My Diet

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve finally started losing the weight I somehow never lost from being pregnant with Harris.  (He’s 15 months old…. that’s kinda sad that I’m just now losing it!)  I’ve said here and on Facebook how this is the easiest and greatest way I’ve ever lost weight before, and I’ve had several people ask me more questions about the details, so I’m gonna go into a bit more detail on what I’m doing.

And please know… I really don’t mean this in a “I’m super woman who knows all the answers of weight loss and I’m losing weight, nanny nanny boo-boo!!!” kind of way.  Seriously.  And I also don’t want anything I say to be a discouragement to someone who might have a few more pounds to take off than I have (I’ve lost 8 and I have about 5 more to go before my pre-pregnancy weight which is my immediate goal).  Losing weight can be a hard and very depressing process, so I please know that my hope is to be an encouragement to anyone who is looking for answers and not an opportunity to make you feel bad about yourself.

I don’t have everything figured-out, and I don’t want to pretend to.  We all have our own unique challenges, especially when it comes to dietary needs.  I have, however, been researching this for the past 5 months or so (and if you know me, you know how I love to research things!!!), and I feel like I’ve come across some pretty great answers and I’m starting to see results in my own body.  I know this sounds cheesey, but literally, I’m so excited about the way I’m eating now and I feel like it could really solve a lot of people’s problems, that I just can’t stop talking about it!  I’m not trying to set myself up as a diet guru, I’m just really convinced that this is one of the healthiest and most enjoyable way to eat.  I’m intellectually convinced by the myriad of books, articles, blogs, etc.. I’ve read in the past few months, and I’m personally convinced by the way that I feel and my progress of fat loss.  So… I will now share.

My secret:  Butter!  Lots and lots of butter!

No, really.

Well, butter among other wonderful things like avocados, cheese, bacon, meat, coconut oil, olive oil, cream….

So, here’s the deal.  Here’s what I’m not eating:

Anything processed. (anything in a bag or with a list of ingredients)

Any kind of vegetable or soybean oil.

High-fructose corn syrup.

Refined sugar. (ok, this one is really a work in progress because I have a HUGE sweet tooth!!!  My realistic goal, though, is to return sweets to their proper place as an every once-in awhile treat instead of an every day thing.  I’ve still been eating desserts a few times a week, though, I think that’s too much.  I’m working on it, but this is the hardest part for me!!!)

Grains– Yes, any grains. I’ve had some a handful of times, usually just when I’m at someone else’s house, and I’m totally fine with that.  But on a daily basis, I’m avoiding them.  So that does mean no pasta, rice, or bread…. and while that has taken some creativity in figuring-out what I’m going to eat, it’s really just a habit change and hasn’t been that bad for me at all.  Granted, I’m not someone who is addicted to those things, I’m a sugar addict.  So for you it might be way harder to give up bread than to give up sugar.  But for me, this really hasn’t been that big of a deal, it’s more of a logistical thing.

So what am I eating?

Pretty much everything else!  Right now I’m eating a salad (without lettuce… we’re out of lettuce.  Normally, there would be lettuce.) of cucumbers, cheese, avocado, and shredded turkey with balsamic vinaigrette.

Here’s my typical daily menu:

Breakfast: Eggs with lots of butter.  Sometimes a piece of cheese.  Coffee with whole milk.

Lunch: A big salad (really, it’s kind of huge):  Lettuce, cheese, any leftover meat we might have, almost always a whole avocado, and any other veggies floating around my fridge.  I’m really stuck right now on my homemade balsamic vinaigrette (That word is so hard to spell!  I had to google the spelling!)  which is just extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar and whatever spices I throw in there.  I pour a LOT on my salad.  Like, probably half a cup.

Dinner: It’s almost always some type of meat and a few veggie sides cooked in lots of butter, coconut oil, or olive oil.    Again, it’s been a mindset change to not make some form of grain as a side item, but I’ve been able to let that go fairly easily.

So right now I bet some of you are thinking, “Wait a minute… this sounds like a low-carb diet!  She’s doing Atkins!  But we all know that Atkins was a quack and that a diet that high in saturated fat is dangerous for your heart!  She’s been scammed by the low-carb fad, what an idiot!”   (OK, hopefully you don’t think I’m an idiot, but I’m sure some of you might!)

