Just putting the finishing touches on The Diet Hack. I look for it to be available on Amazon In July or August. It’s amazing how slow the book writing process is.
Anyway, just wanted to share this new diet I came up with. It’s pretty much a mish-mash with elements of all of the effective diet plans out there. I want to create a tabbed page with full references for this entry, so this post will get moved to its own page as soon as I figure out how to do that, haha.
The SOW Diet
What would The Diet Hack be without a brand-new diet? Well, here’s a little something that I’ve been playing with for a couple years. This diet was hatched one afternoon while I was camping with an old friend who was struggling with his weight. He wasn’t big on computers or organized dieting. I said to him, “Mac, if you’d just avoid sugar, oil, and wheat you would probably lose weight.” We then spent several days discussing it and came up with the acronym “SOW” as a quick reminder of what not to eat. I saw Mac a year later and he’d lost a good 50 pounds and looked great. He gave me a thumbs-up and said one word, “SOW.” Since then, I’ve put dozens of people on a similar trajectory and they all lose weight.
Sugar, Oil, Wheat
The Sugar, Oil, and Wheat (SOW) diet…pronounced sō, not sou…will help you sow the seeds of successful weight loss. The SOW diet doesn’t limit real food, just processed food that contains SOW. Avoiding these easily identifiable ingredients is easier than trying to adhere to a list of allowable foods. Eat what you want with the SOW diet, just don’t eat SOW.
Ultra-processed foods nearly all contain a mixture of SOW. These three cheap ingredients form the basis of 90% of the worst foods in the world (Kearny, 2010). If you are eating the Western diet, undoubtedly most of what you eat contains sugar, oil, and/or wheat. To make food out of SOW, all the tricks of ultra-processing are used. These foods also contain artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, emulsifiers, and other chemicals used to turn tasteless ingredients into addictive, shelf-stable food. This processing destroys any nutritive qualities of the food and destroys gut integrity of those who eat the food (Aguayo-Patrón, 2017).
By comparison to the Western diet, the SOW diet is filled with vegetables, fruits, fungi, fermented food, whole grains, potatoes, legumes, fish, poultry, eggs, honey, and contains moderate amounts of red meat, healthy oils, bread, and alcoholic beverages. What you won’t find is ultra-processed food that contains a mixture of SOW. Exercise and a healthy lifestyle are intertwined with the SOW diet.
The SOW diet ensures adequate protein to prevent loss of muscle and lean body mass. The SOW diet has a once-a-week “cheat meal” to keep the metabolism from slowing down during the caloric restriction phase.
Tim Steele’s SOW Diet…Lose 20 pounds in 30 Days!
Sleep and Stress
On the SOW diet, you’re encouraged to:
- Sleep at least 8 hours a night in a sleep-friendly environment.
- Omit alcohol and cannabis completely during the first three months.
- Worry less.
- Using MyFitnessPal’s free trackers, log your daily food intake, exercise, and weight.
- Optional: Using a large wall calendar, place an “X” on every day that you exercised and ate according to plan.
Monthly Logs (Using a piece of paper and pencil or computer spreadsheet)
- Record your waist measurement.
- Record your average hours of sleep for the month.
- Record the number of “X’s” from your calendar.
- Record your weight. Indicate change from previous month.
- Make notes of weights used in strength training and speed/duration of aerobics workouts, average walking, etc.
- Record weight and waist measurement.
- Keep records of medications, blood lab reports, doctor visits, and any illnesses through the year.
- Develop a plan for the following year.
- Join the forum at MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, FitDay, or any you prefer.
- Start a thread called “Tim Steele’s SOW Diet Results”
- Discuss your amazing weight loss and fitness gains.
- Help others to lose weight by sowing the seeds of weight loss success.
