My saturated fat story…
If there is one thing you should know about me it is this — I have always been a health freak and a workout queen — and I have loved every minute of it. I knew from the moment I started walking that a sitting job was never going to work for me. Thus, I think I was born to be the athlete-personal trainer-fitness-nutrition freak that I am today. You know, your basic super hero..
Fast forward a few decades to about a year ago, I was training for 3 or 4 half-marathons, a possible half Iron Man triathlon, and a few 10-hour hikes — crazy, yet normal for me at that time of my life. I thought my body was healthy, so I could do anything…right?
Nope. Unfortunately, at the end of 2010, I incurred a nasty groin strain. This was not my first injury, but this was the first injury that was absolutely relentless — and alarmingly, it was not healing. About the same time, my body started to feel chronically tired, I gained a few pounds, and I was feeling “blah” — not a good state for a fitness professional.
I went to every doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor, orthopedic professional, physical therapist, acupuncturist, voodoo-ist I could find (ok, I didn’t do voodoo, but I considered it). Each appointment would help for a bit, yet nothing seemed to completely heal me. I felt “off”, and I started to become totally frustrated. I am a nutritionist, so I knew I was eating right. I was trying to stay less active (Ok, I did the best I could — I am a trainer for God’s sake). I slept, I drank tons of water, took tons of supplements — tried everything. Yet the damn groin still hurt and I was still feeling “blah”.
This is when I stopped looking for doctors to give me answers and I started my own self-directed research. I found physiologist Dr. Ray Peat, renowned chemist and nutrition expert Dr. Lita Lee, Dr. Broda Barnes, Dr. John Lee, and Josh Rubin (a highly respected colleague of mine and holistic health practitioner). This is when I allowed my current set of beliefs on nutrition and what I believed to be “healthful” to be completely turned upside down. It’s not to say that what I was doing was “wrong” per say, it just what I was doing wasn’t working for me anymore. Sound familiar to anyone? By all health standards, I was eating the perfect diet — lean meats, tons of vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, fruits, organic protein powders, and whole food organic bars. I was eating no butter, no cheese, no milk, no sugar, no saturated fat — no fun. Yet, my current diet and lifestyle, although very healthy by most peoples’ standards, was just not working for me anymore.
For the next 8 months, I was 10 feet deep in research, human physiology, endocrinology, nutrition science — learning about thyroid issues, hormones, inflammation… science, science, science. I think I read more articles and books in the last year than I did in 4 years of college. What I realized was my body was in a chronic inflammatory state — not just from my recent injury, but from years and years of over exercising and “healthy” dieting. I say “healthy” because for years I followed the trends of dieting and thought I was eating healthfully, when in all reality, I was not.
It has only been within the last 9 years of my life that I have really understood what a healthy diet should be. And now, with all my current knowledge, it will evolve again. Yes, things change, we learn more, we get better, we apply what we learn, and we grow. The nutrition and medical industries are constantly changing. As we all know, we are learning more everyday…as to why things that were bad for us are now considered good, and things that were good for us are now considered bad. Just another reason for you to be constantly invested in your own health and well being.
I have been a fitness professional for almost 20 years now, a clinical nutritionist for 9 years, and a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach for the last 4 years. There is never a year that goes by that my practice doesn’t improve and grow. Yet this year, with all that I learned, the knowledge really changed me — it changed how I run my practice, how I live my life, how I view health, and how I eat.
I started including moderate levels of saturated fats, and then gradually increased them more. I started using healthy sugars (including cane sugar and fruit juice), and healthy proteins like grass-fed dairy (milk, cheese, cream), shell fish, gelatin, white fish, and a small amount of grass fed beef. I also began removing many other foods that are currently considered “healthy” by many, including ALL polyunsaturated fats, beans, and grains. I also cut out most nuts and some vegetables (this will be a blog for another day).