Don’t worry.  I’ve done my homework.  And in fact, Atkins wasn’t crazy.  He was actually kind of a genius who was a trailblazer in obesity studies and weight loss, though he was crucified for his work in the medical community because it didn’t fit with the status quo.   And his teachings on how fat gain is directly related to carbohydrate intake are absolutely correct and have been embraced worldwide by a small sector of those who study obesity and nutrition.  And he really didn’t make all this up, the idea of carbs making you fat used to be common knowledge until Ancel Keyes began the low-fat revolution in the 1950’s, Atkins was just the one who popularized this paradigm of nutrition to the modern general public.

One of the biggest eye openers for me was reading Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories.  Taubes is a scientific reporter who has pretty much been the only one to consolidate all the scientific research in this area from the past over 100 years, from all areas of medicine, into one volume.  And what has the research overwhelmingly pointed to?  The fact that it’s not natural saturated fats like butter and red meat that’s responsible for heart disease and obesity in America, the culprits are carbohydrates (particularly refined) and sugar.  There is literally no scientific evidence that can prove that fat makes you fat or damages your heart, it’s pretty much been a theory that took-off due to academic pressure and research studies paid for by pharmaceutical companies who make statin drugs.

In fact, I believe that healthy fats, and plenty of them, are my secret weapon to weight loss!  (and that my heart is healthier than when I was eating less fat and lots of carbs)  I was hesitant at first, but the more and more I read the same biological information for how fats work in our body, I embraced the butter.  And I have never felt better!  I literally try to sneak-in extra fat in my diet wherever I can find it while drastically reducing my carbohydrates. I’m gonna write some more posts with more of the scientific information in it, but let me just tell you a couple things about why I love a high fat diet:

My hunger is totally lessened and regulated.  Before eating like this, I probably ate like most Americans with a diet of several hundred grams of carbohydrates a day, usually from decent sources of whole grains.  It has been my lifelong experience of eating a meal and then feeling hungry two hours later.  And not just hungry, ravenous!  Wandering around my kitchen, staring into the fridge thinking, “I just ate!  How can I still be hungry?  I need to hold myself off longer, no wonder I can’t lose weight!”  And it didn’t even really matter the quantity of food if it was high in carbs.  I could eat a gigantic bowl of spaghetti and be hungry two hours later.  I consciously tried to stretch snacks during the day to every 3 hours and try not to eat before then, but sometimes it was really hard.  (Particularly when all I’d had for breakfast was a bowl of cereal.)  Since adding lots of fat to my diet, my experience is totally opposite!  I rarely snack anymore because I’m just not hungry.  I eat breakfast, about five or six hours later I have lunch, and another six or seven hours after that I’ll have dinner.  I do still have a little bit of sweet munchies after dinner but it’s 100% in my head, not my stomach anymore.  My body literally stays satisfied for that long, and it’s amazing to me!

Carbs and sugar raise your insulin levels, and after they’re raised, they fall.  When they fall, that triggers hunger.  They also signal for your fat cells to hold onto fat and to store whatever you just ate as fat.  I know whole grains are touted as the healthiest thing ever, and they’re definitely way better than refined grains fo sho, but all carbs turn to sugar in your body, whether refined or whole.  Whole grains take longer to turn to glucose, they don’t spike your insulin up quite as high, but it’s still glucose in your body and it still raises your insulin and causes fat storage.  Fats, however, cause no change to your insulin.  And in fact, when your body receives the fat that it craves and needs, it actually signals to your fat cells to release fat because it knows it’s not starving of nutrients, more is on the way.  So, in essence, you can eat fat to lose fat.

Fat also satiates hunger and keeps you full for longer.  You feel full not because of the amount of food in your stomach but because fat signals a hormone to make you feel full.  That’s why you really can’t binge on butter and eggs… your body will tell you to stop and it’s hard to go past that without feeling gross.  However, carbs don’t signal that fullness hormone, so the only way your body gets the message that it’s full is when you’ve eaten enough to where your stomach is literally stretched to fullness.