The SOW diet is as real as any diet, and better than most. Try it as outlined. Maybe one day I’ll put it in a book. It combines elements of Wheat Belly, McDougall’s Starch Solution, The Case Against Sugar, and the Mediterranean Diet. The SOW diet removes the three worst offenders of the Western diet, but lets you add them back as long as they aren’t combined as in Krispy Kreme donuts, Wonder bread, and thousands of other Western diet staples. Avoiding this specific combination will help you avoid 90% of the worst foods on earth. This combination, especially when prepared with emulsifiers, chemicals, and refined beyond recognition, is highly inflammatory and damages the immune system and gut. Removing this unholy trio will result in rapid weight loss as the body rids itself of excess water and fat. A long-term diet devoid of Western staples will result in a return to good health and lasting weight loss. Extra protein and periodic cheat days will ensure metabolic success. You have my money-back guarantee! It’s even keto-compatible.
48 thoughts on “Any Takers?”
Tim–I understand why you want a catchy acronym, but calling it the SOW diet is a misnomer, when what you are recommending is avoiding SOW, so this would make it the Anti-SOW diet. I also think that if you are going to call it a diet, you need to make recommendations about what people should eat, how much, and in what proportions, etc. Based on this post, you are recommending cutting calories, keeping food logs, exercising, getting enough sleep, etc., and also avoiding sugar, oil, and wheat, but I don’t think that constitutes a diet or will be enough for most people. If more people could successfully cut calories, faithfully exercise, etc., they would lose weight, regardless of what kinds of foods they eat. So if you intend this to be a diet book, and you want to present it as anything new, it needs to be more fleshed out and take advantage of recent research.
Curtisy – I wasn’t confused at all, more amused, I thought it was brilliant, SOW. Lots of ways to play off that word, I would stick with it.
I think Tim knows what he’s doing here. Creating a reduced calorie diet that bans only super processed foods and counting calories after that. I have tried so many diets that said “no counting calories” and gained weight from Day 1.
“If more people could successfully cut calories” there’d be no need for any diet books, mate. I’d like to see the recent research that says you can lose weight while eating more calories. I think the research is clear…need to cut calories, and that means counting them. Otherwise the keto diet people seem to think you don’t have to count, but that is the worst diet ever.
I like SOW. I think it’s easier to avoid three common ingredients of the Western diet than to try to list allowable foods. No one gets confused with the FODMAP diet, and it’s not called anti-FODMAP, but that’s what it is.
I also think there needs to be a resurgence in counting calories and exercising. Sorry, but that’s what it takes unless you resort to bariatric surgery or weight loss drugs. If diet and exercise don’t work, all you have left is surgery or pills. Sleep, stress, and other lifestyle factors certainly play into it, but not to the extent that diet and exercise do in in regards to weight loss.
I have to second the above comment. It seems that you started out vilifying a SOW based diet and then recommending a SOW diet only without the Sugar, Oil & Wheat.
I was confused
@Tim J. J. – I reworded the post a bit to make it clearer. Thanks for the feedback!
I love it! Using SOW is just fine, Tim. Just like the wildly popular FODMAP diet, it’s easier to focus on what to avoid rather than what you can eat. I agree, most processed crappy food contains SOW. I looked at the food I eat…hardly any of it contains SOW because I eat good food. There is a box of cake mix in the pantry…first three ingredients are SOW and then a bunch of chemicals. Crazy! Good job. I’ve been doing the SOW diet and didn’t even know it.
@Jer – Yep, those pre-mixed cakes, brownies, cookies etc. are packed with SOW and also chemicals to make them cook and taste better than if you simply started with whole ingredients. You can easily make cake, bread, cookies, etc. using very few ingredients.
Yeah, this is a smart(er) way to eat, but I agree the name’s a little iffy.
How about as well as no alcohol, also no cannabis? The munchies are not your friend if you’re serious about eating properly, am I right?
And Tim, Tim, Tim, apps for tracking sleep do not a sleep friendly environment make! I know, you’re going to argue that people like them, but tough. People like a lot of crap that’s not good for them, it’s how they gained that weight in the first place, isn’t it?
