The Skinny on Fats

The Skinny on Fats

The advertisers and marketers in our society have gone to great lengths to convince us that fats are bad for us to eat. Some of them are and some are not.

By scaring us into believing that all fats are bad–we buy into (and literally buy) all the fat free, light and trans fat stuff they advertise as healthy. First we need to understand what fats really are.  I thought I knew, but once again, I was wrong.

Like with everything else, there are the goods and the bads….

Bad fats are saturated fats that the body has a harder time breaking down. They are usually stored by the body (as fat) and can usually be found in processed foods. These fats can cause cholesterol levels to go up and can put us as a higher risk of cancer, inflammatory diseases and heart disease.

But guess what?  While saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats and trans fat are very very bad for us–most cholesterol problems come from the processed sugar in our diets! Again from all the processed foods we eat.

That does not mean that I am recommending you eat saturated fats and stay away from sugar–I am recommending you stay away from processed foods as much as possible, because it has both!

The good fats though are very important to our bodies and we need them for the proper functioning of our bodies.  The goods can be found in meats, eggs (yes the yolks), and believe it or not the fat on pork.

Bacon lovers you can rejoice! Just make sure to find the best options for the good fat products that are available to you, for example, grass fed meat over corn fed.

Other good fats include avocados, walnuts, salmon, and cooking with extra virgin olive oil are another good source of the good fats that help our bodies.

So to make this completely confusing–if you want to lose the fat in your body you actually need to eat a balanced diet with more fat (the good fats).

But here is the really skinny part of fats–in my humble opinion it seems to me that we as a society are making things much harder than it needs to be.  

We drive ourselves crazy trying to find the “best” foods to eat while at the same time wanting the convenience and variety we have now. And there lies the problem.  There is too much of too much!

If we get back to basics and really look to eat as naturally as we can we can still have a great variety of foods that we enjoy without throwing our health to to wind.

When I think about my favorite foods–my mind always goes back to the things I most enjoyed in my childhood:  steak, chicken, rice, ripe tomatoes, fruit, vegetables.

All those things have the protein, the good carbohydrates and the good fats that we need. My mother has always cooked with olive oil or butter–but not in excessive amounts. Our tomatoes were plain or had a little olive oil and vinegar on them.

Rarely was anything deep fried or dripping with thick gravies. We ate modestly and we ate well. I never remember being hungry or unhealthy.

It wasn’t until adulthood and all the convenience of processed foods that my health started to change…and before you know it we spend years chasing back the health we already had and took for granted.

And that is my skinny–I’m getting back to basics.

What are your favorite foods–that may have been considered “bad” that turns out are not so bad?

Comment below or email me at emptynestsavvy@gmail.com with your thoughts and questions!

 

You Animals!

You Animals!

We are all animals! We may be the most social and intelligent animals on the planet—but animals nonetheless.

When thinking about our nutritional needs I reach back into my study of anthropology days.

So here is a quick lesson:

“modern” human beings have been on earth as far as we know for about 315 thousand years. Thank goodness those folks figured out how to survive so that all this time later we are here to write about them!

How did they survive? They kept it simple. Our theory is that the first peoples were nomadic which means they moved around all the time.

And by moved- I mean literally physically moved on foot with their possessions on their back. Kinda like backpacking through Europe without the cool travel guides.

Where did the move to? Well, wherever the food was. And by food I mean animals and wild plants that were in bloom. They ate whatever they could catch or harvest and they drank water from lakes, rivers, streams etc.

These people—our old ancestors—were healthy and fit. They exercised–through walking and hunting–and like animals they used their food for fuel in the body. The body instinctively knew how to use it efficiently and store some for times of scarcity—as fat in the body.

In this way we are just like animals.

Over time, many thousands of years, man found fire, taught themselves to farm, developed different lifestyles, settled, created cities, established centers of trade and commerce, learned to travel by different means and discovered spices.

Through these cultural and social changes–food changed from being not just a source of fuel and survival but a source of comfort, well being and status.

But the animal within us remains. The animal inside is still breaking down the food we give it to use for fuel and storing some of it for when the scarcity comes.

Unfortunately, 310,000 years later we don’t have to look for our food. We live in a beautifully abundant world. A beautifully intelligent world! A world full of convenience–full of processed and artificially colored, flavored,  and shaped foods–and the drive through windows from which to obtain it. And we are killing the animal which was never made to break down all the chemicals and mixtures we have invented to simulate food.

That does not mean I recommend eating tree bark. But it does mean we need to be more mindful of what we eat and how we eat and how we use that fuel.

If we did not see every meal as a celebration to overload ourselves on the abundance available to us but to honor the function that food has in our lives–as the fuel that gives us energy–we would be as a species, in a much better place.

I can just imagine what my cousins of 200,000 years ago would have looked like and felt like if sugar had been discovered that much sooner.  They would have never made it across the continents to create the different nations we are today!

Those ancestors were smarter–or at least more practical–in the foods they ate.