This is what happened:
Initially, I saw my weight and my cholesterol rise. Weight gain and increased cholesterol levels — that can’t be good, right? Well, let’s remember, I was in an inflamed state (from chronic overtraining), and the cholesterol was being released to allow me to heal. The additional weight was also in response to trying to heal my metabolism — a metabolism that was damaged from years of overtraining and under-nourishing (omitting saturated fat and the right sugars, and eating far less than my body really needed). In a matter of 3 months, while I allowed my body to heal, my cholesterol dropped over 40 points, my body weight dropped back to normal, and I started to feel that everything was right in the world again (no more “blah” feeling) — all while eating over 2000 to 2200 calories and 50-100g of fat a day (most of that being saturated fat). Interesting, huh?
Yes, I lost body fat while eating anywhere from 50-100g. grams of fat a day, while exercising less than I had in the last 10 years of my life. I never made all the planned runs or the half Iron Man. Yet, I’m sure it was for the best, as my body has almost fully healed. In all honesty, it may take years for my body to fully recover from my HIGH activity level and damaged metabolism.
Believe it or not, most highly active individuals have a damaged metabolism, yet most don’t understand this. They believe it is age that is affecting their metabolism. The truth is, all things that are stressful to your body, including exercise, can affect your metabolism negatively. Once again, this does not mean you should not exercise. It just means do the right type of exercise, for the right amount of time, and at the right intensity for YOUR needs so that you can get better, rather than worse.
Ok, where was I? Right — saturated fat…
Now, I am not telling you to go out and eat tons of butter, cream, and cheese to try and lose weight and get healthy. You need to have an understanding as to how, when, and what types of saturated fats you should be eating. Plus, there is a lot more to healing your metabolism that just eating saturated fats. Is it ok to eat all these things? Absolutely! Should you start eating 100 grams of saturated fat like I do without understanding what you are doing? Probably not. Saturated fat is a very powerful nutrient. If the proper types are used, in the right amounts, with the right combination of protein and carbs, you can have not only a healing nutrient, but a nutrient that will actually allow you to enjoy rich, great tasting food again.
For those of you who have asked, here is a typical day of eating for me:
Two whole eggs cooked in 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup of OJ and 1/2 cup of well cooked russet potatoes (with butter)
Coffee with 1/4 cup whole milk, 1 tsp cane sugar, and 1 tbsp gelatin
6 oz.Orange juice, 1 tbsp gelatin protein, and 3 pieces of 85% organic dark chocolate
1 medium carrot with 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil
3 oz grass-fed beef, 1 cup of bone broth, 2 cups of squash cooked in 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil
Salad: Tomato, cucumber, onion with parmesan cheese, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar
Shake: 1 cup of raw whole milk, ½ cup of fruit, 2 tbsp of gelatin, 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
4 oz wild cod cooked in 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil
2 cups of cooked fruit (cooked in butter and cinnamon), 1/4 cup ricotta cheese,
1 cup of cooked peppers and onions with 1 tsp butter
1 glass of 2% milk, ½ cup of OJ, dash of salt
Now, this is a typical day. The calories may increase or decrease due to stress, workout load, and work load. Or I may just want some ice cream (yes, I eat that too…Hagan Daz only…no additives). Personally, I monitor my diet weekly to make sure I am constantly running at an optimal level (I do this by measuring my pulse, body temperature, and get frequent blood/lab work*).
*No need for you to do as much lab work as me, I do it for research purposes only.
The end result is my body feels better. I used to be in a constant state of achiness. I honestly thought it was normal because of all the activity in my life. I lived with aches and pains every day. I never complained. I never really felt “bad” — I guess I just got used to the achy feeling. Do you do that? Would you like to feel better?
At the end of the day, I consider myself a trainer, a nutritionist, and a constant researcher. I read at least 1 to 2 hours every night, more on the weekends, and even more on vacation. I love to learn and I love to share with all of you what I am doing, what I am learning, and how it can help you. My goal is to always get better, to help all of you get better, and to live a long, healthy life of prosperity, happiness, and joy.
Your Optimal Health Coach,
“Disclaimer: I am an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, nutritional and lifestyle coach, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat or claim to prevent, mitigate or cure any human disease or physical problem. I do not provide diagnosis, care treatment or rehabilitation of individuals, nor apply medical, mental health or human development principles. I do not prescribe prescription drugs nor do I tell you to discontinue them. I provide physical and dietary suggestions to improve health and wellness and to nourish and support normal function and structure of the body. If you suspect any disease please consult your physician.”