Tech in the bedroom is a BAD idea. Period. I won’t go all Jack Kruse on you here, but bedrooms are for sleep and sex, not gadgets & screens.
People need to be getting more in touch with their body’s messages, like hunger and satiation, right? They need to understand the body’s messages about sleep, too.
My iPhone tracks sleep but it isn’t really “on” to where it would bother me, no more than the clock radio I have had next to my bed for 40 years. Sleep apps are pretty popular, I have a friend who discovered he had sleep apnea by using a sleep app.
I agree, you should not be checking messages and looking at phone at night.
Ah! Thanks for mentioning the evil weed, I keep forgetting that it’s now legal almost everywhere. Yeah, I’m anti-tech, especially in the bedroom. Sleep apps are OK if you use them as a sleep-study, not something you’d need every night. I try to keep my bedroom as light free as possible, sleep hygiene is very important and easily overlooked.
I definitely agree with you on getting in touch with your body. Not many people experience hunger any more, just eating on a schedule and out of boredom in between.
I will try this diet, I have 20 pounds to spare. I used my FitBit and iPhone to track my sleep for a couple months and made some huge changes based on what I saw. I was able to increase my average sleep hours by over 1 hour per night by going to bed earlier and making the room darker. I was amazed how many times I was waking up during the night. I maintain my weight pretty well, but sometimes get caught in the junk-food trap and eat too many snacks without tracking the calories. Thanks for the preview! I would buy the book!
@Cathy – Good job! I played with a Fitbit sleep app last summer and was also amazed how many times I woke up during the night. It’s pretty cool to be able to see your REM sleep, deep sleep, etc.. on a graph the next day. People used to have to spend thousands of dollars and spend a couple nights in a sleep clinic to do the same.
Looking for SOW in snack food is a very easy way to eliminate about 95% of junk food. They are getting good at making snacks seem healthy, hard to hide the SOW.
Hm-m-m, SOW. No Sugar added. Obviously the first place to start. Oils, focus on tree nut oils and organic animal fats. Makes sense. Wheat. Why just focus on wheat? With the anti nutrients in grains plus the GMO issue plus the use of glyphosate, why consume grains except for unique conditions? The conditions might be organic plus fermented or sprouted. So instead of grains, I eat what you have touted: the mighty potato. In addition, focus on the second food you and some of the participants here have suggested which is to dramatically increasing fiber consumption. You have written and commented extensively on the nutritional value of cooked (no oil or very little), refrigerated overnight, then eaten the next day (maybe warmed to room temperature) potatoes. You have commented much about the issue of fiber. So, how about a proposed diet based on your expertise: no sugar added, replace grains with resistant starch style potatoes and high fiber(35 grams+)? How does one get to this point? I personally struggle and have to add lots of different fiber supplements to foods and smoothies.
Good luck with your book.
@Thomas Mann – Yes, most flours are bad, but SOW has a better ring than SOF. That’s why I say “sugar, oil, OR wheat” for the first couple months. Later, in month four and beyond, you can make up your own mind, but pretty much always if it contains SO, WO, WS, or SOW, it’s a highly processed junk food.
I don’t have any problem with whole grains, I think they are needed. What I’m very much against is refined grains with no fiber and very few minerals or vitamins left.
I pick on wheat because wheat is ubiquitous in the Western diet. To a lesser extend refined corn flour is used in place of wheat, and then some other grains, ie. oats, quinoa, etc. If they are “whole,” fine. If refined, pass.
I’m in! So just avoid any food that has a mixture of sugar/oil/wheat for a while, then OK to eat sugar, oil OR wheat in whole forms? That seems pretty intuitive. Like Jerry says, when I look at the food in my cupboards, the worst of it has sugar, oil, and wheat in the ingredients. This is kind of like Whole 30, but easier. And yeah I need to start tracking calories again. The diets that say no counting necessary never work for me. Counting calories and avoiding processed food seems a perfect combo.