The other awesome thing I love about eating so much fat is that even my hunger is more manageable now.  Before when I would eat a lot of carbs and my insulin would plummet, I would be STARVING!  I don’t deal very well with hunger, I’m not the type of person (like my husband!) who can just ignore my hunger.  When I get that empty stomach feeling, it’s all I can think about.  But now!  Very different.  I’ve hardly ever had that super hungry “I’m gonna die if I don’t eat now” feeling like I used to all the time.  In the hours between meals I’ll feel full for quite a long time and then ever so slowly my stomach starts feeling a little bit less and less full until I look around and realize, “Oh wait!  It’s time to eat!  I’m actually pretty hungry!”  I literally forget to eat sometimes.  That is SO unlike me.  And for that reason alone, I am SO much happier eating this kind of diet, weight loss aside, because I think less about food, I spend less time eating, I probably eat less food than I did before because my calories are more concentrated in fat and I’m satiated more quickly.  Not to mention, fat tastes great, so the food I’m eating tastes better than ever!  It’s just a nice change of pace. I feel like eating a low-calorie/low-fat diet is just a lesson in how to be content with feeling hungry all the time.  This diet is the opposite.

I’m going to write some more about the science of it all and give you some more links to the info. I’ve been reading.  But if you are trying to lose weight, or you don’t have a lot energy or you’re just looking for a healthy way to eat, I challenge you to try eating my type of diet for a few days and see what happens.  Or just add a lot of healthy fat to your next meal.  Douse something in butter, smother it in olive oil!  Make it a grain-less meal and see what happens.  See how long you’re full and how you feel.  I promise, I’m really just so excited at how well this is working for me that I want to share it with everyone!  Please, give me your comments and questions, I love to talk about this stuff!

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18 responses to “My Diet

  1. Ok, do I have to give up diet coke?? Please say I don’t have to drink water only!

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    • Well, Joy, if you’re going for optimal health, then yes. =) Aspartame will kill you slowly. But, I really don’t see this being a realistic option for you, Joy, so I would just try to limit it to one a day. =) I know you love your diet coke!!!

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  2. I don’t know Emily, I am a skeptic. I’m not at all defending SAD. And I am glad that you have found something that is working for you but my observation is that most people who go on carb restrictive diets have a hard time maintaining the life style past 5 years if even that long. But kudos to you for giving up processed foods and sugar (mostly) I think everyone’s health would improve if we could all do this.

    But I guess my main issue is that a diet high in animal protein is not sustainable world wide. Isn’t usually said that it takes 12 pounds of grain, and 2500 gallons of water to produce 1 lb of beef? And that isn’t even counting the amount of fossil fuels it takes to grow and harvest the grain, process it and take it to the animal and then bring the animal to market. Is it ethical or responsible to eat that way? And if the price of gas quadruples will even rich American’s be able to afford to eat that way?

