Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Addressing Fat Phobia

I found myself writing a really long response to a comment on my "Shouldn't we be fat by now?" entry, and decided I should just post it here for everyone to read. This reader was saying she is having a hard time accepting the idea that animal fats do not make people fat. My response is this:

This is something most Americans have a really hard time with because we have been so thoroughly brainwashed about fat, cholesterol, obesity, etc. I, too, was a die-hard no-saturated-fat person for a very long time. It took me a while -and some dubious experimenting- to become convinced. Now I have learned some things about this from personal experience and would like to share them with you.

First of all, I think one of the main reasons enjoying animal fats (the right amount for your body) works is that they are SO much more satisfying and filling than the salads and low-fat foods most of us are trying to eat, so it prevents the "cheating" that usually happens, esp. for women. In the past, even when letting myself eat pretty much whatever I wanted (I mainly ate "healthy," though, meaning low-fat foods and small quantities) I would still have a LOT of episodes where I would kind of go a little crazy and splurge on cheese fries or a Boston cream donut (and would inevitably want another one afterward). While I didn't struggle with guilt over these things I knew they weren't doing my body any good, especially since I was facing issues like daily hypoglycemic episodes, mood swings, and acne. I have now learned that generally when we are eating a diet that is in line with what our bodies really need (in terms of the right balance of fats/carbs/protein, and all the requisite vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc.) we will feel pretty good, balanced, and energetic with no significant weird cravings. So my cravings were a sign that something was out of balance; for me there was a big deficiency in animal fats in my diet and eating things like greasy fried foods from time to time was not doing the trick (perhaps b/c the frying fats are of vegetable origin -- another very unhealthy modern food, more on that later). Now when I start craving things like French fries, mozzarella sticks, and Popeyes fried chicken I know it is time for me to have some red meat (chicken and fish will not suffice). If I acknowledge this craving and honor it -not by eating the junky foods I think I want, but by digging deeper and finding out what's underneath the craving- then it fixes me up perfectly and I am usually satisfied with one small serving. Case in point: Hugo and I ate mostly vegetarian last week and were a little low on food by the weekend since I hadn't been able to get to the farmers' market. By Saturday night I was dying for a steak but didn't want to eat conventional meat at a local restaurant, so instead we succumbed to the lure of Popeyes (the steak probably would have been a better choice). My stomach didn't feel too great after eating so I drank some kefir which helped a lot, but basically I was unsatisfied because I knew this meal was not deeply nourishing in the way I needed -and in fact pretty gross when you consider how the chickens were raised and everything else surrounding this meal- but I really felt a strong pull to fats and protein and had to give in. The next day I still had a craving for steak so defrosted a small grass-fed pot roast from the Union Square Greenmarket and cooked it with lots of butter, carrots, onions, potatoes, and some fresh thyme. I ravenously ate a plate of the veggies and about a 1/3 lb. serving of the meat and then felt totally satisfied. It's been two days and I still feel great from that one meal - in fact, yesterday I had only oatmeal and a vegetarian dinner and felt really good and energetic. Which leads me to the next point...

I have also noticed I'm not eating as much or nearly as often as I used to, but feeling fuller, more energetic, more balanced (I used to get very irritable very frequently), and healthier; my skin has totally cleared up, my hair is getting thicker again, I don't have hypoglycemic episodes, etc. So I am actually eating more richly but staying slim and feeling less food-obsessed by not restricting my eating...does this make sense? For example, I used to want cheese ALL the time -- mac & cheese, grilled cheese, etc. Now I hardly eat cheese, except for cottage cheese now and then, occasional cheese & crackers, or some fresh mozz on Italian dishes. It's not something I crave anymore because I am getting the whole milk, butter, and occasional red meat I need. Interesting how this works. I also used to crave carbs a lot and would make white pasta and homemade baked goods and things like garlic bread on a regular basis. I would crave decaf coffee with lots of cream and sugar; for a while there I was getting one a few times a week. Now I have totally natural homemade raw milk ice cream maybe once a week, all the butter and whole milk I want (the latter mainly just on my breakfast cereal), and very little pasta or baked items. The main thing to remember with this, though, is that I AM NOT DEPRIVING MYSELF. When I start to want foods that I know are bad for me then I have to re-evaluate my recent diet, level of fatigue, and any stressors, and figure out what I really need to be properly nourished and satisfied. This is a no guilt way of eating, and it is ultimately a healthy and effective way to maintain an appropriate weight. The key is finding what works for your unique physiological makeup and lifestyle. Of course, if you are eating for emotional reasons that is a separate issue -- and a topic for a later post. Please weigh in and tell me what you think about all this!

1 comment:

  1. This is really very interesting. Thank you for sharing.