@Chereva – I have a hard time with all the diets out there that push bars and drinks on people. It’s bad enough SOW is on so much food, let’s definitely keep it out of our weight loss food.
Love it! It will work and would make a good book. The name might need tweaked a bit, lol, wasn’t sure if that was a joke or what. But Wheat Belly book has sold millions just focusing on wheat, and lots of anti-sugar and anti-fat diets also do well. Combining them into one diet is even better.
I’m sick of seeing diets that ban real food like whole grains, potatoes, fruit, etc… because “carbs.” It’s true that if you look at a food label and see a mixture of SOW, it is guaranteed to also have stabilisers and preservatives and other chemicals in it as well. This makes so much sense to just quickly look for the presence of SOW to decide if you should eat it.
I can see how you could write a whole book, already I have a hundred questions and everyone else seemed intrigued, too.
I don’t care for SOW. I like the Diet Hack. As in from the guy who wrote The Potato Hack. It’s like the diet is linked to the Hack. Which makes sense. If the potato is such a great super food, and so particularly workable for dieting and weight maintenance due to its nutrient content and properties that make one feel satisfied and actually NOT HUNGRY – I think the new diet should be linked to the Hack.
@Debbie – The Diet Hack is the name of my next book. This SOW thing is just something I have been playing with for a couple years as a way to recognize and avoid processed food that has no nutritive properties.
I appreciate your feedback…makes sense! I think any book I write in the future will have “hack” in the title.
It looks like a solid plan. Diets that don’t count calories will fail most people. Weight Watchers uses a point system in lieu of calorie counting. Remember the Perfect Health Diet? I was all over that one until I started gaining weight eating that way. The biggest complaint on the PHD forum was “Why am I gaining weight?” Paul J’s answer? Eat less. Counting calories is the only way I’ve found to control my food intake.
Hi GA – Yep. Every diet I’ve seen that promises you won’t need to count calories never works for the great majority that try it. Unless you have time to assign points to every food you might eat, calorie counting is mandatory for weight loss. Food quality is very important, too, but does not trump calories.
I been eating blueberry muffins lately because they are so good and so easy. I just checked for SOW. Holy COW. Lotsa SOW. WOW.
Uncle Wally’s Blueberry Muffins
sugar, enriched bleached flour (wheat flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, soybean oil, eggs, blueberries, contains 2% or less of: food starch-modified, invert sugar, sodium aluminum phosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, mono and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate, polysorbate 60, whey, salt, wheat gluten, nonfat milk, glucose syrup, dextrose, carrot fiber, potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, guar gum, xanthan gum, natural and artificial flavor, walnuts.
I like it and started today. I’ve been trying to lose 10-20 pounds since Christmas and have managed to gain 5. I was eating lots of protein bars and trying to eat less overall, but I think what I really need is to start counting calories and focus on better food. We did the Jenny Craig thing last year and lost some weight, but the food sucked and was expensive. Most of JC is SOW, no doubt.
My go-to food has been Clif bars, and like Otis S. else said, WOW. Holy SOW.
PEANUT BUTTER*, OAT FLOUR*, ROLLED OATS*, BROWN RICE SYRUP*, DATE PASTE*, CANE SYRUP*, PEA PROTEIN*, TAPIOCA SYRUP*, RICE STARCH*, HIGH OLEIC SUNFLOWER OIL*, PALM OIL*, PEANUT FLOUR*, CANE SUGAR*, RICE FLOUR*, NATURAL FLAVORS, PEANUTS*, VEGETABLE GLYCERIN, SEA SALT, SUNFLOWER LECITHIN, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS (ANTIOXIDANT).
Cane and tapioca syrup are just sneaky ways of saying SUGAR! And two types of OIL. But no wheat. I see you say Sugar, Oil, OR Wheat for the first three months so these would be banned. Good! Thanks, Tim. We’ll report back.
@Otis and JJ – You make my point perfectly, thanks! SOW is never used alone, always with loads of other garbage.