So how do we marry the two time periods of now and then to benefit the animal we are today?

In my humble opinion, these are the steps I am taking–which I started late in life–but which I hope will please the animal and improve my health.

  1. I am eating less–we intelligent humans have already figured out serving sizes of every food we have and the calories included in those servings.  Instead of eating the whole bag of potato chips or carton of ice cream–have just a serving. I know at first the servings will seem small but I am fueling my body not trying to give it all the food it will need into the next millennia.
  2. I am eating better–science is a beautiful thing and because of science we have the ability to feed ourselves without the scarcity or lack of food in our societies.  Each of us has a choice in the foods we use to fuel the body. I am choosing the best and most natural foods–that I enjoy–that will provide my body with the energy I need to perform, heal and survive in our current world.
  3. I am drinking more water–maintaining the proper hydration for the animal within helps the body regulate everything–cell growth, organ function, muscle repair and hunger control.  When all that is happening it is easier to eat less and eat better because I am not craving the empty calories that do not serve me.
  4. I am exercising more–survival no longer means walking miles and miles in search of food. Survival is more about being able to survive in a society that values the exchange of goods and services for money that is used in the exchange of more goods and services. Foods of all varieties–and prepared for us by thousands of different restaurants–being a major good and service we entertain ourselves with.

So in the end, perhaps it is not my particular DNA in my animal body that will advance the species for another 300,000 years–but my example on caring for the animal that will be helpful.

Do what is right for your body instead of what is easy. Embrace the animal within you!  

And have fun with it!

To Diet or Not to Diet

To Diet or Not to Diet

As I have been studying and learning and experimenting with different “diet” options–I have come to a profound conclusion:  Diets don’t work.

I know, most of you knew this already.  That is not to say that all the diet books and experts and suggestions are wrong. Diets don’t work because people that try them–me–do not take our lifestyles into account.

Diets are part of our lifestyles–and our cultures.  As Americans we embrace food like–well hot dogs and apple pie! We celebrate the diverse cultures in this nation by going to Chinese on Tuesdays and Mexican on Thursdays.

In between we eat all the “stuff” we buy at the grocery store that is so convenient and instant and tastes so good because it is processed and full of chemicals that mimic salty, sugary, soft, crunchy, flavorful yummy stuff.

Never mind that most is artificial and full of preservatives so they can sit in the warehouse, then the store, then our pantries–until we are ready to eat them.

And yet, we want  to be healthy and fit. So we go on a diet, we join the gym and we rock it! We lose 10, 15, sometimes 20 pounds–look great–feel great, and then stop. We go back to eating all the things we “gave up” during the diet, we stop going to the gym.

Slowly but surely the pounds come back and sometime they bring additional friends–making us heavier and in worse shape than before.

What we forgot was our lifestyle–not the foods. Our diets are not something we can do for a while and then we can stop when we reach a specific goal. Diets were never meant to be “a temporary eating phenomenon”.

A diet, by definition, is the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group. A noun.  Dieting–the verb–is the deliberate selection of food to control body weight or nutrient intake. So we verb the heck out of ourselves!

The question becomes are we happy living like this? In a constant argument with ourselves about our food choices. Feeling bloated and swollen and uncomfortable in our own skin.

I was not. So I have been experimenting with all kinds of diets to see which one “fit”. Of course, they didn’t “fit”–not for long anyway.

If you are in your 40s or 50s, like me, or beyond you know this will not work–because we have been experimenting like this most of our lives.

What I failed to admit to myself (because I am pretty sure I have known this all along) is that is not the food–it’s the lifestyle. The lifestyle brings with it the food.

As part of the master plan I have been working on is a major change in lifestyle. I have decided that I will eat a scientifically researched and proven healthy diet of what my body needs to function and thrive, in the amounts that it needs and nothing more. The optimal word is NEEDS.

Some, I know, are with me on this journey–they have already accepted and embraced–what I am coming to know as truth. Others know this to be true–but are just not ready yet. Its ok…

Having this lifestyle means that I am going to respect my meal times, the portion sizes of my meals and the foods I will include in meals. And everything else is unnecessary.

My lifestyle has to change, so my foods will change, so I can live the healthy and fit life I want to live.

In the next few posts, I will take you through part of my journey and why this lifestyle sounds better and feels better each day!

Don’t forget to love yourself today! And have fun!

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat

There has never been a truer phrase–you are what you eat. Many of us eat all that is around us. And then we accept that our bodies feel sluggish and bloated and uncomfortable.

Worse yet we are all going towards being part of the statistics that list the highest incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease in the history of the United States.

Unless you make a change.

For the last several years I have really been watching what I eat.  I have become very conscious of ingredients and labels and portion sizes.

When I started “eating healthy” what I was really doing was NOT eating certain foods.  I knew for example, that I was eating too much sugar. So I really cut back to basically no white sugar at all.  

I found that I did not miss it. I was really used to having sugar in my coffee each morning.  Two spoonfuls of sugar! Instead I bought stevia packets and use one. It was just about changing the habit of what I was doing.

