Ē If you told me a year ago that I could eat bacon and lose weight, Iíd laugh in your face. Nowadays, Iím back on the diet, I eat bacon and I lose weight.
This is a personal account of Nacho's experience with the Ketogenic Diet and like he says, you should talk to a doctor before you just start eating bacon all day - Ed.
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