Without fail every winter I find something in the rather ‘best to avoid’ category. I have entirely gotten used to avoiding the bakery section of all supermarkets and of course
not entering establishments that have a sign that reads ‘Bakery’. However, seems the freezer section contains temptations galore.
I bought Romina empanada raw dough circles from Montreal. They are made of flour,
lard, salt, and water. They inflate like puffball of crunchy pastry when baked at 450F.
Alas, this has become my weakness. One per day (220 kcal) with a duck egg for breakfast. As opposed to the usual 2 corn tortillas (100 kcal) plus the egg. Although
corn tortillas are dubious because some claim to contain 120 kcal for 3.
I have 4 left. After this, no more. NO MOAR! Arghhhh. They taste great.
The Lard is good. Amen.
The 10 pound bag of red skinned spuds I bought for high price (also from Quebec) are
literally covered in netted scab. What’s inside the bag sure doesn’t look like the pictures on the outside of the bag. 1/3 of them also have hack marks from the harvesting
machinery. It’s incredible what farmers are getting away with by packing their
low quality spuds in paper bags. Disgraceful. I have to peel the potatoes and they
also have loads of ‘infected bruises’ and cuts. The store charged the same price for
these as for bags of beautiful yellow fleshed potatoes. Welcome to Canada…… damn.
Yes, I know, I should have taken them back to the store just it costs me more in gas for
the round trip than the bag is worth.
Hiya, Gab! I hear you about bakeries. Most of the things, like your empanadas, can be made from scratch with whole wheat. I made some killer biscuits for breakfast this morning: Whole wheat flour, milk, honey, salt, and baking soda. Compare those ingredients with what’s in those stupid little cans you bang on the counter to open:
Pillsbury Grands –
Enriched Flour Bleached (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), Water, Soybean Oil, Sugar, Baking Powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate). Contains 2% or less of: Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Dextrose, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Xanthan Gum.
I can’t remember. Do you mention measuring anywhere? I’m thinking maybe so, but I can’t remember.
I talk about measuring waist size very often. It’s a great way to judge health, especially when combined with BMI.
I was thinking portion size. 🙂 I got in a hurry.
No, not really. Focusing on weight loss, the evidence has piled up that humans cannot be trusted to guess calories and will overeat unless calories are precisely counted. But for weight maintenance, I think it’s best to just eyeball your food and limit portions until a happy medium is discovered.
SOW is also everywhere in Health Food Stores !! I recently looked at a snack bar considered to be very healthy, which contained the following ingredients (google translated from Dutch)
Corn syrup *, Cocos * 25%, Dried corn glucose syrup *, whey powder * [MILK], Cocoa butter *, Palm oil *, Full MILK powder *, Carob powder * 2%, Dried rice syrup *, Vanilla powder *, * = Organic
The word “organic” which is supposed to indicate ethically grown, is being misused to fool the public into thinking it is making healthy choices.
Your SOW hack is sorely needed.
If anyone is following these comments, please go look at the tab above, “The Diet Hack (SOW)”. Based on the comments of some very trusted people, I took your advice and changed the name from The SOW Diet to The Diet Hack. I’m not sure I’m in love with it yet, but maybe you guys have a better idea.
The SOW Diet Hack
Maybe I think differently, but the SOW is easy to remember. The Diet Hack could mean anything. If things have too many steps, too much to remember, few people will do it. But if you can make it simple, easy to remember, people will remember it better, and will be more likely to implement it. That is certainly part of why you have found it to be successful with the people who tried it. Just my two cents.
Thanks. I feel the same way when I look at it now. Maybe the SOW Diet Hack?
When they say shop the outer perimeter of the grocery store, well today they stick all kinds of junk into the perimeters and at the checkout aisle.
