Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fat is Good

A few years ago, I dumped the margarine and started eating real butter.  I can't remember why.  I just vaguely remember thinking, this shit doesn't even taste good so why do I bother?  (I also gave up diet soda years before it became trendy since it gave me headaches....I guess I should just try to listen to my body more often.)

When I was still doing Weight Watchers yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears ago, my least successful run was during their "fat and fiber" program.  They wanted you to eat under ten grams of fat and over ten grams of fiber.  Follow their simple plan and voila!  You get...fatter.  Because everyone just substituted fat-free foods, which were chock full of sugar.  I could eat 100 fat-free cookies because they had no fat in them.  Suddenly, Weight Watchers started preaching "everything in moderation" and that huge failure lead to the development of their points system. 

Soon I will blog about the ickiness of sugar (don't worry, I'm not fully giving it up but I am learning a lot about what it has been doing to my insides) but today I wanted to talk about fat (although sugar does kind of tie in, since sugar is used as a substitute when companies make foods "fat-free"). 

I started doing nutrition counseling with my friend, Ellen, about a month ago.  "Dieting" is always so dangerous for me.  One wrong step, and I trigger a full blown binge episode that leaves me 20 pounds heavier in a month or less.  I have entered this arena very carefully because I can't afford to gain any more weight. 

The first thing Ellen had me do was track my food for three days and write down how I felt after I ate.  Not shockingly, I got very tired after I ate sugar.  And I ate a lot of sugar (Ellen commented how sugar-heavy my diet was, and I had actually cut out a lot of sugar on those days because I was embarrassed to write down how much sugary crap I was actually eating on a regular basis!).  Anyway, I already KNOW I get tired after I eat sugar, but having to write it down and actually connect the dots really made me realize how sugar affects me.  It makes me so sick, yet I fill myself up with it every day, all day.  Suddenly, I realized, if I re-framed things, I could deal with them better.  Sugar wasn't being taken away from me.  I was choosing to just eat less of it.  Binge avoided.  For now.

Anyway, Ellen is asking me to create balanced meals.  40% carbs.  30% fat.  30% protein.  I have small goals I'm currently working on.  Make my meals at home (I really needed to cut out the fast food).  Chew more (thanks to the gastric bypass, I have very little stomach acid, so inhaling my food isn't good).  Drink lemon water before my meals to help with digestion.  And don't be afraid of fat.  I have been working so hard on creating that balance, but have actually ended up with a VERY fat-laden diet in the last month.  Not French fry fats.  Olive oil.  Coconut oil.  Nuts.  Butter.  "Good fats." 

That can't be good for me, right?  Well, it certainly doesn't seem to be bad for me!  I'm not supposed to be worrying about losing weight but I have actually dropped a few pounds in the almost month that I have been focusing on eating this way. 

Ellen posted a great article in our nutrition group on Facebook, which talks about the sugar/fat connection:

"So let's not kid ourselves anymore about what's really making us fat. Sugar is the leading culprit today in causing inflammation. Here are some specific stats from an article printed in February 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], which are worth sharing: [2]
  • Sugar is connected to an increased risk of heart attack and dementia, as well as other inflammatory diseases, such as insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver problems, arthritis, reduction in beneficial HDL cholesterol, increase in triglycerides, and cancer.
  • Those with the highest sugar intake had a 400 percent higher risk of heart attack than those with the lowest intake of sugar. Note the current recommendation by the American Heart Association: One's daily intake of sugar should be only 5-7.5 percent of one's total caloric intake.
  • It takes only one 20-ounce soda to increase your risk of heart attack by 30 percent.
  • If you consume 20 percent of your calories from sugar, your risk of heart attack doubles."
. . . . .
"We also need a good deal of healthy fats, like coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and yes -- saturated fat from animal sources. The best sources of animal fat are eggs, grass-fed and organically-raised chickens and beef, buffalo, and wild-caught fish. You can still be a vegetarian, of course. Just make sure you are no longer eating under the influence of the "low-fat police." Because the lack of satisfaction you get from low-fat foods will almost certainly turn into a sugar binge somewhere down the road."

Here's another article echoing the same sentiment:

"We all need some fat in our diet, not least because it makes our food more palatable and tasty. Nutritionally, fats do more than simply supply calories. Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids (including the omega-3 variety). These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system. The fat in our diet also helps us absorb certain vitamins, the fat-soluble ones, which include A, D, E and K. Following a very low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body's ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health. It's better to focus your diet on the healthier fats by including more fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils including avocado and olive. Here's how to make your meals naturally fat-healthy..."

And one more article:

"One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease."

I have been using the app, My Fitness Pal, to track my food.  Yes, it tracks calories, which feels all too much like a diet, but Ellen has told me not to worry about that.  It does give me a really cool pie chart so I can see if I'm hitting my 40-30-30 goal.  So my personal goals will continue to be making my food at home and getting more protein in.  But otherwise, I don't feel like I'm on a diet at all.  I don't feel like I'm going against Health At Every Size, since MY body needs to be nourished better and I have spent a lot of years depriving it of that.  I am focusing on taking care of myself, and eating right and exercising are very important pieces of the puzzle!