At work, I realized, many co-workers would bring food in to share on Fridays–donuts were a big favorite. The first time I ate one after going “off” sugar I got a horrible headache and stomach ache and soon after felt completely deflated like I needed a nap!

I never realized how much sugar had affected my system. And as I investigated further–I found that there is sugar in everything! Even ketchup has sugar!  I could not believe it!

Not only do most foods contain sugar–it contains sneaky sugar because it is called by a dozen (or more!) different names–corn syrup, corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, sucrose and evaporated cane juice–just to name a few.

But sugar was just the tip of the iceberg. Meats. I love meats but when I started learning about farm practices and how animals are given antibiotics and growth hormones and fed GMO corn to fatten them up–well YUCK! And the chickens! Don’t even get me started on the chickens!

For a while I could not eat any meat. But I was also not a vegetarian. With time and some additional learning–I was able to find free range chicken and different meats that were not processed or that came from places where the ranch practices were not questionable.

The search for the best foods available is a journey in itself. But I am committed to my health and the health of my husband–and so we look for the best foods we can find.

Still–these are big changes and they are not easy.  But we are what we eat–so it is important to care about ourselves enough to investigate what is best for us.  That may mean a different thing to each person.

I am not advocating that we should all wake up tomorrow morning and never eat in a fast food restaurant again or give up meat entirely or swear off eggs. I am encouraging you to think about what is going into your body though.

We sometimes buy organic, but not always because how do we really know if something is organically grown or not? Especially at the grocery store. Farmer’s Markets are a better source if it is available to you. But we do buy more fruits and vegetables than before and eat more salads in general.

Our portion sizes are smaller, we drink plenty of water and herbal tea (hot and iced–we live in Texas after all!) We have drastically cut back on breads, chips, pasta and dairy products.

And we didn’t die! In fact, we feel good! We do not feel deprived of anything and we don’t go hungry. If we feel like having something, we have it–in a reasonable portion size. And we feel satisfied and full.

So we definitely are what we eat! Our bodies are wonderful machines that we have abused for the sake of convenience.

If you are really interested in living a healthier life–we have to change the habits we currently have around food. Habits are hard to change especially in the run around hurry up life we are in.

But there are some solutions that I will discuss in my next post to bring us closer to eating as healthy as we can and having the healthiest habits.  

What has been the one go to food that you feel you could not let go of? Are there foods you would not miss if you stopped including them in your diet?  Comment below and let me know what you think…

And until next time–have fun!  

The Choice of Health

The Choice of Health

We all make choices in our lives.  Part of this journey I am on is about making the new choices to live the best life I can live and to live to my highest purpose–whatever that may be.

One of the things I have been thinking about changing in my life is my level of health.

Being healthy and looking healthy has always been an important value for me, and while I consider myself to be in good health, I know there is always room for improvement.

Another thing I value is knowledge. And so I have been researching and reading about how to be the healthiest I can be.

The regular health articles have come up of course–hydrate, eat right and exercise. I have also found many “how to” articles about how to start eating right, why to exercise, or lists of reasons why people should be healthy.

I was surprised that there would be so many articles written to help convince people to be healthy. But after I thought about it for a while, it isn’t surprising at all.

People have many excuses for not being healthy but the main ones cited in many articles I read were these:

  • I don’t have time to exercise
  • Eating healthy is expensive
  • I can’t be “healthy” at social gatherings, family holidays etc
  • I am too tired to exercise
  • Healthy food is not available where I live
  • I have no will power
  • I don’t want to miss out
  • My friends and family would not understand

Ultimately, this is what I have learned–being healthy is a choice. I choose healthy.  And I have decided to do 4 simple things:

  1. I am going to make time for myself–to exercise, to eat right and to educate myself on the best ways for doing both.
  2. I am going to find the best foods and the best habits for healthy living.
  3. I am going to honor my own thoughts, beliefs and values before anyone else’s.
  4. I am going to help others if they choose they want to live healthy lives too.

Making choices about health in and of itself is a journey and it is hard work. If I want to live the best life I can live–I have to start with my health. Health is going to give me the strength, the stamina, the longevity and the ability to move to do all the other things I want to do in my life.

We may take our health for granted because we have gotten used to the few extra pounds, the headaches, the allergies, the small twinges. We may be afraid to make changes in our lives that the people we most care about would not understand or appreciate. Any type of change takes courage.

And all change takes choice. The funny thing is–at least to me–has been that making the choice has been the easiest part. Taking action is much harder. It takes planning and thought and deliberate intention.

These intentions and the work you put in is what helps us reach our best potential–our highest self–and sometimes our purpose.

It’s time for action.

Have you been thinking about improving your health?  What parts of your health would you like to see a change in? Do you suffer from a condition or disease that could be changed through healthier living? What is holding you back?

Comment below about how you would like to improve your health or your life in general. I would love to read your thoughts!

And remember to have fun–our health is what allows us to live the life we want to live!