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    • I hear what you’re saying and I totally understand where you’re coming from, Emily, but most of the meat we’re eating is from the cow in my freezer who wasn’t fed any grain and which we used one tank of gas to pick-up from the farm ourselves. (I mean, I’m sure a little bit of gas was used for transport to the butcher, etc…) If you’re talking about eating grassfed and local farm fresh food then I think your argument about worldwide sustainability still stands, but it’s also a huge step up from factory meats. And pretty much all of the info. I’ve read from various sources about diets high in animal products are emphatic about those animals being pastured and not factory grain-fed. I’m sure I probably eat more animal products/meat than you do, but I really don’t think I eat more than the average American, I’m just embracing it more. =) Many of my lunches are vegetarian and probably once a week we have a vegetarian dinner, so that is definitely something I’m open to. I think fat, rather than meat, is really what is making my diet so easy to do and enjoyable. I need to give it some more thought, but right now my feeling is that we’re gonna do the best we can to buy from local sources that use good practices in raising their animals, as far as our budget allows. (It doesn’t allow for a lot right now, we’re on a pretty tight budget, but I hope to increase our ratios of grassfed/organic food in the future when our budget is able to be larger.)
      And, I realize that this sounds extreme because it’s opposite of what we’ve always heard, I really believe that a diet high in carbs and sugar is what leads to heart disease and some cancers. So, while I realize that I’m privileged as an American to have the choice to eat so much animal product, I really believe it’s the most nourishing food for our bodies and high grain consumption will lead to all sorts of potentially fatal health situations in the future. So, I guess where that leaves me is not wanting to compromise my family’s own health and just doing the best I can with buying from sustainable sources.
      As for maintainability, I’m totally realistic in my expectations, don’t worry. =) Almost every low-carb diet (other than Primal, I believe) says that an extreme low-carb/no grain diet is a temporary weight-loss tool, not something to maintain throughout your life. I fully intend to eat bread sometime in the future! =) Right now this is a good way for me to lose weight and it hasn’t been too bad, so I’ll probably stick with it as best I can until either I’m happy with my weight or I miss grains too much and am willing to compromise on losing weight. Most of us are physically addicted to grains and/or sugar in some fashion, so taking them out of our diet breaks the cycle and allows for weight loss… later I can add them back in moderation. But I really am convinced that they’re not great for our health and I don’t like the impact on the way we feel, so I limit our whole family’s carbs, not just for weight loss but for health. There is literally no physical need in our bodies for carbohydrates in our diet, but there is a huge need for protein and fat, so limiting the kids’ carbs isn’t a negative for them, rather it just makes more room in their diet for the good stuff. I’m sure sometime in the future I’ll start to drift back to old habits, but I guess I feel like what I’m doing now is so enjoyable and easy that it won’t be hard to just pull back a bit and get back on track next time I need to lose weight or I realize that we’re not limiting carbs as we should. I’m just excited that I’ve learned that I don’t have to feel hungry or restrict calories to lose weight since I’ve always has a HARD time doing that, I’m ok with just rearranging my calories. Emily, you should really read Good Calories, Bad Calories! I found its scientific information extremely compelling, I’d be interested to hear what you think!

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  3. I am with Emily Weaver Brown’s comment above–you can definitely eat healthy fats with less animal products. I agree that not every meal should have a meal should have meat for the reasons she mentioned and plus our bodies just don’t need them in that quantity. Lunch or dinner is a great opportunity to have that “huge” salad with all the fixings, just leave off the meat and let the avocado do its thing. it’s plenty fattening on its own! So glad you are getting into this whole nutrition “thing”, though, Emily. I know feeling better is the biggest motivation. We never feel better than during Lent and such when we are eating whole foods–its so refreshing and addictive!

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  4. Thanks for the information!! I didn’t see anything about fruit…where do you stand with fruits?

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    • I don’t eat a lot of fruit.. partly because I’m trying to limit my intake since there’s natural sugars in it (yes, I know it’s natural, but it still turns to sugar in your body and it still spikes your insulin and raised insulin is what causes fat storage) and partly because I usually eat them for a snack and I just don’t snack much anymore. A few times a week I’ll have an apple with peanut butter. I’m not particularly going out of my way to avoid fruit, I would probably eat one a day or so, but I kinda just forget about it since I’m not used to eating it as a part of a meal and I’m not snacking much.

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  5. It’s going to take a lot to convince me that loosing weight is anything more than burning more calories than consume however you may choose to do that. I might read Good Calories, Bad Calories but right now I can’t even think to much about food without getting sick. I flipped over to Amazon and read the reviews on the book. If you want to get an idea of what I will probably think you should read the negative reviews and what the critics are saying. Mainly that Taubes cherry picks studies and presents only the information that he wants and that it tantamount to junk science.

    When you actually look at abstracts and conclusions from most studies the information becomes a lot less black and white. Most diet studies are done on people who are already sick and/or overweight. Following any diet that removes processed foods and reduces calories is going to improve their health/ lifestyle so the conclusions have to be taken with a grain of salt. Most of the studies are also short term (months or a few years at most). I am always interested to know what the impact of a diet is over decades.

    I think that you must have been eating grains very differently from the way we eat grains and when you start to incorporate them back into your diet I would challenge you not to think of them as a side dish to accompany a steak. We typically eat a lot of one dish meals where whole grains and meat are pared and vegetables or fruit too. For example brown rice + red beans + chicken sausage + lots of tomatoes and veggies. that meal was slow cooked for hours but we eat lots of sort of stir-frys with some whole grain added in.