I bake my own bread, 100% whole wheat with no oil or sugar. Sometimes some rye or spelt flour is substituted. Is there anything to object to in my bread? I am not sensitive to gluten
No objection at all. Even if you used sugar and oil, it would still be fine. My only objections for bread are the industrially processed white breads at the supermarket…the ones that last for weeks without getting moldy and are unnaturally soft. Or the ones labeled “wheat” bread, but still contain lots of white flour and other industrial ingredients. Or even “whole wheat” from the store that has many more ingredients that wheat, yeast, baking powder, and water.
For the purpose of the SOW diet, I’d still want you to give up even your bread, especially for the first month, but after that you could eat it again. But honestly, your bread is not a problem.
How do you make your bread? Do you have a special recipe?
I am trying to get my family on board and they rely on bread.
I use a variation of the no-knead bread technique, and if you are not familiar with that then google it. It was a revolution in bread baking.
I use 4 cups whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 2tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of water. Mix these all together in a big bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave out on the counter overnight. No kneading required! The next day you can either bake it or refrigerate for a few days. It is a soft dough. I let it rise again on parchment paper set in my large cast iron frying pan, just to give it a shape, with the dough again covered with plastic wrap. I let it rise again for two hours. Then I preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a cast iron Dutch oven inside. I lift the parchment paper with the dough into the preheated pot and cover it. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 15 minutes.
If you are not used to 100% whole wheat bread it will seem dense. Your family might prefer you to start with half and half whole wheat flour and white flour. Over time you could ease into using more whole wheat flour. The white whole wheat flour has a milder taste.
I like the SOW idea but a bit confused. On the cheat day its says 500-750 cal. Is that in addition to the 1500-1800 or instead of? Also it says on the cheat day, meat, potatoes, brown rice, beans, bananas. Does this mean you can’t eat those foods except on cheat days?
The idea is to overeat once a week. This is done by eating an extra 500-750 calories worth of meat, potatoes, rice, beans, bananas, etc. On a lot of diets, cheat days are allowed where you do not count the extra calories, and can eat whatever you like, e.g. pizza, ice cream, fast food. I think this is very bad practice. A very targeted approach is much better, eating whole foods is best.
I think your plan is spot on. I have no problem with SOW as the name. The older I get, the harder it is to lose. About 15 years ago, I just cut out flour, sugar, and bad oils and was able to lose weight without counting calories. I have tried that same protocol recently to no avail. I think that counting calories is now necessary for me as well as increasing my exercise. I have a problem sleeping issues and have not been able to overcome that issue. Since I am older, I assume that there are many problems and lots of damage associated with all those years of poor choices and poor gut health. I don’t think there is a quick fix and that the journey requires discipline and effort that lately seem to be lacking here. I’m not techy either. Thanks for breaking this down and trying to give us a plan of action.
Good stuff Tim.
A few comments
Calorie counting works. It can be a pain in the bum, but it works and with MyFitnessPal it is pretty easy. If you look at the top natural bodybuilders who get really ripped their approach is ultimately about watching the calories. Yes they monitor protein and macros etc but the bottom line is a calorie deficit if you want to lose fat.
Exercise is also so important and it all starts with daily walking. Getting in a daily 30-60 min walk is a fundamental. I like this https://www.readpt.com/number-one-fitness-activity-40s/
The cheat day in the table might need a bit of clarification that you are recommending an additional 500-750 calories.
Some people might need guidance on where in the calorie range they should put themselves.
Also when you say no wheat does that really mean no refined white flour?
Great stuff though and sensible as always.
“Also when you say no wheat does that really mean no refined white flour?”
Well, yes, but even whole wheat products are usually quite refined/processed. I think whole wheat bread is perfectly fine for most of us, on the SOW diet I think it could be beneficial to not eat any wheat products for a month or so, then add in whole wheat in healthy forms if desired.
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Thanks Tim. That makes sense
Tim, what do you know about spermidine and potatoes?
I recall looking at polyamines in potatoes, and found them to be a good source. Here’s a paper I had that might answer your questions. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022763/