The Perfect Horse Show Diet

In Food

When Elisa and I met, I weighed 165 lbs. I worked out six days a week and rode my bicycle to school (I was a doctoral student at Emory University). I had not eaten fast food in years. I had a six pack.

Fast-forward seven years. I got a job, got married, and moved out to the farm. Change in work and lifestyle have meant less time for the gym and more time behind a desk. Elisa and I also have very different nutritional needs. As one of the world’s top three day eventers, she is always moving. I’m not. She needs to consume far more calories than I do, but I remember those extreme gym days and still think I need to eat as much and as often as I used to.

Weight tracked using the Withings Body Cardio Smart Scale

You know the famous race horse Secretariat? I heard once that he had to eat an incredible amount while competing. After retirement, he continued to be fed the same amount. He grew fat, which tragically caused laminitis, and had to be put down. Over the past few years, I’ve felt a little like Secretariat.

The horse show lifestyle can represent some non-trivial challenges for a horse husband. Horse women may be athletes, but they almost universally eat like crap. Remember how I had gone years without eating fast food? That changed after meeting Elisa. Part of the problem stems from how difficult it is to eat well while traveling with a trailer in tow. At horse shows, everything is either fried or out of a bag. It’s not easy getting fat eating the same stuff as your incredibly fit wife.

What are the basic conditions of a diet that fits the horse husband lifestyle?

  • It has to be easy
  • it has to be portable
  • it has to be flexible

I recently started a program that is working really well.  I’ve lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, and (without trying to sound too much like an infomercial) it’s been easy.  It’s called the slow carb diet.

The ‘rules’ of the slow carb diet are super simple, and incredibly easy to follow, even while eating out and traveling (good for horse shows, and also for business travel):

  1. Avoid ‘white’ carbohydrates (basically, avoid wheat, rice, potatoes, etc.  Eat legumes instead)
  2. Eat the same few meals over and over again (optional, but makes following the rules a lot easier)
  3. Don’t drink calories
  4. Don’t eat fruit (only veggies)
  5. Take one day off per week and ‘go nuts’

What I like about this is that it’s not totally insane.  At most restaurants (including fast food) you can substitute fries for salad or vegetables (Mexican restaurants are the best).  At horse shows, you can easily BYOB (bring your own beans).  At a horse show, you want to bring food that doesn’t require a refrigerator.  Cans are great.  Beans come in cans.  So do vegetables.  Meat does too (if you’re desperate).

What I also like is that the diet permits up to two glasses of red wine per day, and a little thing I’ve heard referred to as ‘faterday.’  Horse Shows take place over the weekend.  This diet REQUIRES you to eat anything and everything you want, as much as you want, for one day a week.  What this means is that all that greasy horse show food and tasty horse show beer is completely allowed…if it’s on a Saturday.

The slow food diet just makes sense to me.  It’s ironic how interested horse people are in the gastro-intestinal health of their equine companions, and how little concerned they can be for their own.  The high quantity of dark leafy greens and legumes encouraged by this diet is really good for intestinal flora.  I also like the fact that eating this way is really good for energy maintenance.  Blood sugar spikes from simple (‘white’) carbs lead to peaks and valley in energy levels throughout the day.  This affects both mood and productivity.  With the slow carb diet, these spikes can be pretty much eliminated.  For horse husbands who also travel a lot for business and know how challenging it can be to stick to a diet while on the road.

For more details about the slow carb diet, check out The 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferriss

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