Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fat is your friend

Brace yourselves, this is a doozie.

Somehow, I'm all of a sudden a health (Paleo) nut.  But, the more and more and more I read, the  more and more and more convinced I am of this lifestyle's health benefits.  That's not to say I'm not going to cheat when this lockdown is over... oh, I will.  I will also probably regret it, because once your body rids itself of the crap, when you eat it again, you feel sick and then hungover the next day.

But, I digress... that's not what this post is about... this is about fat and how YOUR BODY NEEDS FAT.  That's right, F-A-T, FAT!  That dreaded word that American society has come to believe is what makes you fat.  Errrrrrrr (that's my buzzer sound) - incorrect.  Fat does not make you fat.  Your body needs fat to perform its basic functions.  And, by fat, I don't mean a super sized "value" meal from a fast food chain.  Let's go back to the basics, shall we?

As mentioned previously, there are three (yep, just three) food groups that your body needs to function: PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES, and FAT.  In review, below are examples of foods that fall into these categories.

PROTEIN: eggs, poultry, beef, pork, fish (basically, lean meats... it's okay for them to have fat, you just don't want to be eating a chunk of fat for dinner... so, maybe stay away from the pork belly most of the time... but it's soooooo good)
CARBS: veggies and fruits.  period.  NO GRAINS OR SUGARS!  (emphasis on green veggies and fruits with lower glycemic loads)
FATS: olives, coconuts, avocados, nuts and seeds (peanuts are not a nut, FYI)

Each meal you eat should contain all three of those food groups.  Nuts and seeds are the easiest ways to get fats, but the first three should be your main sources.  Of course, that includes their oil counterparts.

The usual American definition of carbohydrates includes grains and sugar.  Your body treats both of these the same way... it sends a message to your brain to store fat.  Too little fat in your diet also does the same thing.  Because your body relies on fat (and even cholesterol... gasp) for basic bodily functions, it doesn't like it when it doesn't get enough and therefore holds on to it as a life preserving mechanism (this has a lot to do with insulin, as well, so my version is quite simplified).  If you read the extremely long article I posted a week ago, you'll find that when the US government starting recommending a low fat (therefore, high carb... grain/sugar definition of carb) diet in the early 80s, obesity and the incidence of type-2 diabetes began to skyrocket.  I highly recommend reading at least the first few pages, but really, read the whole thing.  It's good. 

From the article, "With these caveats, one of the few reasonably reliable facts about the obesity epidemic is that it started around the early 1980's. According to Katherine Flegal, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, the percentage of obese Americans stayed relatively constant through the 1960's and 1970's at 13 percent to 14 percent and then shot up by 8 percentage points in the 1980's. By the end of that decade, nearly one in four Americans was obese. That steep rise, which is consistent through all segments of American society and which continued unabated through the 1990's, is the singular feature of the epidemic. Any theory that tries to explain obesity in America has to account for that. Meanwhile, overweight children nearly tripled in number. And for the first time, physicians began diagnosing Type 2 diabetes in adolescents. Type 2 diabetes often accompanies obesity. It used to be called adult-onset diabetes and now, for the obvious reason, is not.

So how did this happen? The orthodox and ubiquitous explanation is that we live in what Kelly Brownell, a Yale psychologist, has called a ''toxic food environment'' of cheap fatty food, large portions, pervasive food advertising and sedentary lives. By this theory, we are at the Pavlovian mercy of the food industry, which spends nearly $10 billion a year advertising unwholesome junk food and fast food. And because these foods, especially fast food, are so filled with fat, they are both irresistible and uniquely fattening. On top of this, so the theory goes, our modern society has successfully eliminated physical activity from our daily lives. We no longer exercise or walk up stairs, nor do our children bike to school or play outside, because they would prefer to play video games and watch television. And because some of us are obviously predisposed to gain weight while others are not, this explanation also has a genetic component -- the thrifty gene. It suggests that storing extra calories as fat was an evolutionary advantage to our Paleolithic ancestors, who had to survive frequent famine. We then inherited these ''thrifty'' genes, despite their liability in today's toxic environment.

This theory makes perfect sense and plays to our puritanical prejudice that fat, fast food and television are innately damaging to our humanity. But there are two catches. First, to buy this logic is to accept that the copious negative reinforcement that accompanies obesity -- both socially and physically -- is easily overcome by the constant bombardment of food advertising and the lure of a supersize bargain meal. And second, as Flegal points out, little data exist to support any of this. Certainly none of it explains what changed so significantly to start the epidemic. Fast-food consumption, for example, continued to grow steadily through the 70's and 80's, but it did not take a sudden leap, as obesity did.

As far as exercise and physical activity go, there are no reliable data before the mid-80's, according to William Dietz, who runs the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control; the 1990's data show obesity rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common. Dietz also acknowledged that a culture of physical exercise began in the United States in the 70's -- the ''leisure exercise mania,'' as Robert Levy, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, described it in 1981 -- and has continued through the present day."

Interesting, right?

One of the things that our body craves is Omega 3 Fatty Acids.  Omega 3s come primarily from animal fats and are severely lacking in our food supply with the exception of deep or coldwater fishes.  They are not found in most of our other protein supplies, because our cows, chickens and pigs are fed diets which they aren't meant to eat - grains and corn.  Cows are made to turn grass into Omega 3s, but not grain or corn.  Chickens in the wild eat bugs and stuff, not grain and corn.  So, when you see that advertising on your chicken and eggs that says "vegeterian fed", whipty freakin doo.  This is why it is important to by free range (not cage free, again, have you seen Food Inc?) chickens and grass fed beef.  Although they may still be getting some grains (like cows in the winter in colder climates and chickens are probably still fed grains but can pluck bugs and whatnot from the ground when they want to), they're at least getting some of what they should eat. 

But, since that can often be expensive and hard to find, AND you don't want to consume a ton of fish because of mercury risks, this is where fish oil comes into play.  A good quality fish oil is purified of heavy metals and provides your daily needs of Omega 3s.  Because this is already long enough, I won't go into a ton of detail as to the benefits of Omega 3s (in the form of EPA and DHA)... Dr. Google can tell you all about that, but it helps things like cholesterol, inflammation (arthritis), exzema/other skin issues, hair/nail growth, fetal development, energy and triglyceride levels.  Unless you have a blood clotting disorder, I've been hard pressed to find any real risks (so long as your fish oil is pure).  I found this one yesterday, which I will be purchasing next time.  If you do nothing else, research the benefits of fish oil, talk to your doctor, and start taking it.

My advice - reduce or eliminate grains and sugar from your life and increase protein, fat, and veg/fruit.  Start slow... no grains/sugar at dinner or breakfast or lunch... whatever, and work your way there.  Try it for a short period of time (30 days) and see how you feel.  Watch as your body leans out even while you're consuming fat.  Wait until I'm done with the lockdown, and see my results for yourself.  I'm getting bloodwork done tomorrow morning, and I had bloodwork done in October, so it will be interesting to see if there's any difference after a week and a half.  But, the real kicker will be the results toward the end of February.  You can all throw pie in my face if I don't lose fat and see improvement in triglycerides and cholesterol.  Nine days in, and I'm feeling great.  Of course, the weekend will be the real test again... and I'm going out to eat twice!  But, now I KNOW I can do it... shoot, it's so easy, even a caveman could do it.  Hahahahahaha.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

I agree again! I've been writing on my own blog this week about different ingredients in our foods and how they affect us. Glad to see someone else out there gets it!