My weight and body composition tend to fluctuate throughout the year. I don't have a six pack all year-round because stuffed crust pizza is fantastic and I wear a shirt 95% of the time anyway. I do like to have periods of leaning-out (or "cutting"), maybe once or twice a year; usually as an exercise of willpower and discipline. Cultures have practiced periods of deprivation for thousands of years, from fasting for religion to seasonal food shortages to getting fat between Thanksgiving and Christmas and making a New Year's Resolution to lose weight for beach season. I think it could be a natural cycle ingrained in our biology.
In reverse order though.
I let go a bit this year. Between finishing Grad School, getting a new job, moving apartments, trying to raise a family, the bills piling-up, and the ever-present existential crisis of mid-adulthood, getting the right amount of protein and vegetables tends to be pushed out to the wayside and we start drifting back into the comforting arms of instant noodles, mac & cheese, breakfast cereal, and energy drinks. It's not that it's cheaper, it's just easier.
On top of all this I got injured at Jiu-jitsu, training for the IBJJF Miami Open--the first time I was thinking of participating in a big tournament. I had spent weeks writing up my detailed strength & conditioning program. Maybe it was my fault for miscalculating training load, maybe it was an irresponsible training partner, who knows? But I fractured my shoulder and had to lay off the Jiu-jitsu and the [right arm] lifting for a while. Dan John talked about balancing the toughness of one's diets and workouts. With the pressure of having to train hard eliminated, I figured I'd go hard on the diet. Enter the Velocity Diet.
The diet consists of 4 protein shakes and one healthy solid meal a day, supplemented with greens and fish oil, for 28 days. Simple. Definitely not easy. A lot of people think it's insane. I even had my doubts; I was always checking my urine because I was paranoid of kidney failure because of years of hearing old wives' tales. The first day was definitely terrible, especially as it was on a Sunday. When boredom strikes I instinctively reach for something to eat. The protein shakes only kept me satiated for 3 hours, and I would immediately go hungry. This illustrated the importance of drinking one every 2-3 hours.
I had a few rough patches here and there. Some food cravings were triggered by one thing or another, which I would blunt with a protein shake. Chocolate and its variations seemed to go down particularly well. I dropped close to 5 pounds on the halfway point, then stalled out on week 3 (perhaps because of the daily stir-fry). On the final week I dropped the last protein shake as my body seemed to adjust more to the decreased calories and wasn't feeling hungry anymore, and went down about 3 more pounds.
Doing my best Timstar impression here.
By no means was it the best diet, but it got the job done. The big lesson here was that choices interfere with action. You can lecture someone about the importance of macros and calorie balance, but without a system to follow it all just becomes useless information. This diet eliminated the thinking, removing the choice of having cereal for breakfast and trying to justify it. It conveniently had me getting a "meal" in for the times when I did not have time to eat. It automatically increased my daily protein intake and decreased my total calorie intake. And it eliminated decision-making because all I had to follow was the rule that "I don't eat during the day."
When one's body is starving it tends to grow more efficiently once one starts refeeding. I finished the diet just in time for the holidays, and that only means one thing--BULKING SEASON.