Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Fat: good or evil?

I suppose it depends on who you ask, right? We've been indoctrinated for years that low-fat diets are the way to go, yet look at our nation. Obesity rates are climbing, and drug companies are working on how to market statins for kids.

So is low-fat the way to go? For awhile there was a huge low-carb craze, with Dr. Atkins and South Beach. I admit to trying South Beach before my wedding, and I lost 9 lbs in two weeks, which was enough to look good in my wedding dress. But that seemed to fizzle out, and low-fat was back in, at least, so it has seemed to me. I couldn't do South Beach again, even though I tried that.

I've tried Weight Watchers, at least in principle, except I didn't go to meetings, and failed miserably. I was always starving. I did Slim-Fast, wherein I lost 60 lbs, but now I yo-yo around the bottom half of that, and could never commit to it again (I tried). What on earth was I doing wrong?

I've flirted with vegetarianism. I never got there completely, but I was eating vegetarian/veg*n about 50% of the time, sometimes more. I thought that maybe if I ate more vegetables and less meat, I would do better weight-wise and be a healthier person. When Evan and I went on vacation, we tried a week-long detox wherein we ate mostly vegan except for an omelet we made one day. Bsides the relaxation, you would have thought I would have lost weight and felt great. Hah! No.

Then I applied for life insurance. Rhea was about 6 months old, and we wanted to be responsible adults. So they sent the nurse to come weigh us and take some blood. But when I got my results, I was floored! My cholesterol was through the roof, and a whole bunch of other things were off too. What on earth was wrong with me? I had been eating healthy in preparation for Rhea's arrival, starting with when we were planning her up until that point. I went to my new PCP, who wanted to test my thyroid, which had been slightly wonky before, but not enough for red flags on the part of MDs. When those results came back, we knew why I was such a mess: my thyroid was failing. Not just a little, mind you. I truly think that if I had waited much longer, I would have gone into a coma from lack of thyroid hormones.

So what happened to me? I'm not entirely sure, but certainly a combo of things. Besides the added stresses to my body and soul in my personal and work life, pregnancy and nursing (the latter still ongoing) take a lot out of a person, and can leave a woman undernourished. And undernourishment can cause a whole host of problems, including a crashing thyroid, I believe. My cholesterol was high because of the crashing thyroid and to support the needs of my daughter during pregnancy and nursing.

Fast forward some time. I'm on thyroid meds, but I'm still not quite there. I did start exploring the idea of Traditional Foods, through a forum on MotheringDotCommunity, the natural parenting website I've been a member of since way before Rhea was conceived. They have influenced quite a bit of my thinking on parenthood, and now diet, too. Anyway, one of the big deals with Traditional Foods is to no longer fear FAT*. I had been drinking skim milk, and using Smart Balance or Earth Balance instead of real butter, and not going too crazy wth the cheese and animal fat (I couldn't give up on chicken skin, though that was a rare indulgence), and I thought I was doing all the right things. Well, I don't think so anymore.

So since I've been embracing Traditional Foods, though I'm definitely still a novice, I've started to feel better. I've lost a little weight, too, though only about 7 lbs thus far, though I defnitely have to watch my grain intake also and keep that to a minimum (a discussion for another post). But here's the crazy part: I use tons of animal fat, and when I'm cooking vegetarian, I use coconut oil and full fat coconut milk. If fat was truly the problem, I should have ballooned by now. But I often have eggs and bacon for breakfast, or full fat Greek yogurt. Mayonnaise often makes appearances, and that's full fat, too. I always eat chicken skin, especially crispy.

Now mind you, I do try to get my meat, milk, and eggs from the best sources I can find. Unfortunately grain fed cows and chickens are not only not optimal from a nutriton standpoint, but their fat is more toxin-filled. I'd like to avoid toxins and support sustainable agriculture. How nice that it all works together so nicely.

The true test will be when I get my cholesterol looked at again. If it goes down, and I've continued to lose weight and feel better, then I will be absolutely thrilled.

*Future posts will cover what kinds of fat I mean. But for now, trans fat (except naturally occuring CLA) and polyunsaturated fats are still not good in my opinion. But saturated fat is not the demon it's made out to be in the media.

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