Health. Primal Nutrition. Exercise. Motherhood. Sustainability & Creating various things.

How Dietary Fat Improved My Health (yes, you read it right)

We live in the era of the Low-Fat diet. Simultaneously, we live in the era of obesity,heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Suspiciously, our Great-Grandparents who enjoyed cooking with Lard and ate Bacon and Eggs for breakfast were a generation relatively free from the effects of these diseases. Instead, as our generation eats their low fat cereal and sips at Trim Lattes, the rates of these common diseases soar. These lethal conditions of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes are rampant in our society and not showing even the slightest hint of decline. If the Low-fat diet is as effective as the media portrays why are the rates of these modern diseases climbing?

I've tried the low-fat diet. At the time I wouldn't have classified myself as being overweight though, I was competing as a lightweight single sculler in the sport of Rowing, this meant I needed to keep my weight down, regardless of my bodies composition in order to meet the weight limit of my races. During my efforts to eat low-fat I was plagued by a number of maladies that I now realize were caused by a combination of my low-fat diet and long endurance training sessions these included: constant hunger, frequent colds and flu, depression, chronic headaches, lethargy, high levels of cortisol in my blood (caused by stress), deficiency in Vitamin D  and Amenorrhoea. Was I successful? well that depends what you call success, I achieved the number I needed to have on the scales but I wasn't what I would consider lean and I definitely was not what I would consider healthy.

One of the first things I did when I decided to try the Primal way of eating, was to add back the fat to my diet and lot's of it. While the typical dieter would cringe at the thought of butter, cream, full fat milk, avocado, nuts, chicken skin and pork crackling I was devouring the lot! waking up my poor neglected taste buds, replenishing both my nutrient starved body AND mind and looking at the clock in astonishment as I would go for 4 or more hours without even the slightest pang of hunger.  Now, I will forgive you if  you think that this type of eating sent me on a downward spiral towards a life of chubbiness and feeling breathless walking up the stairs, since it is the complete and utter opposite way of eating that a health conscience individual would strive towards, I had my hesitations too. But I did some reading on the subject and felt confident that is was worth at least a try. This is why….

1. Fat does not induce an insulin response. Since excess insulin is what promotes fat storage,I would not risk gaining body fat.

2. Fat makes you feel full, which means that I would not overeat or feel the need to snack on sweet foods in between meals. This would help the constant hunger that I was experiencing.

3. Fat aids the digestion of the Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. This would improve my Vitamin D deficiency naturally, which in turn would help my depression and immunity since I was experiencing frequent colds and flu.

4. Fat is needed for digestion. In Nina Planck's book 'Real Food: What to Eat and Why' she states that "Without Fat, digestion literally fails and you starve, even if you are eating plenty of food". Again, dietary fat would help the constant hunger that I was experiencing.

5. The human brain and nerves are made of 60% fat. Which would mean improvements in my chronic headaches and depression.

After a month of eating like a primal cave woman, fat and all! EVERY one of my previous complaints mysteriously vanished and  I was setting new records almost weekly at the gym. As for my body composition, I will not lie and say I was lighter than my rowing days or that I was now sporting a six pack. I was a few kilos heavier than when I was rowing, a direct result of muscle gain from lifting weights but my body fat was, at an educated guess, the same as when I was training up to four hours a day and eating a low fat diet (taking into account that I was nursing my first baby at this time and adequate fat stores were still vital for this time of life).

Here are some of the small ways that I now get fat into my diet everyday:

 - A put a big Tablespoon of coconut oil into my smoothies (interestingly the times when I have run out of coconut oil my breakfast smoothie doesn't get me through until lunchtime and I need to have a morning snack)

 - I add lots of Avocado and Olive Oil to Salads

 - I snack on nuts

 - I cook with butter - YUM!

 - I eat chicken with the skin on

 - I no longer trim the excess fat on meat

 - I use cream and Full-Fat dairy products such as Greek Yogurt


alex said...

God, it is so frustrating trying to explain to people in this country that fat doesn't make you fat and sick - its all the other awful crap they eat. They just don't understand. "It's fat free so it must be good for me! Let's eat more skinless tasteless chicken and some whole wheat pasta ! " great post Emma.

Emma said...

Thanks Alex, I agree "Fat Free" isn't a natural or healthy way to be eating.