    I agree eating a bowl of cereal usually leaves me hungry 45 min later but eating a bowl of real oatmeal (not instant) with almonds, some fruit, and milk will keep me full for a long time.

    back to the sustainability question it seems like the conclusion that Well Sphere is coming to is that it’s not even possible for Americans to all eat large amounts of grass feed livestock. I don’t even think our current system is sustainable. I do find it amusing that he states “this is the major flaw in the “we should all be vegetarian” argument. Some land won’t support plant life that humans find edible or palatable and therefore, it would be inefficient to not use it for animals.” As if it’s as simple as just putting some cows out on the great prairies to eat grass. As my BIL raises cattle in the freaking desert where almost nothing grows. The cattle have to have access to a much larger area of land because the grasses that do grow are very sparse. In addition he has to haul out hundreds of gallons of water every day for the cattle. Water that has been diverted off the snake river and is contributing to the decline of Salmon. The cattle also pollute the natural aquifers that feed back into the snake river with their waste. The cattle can only be on the land for a part of the year before they run out of food and are moved back to farmed pasture (irrigated again with water from the snake river). He doesn’t even address the major issues of existing overgrazing of public lands.

    I guess my thought process is that if the diet your are describing is how humans have been designed/evolved to need then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. But the truth is (as stated on Well Sphere) we can’t even feed everyone in the world 1 lb of meat per day.

    sorry that was sort of all over the place…

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  6. oh and I wanted to say that I am glad to hear you will be adding back in some grains because I was just picturing you in Mexico on the beach eating the worlds best guacamole with a spoon and that’s just sad, you really need chips! (and a margarita!)

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    • hahahahaha!!! I mean, I do just eat avocados with a spoon, so I’m not opposed to eating guacamole with a spoon! But yes, I’m sure I will indulge in the chips, and I KNOW I will have a margarita with them!!! =) Sugar be damned!

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  7. Emily, please don’t judge an entire 600 page book by Amazon reviews. And pretty much the whole point of the book is how research studies from the past 50 years on obesity have been junk science, how the public is presented with sound bytes from abstracts and conclusions without knowing what kind of scientific method is behind it. There are also many case studies of traditional/primitive societies and their diets and the relation of heart disease/obesity/cancer over the course of decades. I mean, I really can’t even begin to summarize such a dense book. I found his conclusions extremely compelling, not only because he actually goes into the detail of the research studies that most books don’t and because he starts from studies that were in the 1800’s and how the medical community has changed in the way it views diet. The shift to saturated “fat= bad for your heart and will make you fat” began mid-century due to the bad science and faulty assumptions by one man and has become the prevailing conventional wisdom of the always powerful medical community. Of course there are bad reviews on Amazon, the guy is arguing against an entire pharmaceutical industry, big Ag, and a medical community who only gives a voice to those who tout prevailing beliefs. And yes, there is a LOT more that goes into it than calorie in/calorie out. That whole idea completely ignores basic biology yet continues to be the party line by the standard nutritional world. Fat storage is hormonally driven by insulin, and that is dependent upon what kind of calorie it is, they’re not all created equal.
    I didn’t read every little piece of that article I linked to, I just thought it was an interesting commentary on what we had been talking about, so I dunno. I did find some things that talked about how big Ag companies like Monsanto who patent their own GMO seeds and sue small farmers who try to save their seeds from year to year have more to do with international food shortages and lack of nutrition than the meat industry. Our big American seed companies are putting farmers out of business and causing food shortages all over the world. (and something about using all the topsoil, I dunno) And with what I saw in Food, Inc. and some other documentary about Monsanto, that rings true to me.
    I did used to cook a lot of one-dish meals, lots of stir-fry with brown rice, lots of pasta dishes, totally “well-balanced” and Food Pyramid-y. I mean, not perfect every time, but you know what I mean. =) And yes, a full bowl of oatmeal with all sorts of junk added to it will leave me hungry within a couple of hours unless I put a ton of butter in it, and even then… Ask Clay, I’ve always been a hungry girl! I know everyone has a different kind of metabolism, so maybe I just have one that’s more sensitive to grains and insulin spikes, who knows.

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  8. Interesting. I like hearing about new things. Doesnt mean i will try it, as I dont like the taste of butter and im a big veggie & fruit eater finally, but i am also mexican and i am not giving up my tortillas, lol! Glad you found something that is working for you!
    -h

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    • Heather… you don’t like the taste of butter? What?! =) I’ve always liked most vegetables, but adding butter to them (I’ve never cooked with butter until recently) has made them so much more enjoyable for me, so I love it! But it sounds like you already have a great diet if you eat plenty of those, so eat a tortilla for me! =)

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  9. Hi, I’m a friend of Laurin’s and found you on her blog roll. . .Just curious what you thought about people who are hard core runners. I don’t know that I could restrict my carb intake like that while training for marathons. The glucose is important, for one. I’m pregnant now so not running long distances, but would you say this lifestyle of eating is more for people who don’t do a lot of exercise? I’m sorry if you already answered this in a comment. I didn’t have time to read them all thoroughly.

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    • No, this lifestyle of eating is definitely for people who are very active, however I think you’ll fine that most low-carbers tend to subscribe to less conventional formats of exercising, in other words, not hours upon hours of cardio. Right now Clay and I are doing the Body by Science workout plan which is high-intensity weight lifting (and probably the most efficient, safe, and effective form of exercise that I’ve come across), and the doctor who wrote this advocates a primal diet. (Primal is no grain/no sugar and relatively similar to what I’m doing) I don’t really know much about how this intersects with high-endurance atheletes, but I also came across this post from one of my favorite websites: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/primal-athlete-compromises/
      I’ve been reading this guy for awhile, and in my opinion he’s one of the smartest nutrition/exercise/healthy lifestyle people out there. Basically, he says that you’re right, when you’re in the middle of training for something like a marathon, you do need a temporary increase in carbs, but he talks about how to do that and what kinds of carbs to do it with so that you can do it healthfully and not gain fat, if that is a concern. (he still recommends avoiding grains) He’s the one who developed the recovery drink for P90X, so he definitely knows a lot about this stuff. He also has a very cool approach to exercise and it’s a part of his “primal blueprint” program combining the diet and exercise, so yes, this unless you’re running intensely for over an hour day after day, this is still a great diet for you. Fat is a slow-burning energy source, so while you may not get a super burst of energy, you also won’t have that drop afterwards. I usually do my workouts about an hour or two after a breakfast of butter and eggs and it’s been ok for me. If you’re into running and such, I highly recommend checking-out this website just to get another perspective. Thanks for popping over from Laurin’s blog, I love new commenters, so hopefully I’ll see you around again! =)

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  10. So it’s been a while since I checked your blog?!?!??
    This seems really great. I’m interested in eating/ feeding my family in more of a “whole foods” way, and I LOVE butter:) and meat and veggies. I don’t even care that much about bread and pasta. My question is about potatoes (irish) and fruits: Are they considered “bad” in your research?

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    • Petal!!! =) In answer to your question, it just depends on your goal. Are you trying to lose weight or closely monitor your blood sugar or just trying to transition to a whole foods approach? If you’re not trying to lose weight, then potatoes and fruit are great! I mean, they are higher in starch/sugar, so I wouldn’t go crazy with them, but there’s definitely no reason to avoid them. From what I understand, unstable blood sugar and the resulting insulin fluctuations are the root of many typical health problems that are blamed on things like salt and saturated fat. (heart disease, hypertension, obesity, etc…) So simply from a health position, I do try to limit my myself and my kids’ consumption of fruit and grains. Since I’m trying to lose weight, I only have fruit every once in awhile. No more than once a day, a few times a week. Of course the sugar in it is natural, but it’s still sugar in your bloodstream, and sugar stimulates insulin which promotes fat storage. I try to not let my kids have more than 1-2 pieces of fruit a day, same for grains. We don’t eat a ton of potatoes, but I wouldn’t have a problem feeding them to my family a few times a week… I might limit myself more simply for weight loss reasons. And I would definitely slather them in lots of butter! =)

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