As you may or may not know (or care, and I could hardly blame you), I had (shell)fish for dinner the night before last – salmon and scallops with a lovely green chile sauce, accompanied by some yellow summer squash, zucchini and onions sauteed in butter. It was wonderful, and I couldn’t finish what was on my plate. Nor did I wander around the house right before bedtime, grousing about how hungry I was – because, frankly, I wasn’t hungry.
Yesterday for lunch, I had fish, too, and chicken: Beloved and I shared some sushi, chicken teriyaki and seaweed salad. By mid-afternoon, we were both hungry; by the time we got home from work, we were ravenous. What did our seafood dinner have that kept us from being hungry, but our lunch did not?
In a word: Fat.
A lot of people are afraid of dietary fat – heaven knows I was for a very long time. We’ve been conditioned, over the last 30 to 40 years, to be so…and it’s all been so wrong. I won’t go into they whys and wherefores of how the American public was bilked into following a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet here (I suggest you read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for an in-depth explanation of that), but bilked we have been. And while we’ve been made paranoid about dietary fat in general, we’ve been made absolutely terrified of saturated fat in particular.
My mother died from heart disease at the age of 51. I believe two factors came into play there – Mom smoked like a chimney and she ate a low-fat diet for the last 25 or so years of her life, which means she consumed a lot of grains, starches and refined sugar – particularly high fructose corn syrup (Mom looooooved her Coca Cola). Well, she was a yo-yo dieter, too – Mom’s entire adulthood was a roller coaster of losing a lot of weight, only to regain it (and more) afterwards – and there’s ample evidence that that kind of behavior is every bit as unhealthy, if not more so, than simply being overweight. And unhealthy it was – she developed an aeortal aneurysm at 46 and had a fatal heart attack two months after her 51st birthday.
I’m the eldest of Mom’s four kids (by quite a bit; the next oldest is 5 1/2 years younger), so I’ve gotten to deal with facing the age she became ill before my sibs, and it has been a sobering experience, I have to tell you. Determined not to drop dead as a relatively young woman, I quit smoking for the very last time the day after my 45th birthday – I’ll have been completely smoke-free for thee years this December. This is the year I’ve gotten a handle on my diet, and thanks to the enthusiastic cooperation of Beloved and The Young One (who has not complained once about the fact that the candy bowl no longer holds a never-ending supply of chocolate or that Mt. Dew, frozen pizza and boxed mac ‘n’ cheese have become a thing of the past), it has been easier than I ever could have hoped for.
If you had to peg what kind of a “diet” we’re on (although, as Beloved frequently points out, it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle), it’s somewhere between a paleo and a traditional foods diet. It’s not a traditional foods diet because we’re not eating starches or grains at all (well, except for the ear of corn we had when the Ohio sweet corn came in this month), and it’s not a paleo diet because we’re still eating (full-fat) dairy – and it’s working really, really well for us. Because we are losing weight, experiencing more energy, and are never hungry – which is nothing short of amazing, considering how much we both, but Beloved in particular, used to snack.
While we’ve cut starches, grains, refined sugars, soy and vegetable oils from our diet, the biggest change we’ve made is to increase the amount of fat we eat, particularly saturated fat. Coconut and palm kernel oils, which are solid at room temperature (and an excellent, healthy source of medium chain fatty acids) have replaced shortening; lard and tallow have replaced vegetable oils for cooking; nut and avocado oils adorn our salads in the way of homemade salad dressings; and, of course, butter and olive oil remain favorites for sauteing and flavoring many of the foods we eat. We are reveling in our diet of pastured dairy, chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish and ethically-raised pork – all full of wonderful fat. Add in the seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables to the mix, and we are pretty happy campers.
Have I mentioned we’re losing weight? Or that we have not changed our basic lifestyle at all? We have not taken up jogging, or Pilates, or yoga, or, indeed, any exercise program at all. We have not given up alcohol (although we’ve realized we are drinking less than we used to – we just don’t feel like it any more). We haven’t given up coffee, and Beloved still drinks diet Coke (although a lot less than he used to). We still work long hours. And in 3 months he’s lost 25 pounds, and I’ve lost 17. I have a friend who is on a low-fat diet and is jogging miles and miles several times a week and is completely frustrated with her inability to lose any weight at all.
Are we killing ourselves by consuming all of this “artery-clogging” fat? I’m sure I will get comments that say, “Yes!” but I’m afraid I must disagree – there are more and more studies coming out all the time that find dietary fat is not only not bad for you, but actually good for you and implicates sugar, grains, starches (especially of the refined variety) and vegetable oils as the culprits behind what many experts are calling an “epidemic” of obesity and diabetes. Now, think about that: since the 70s, when the government took a stand and started recommending diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates (thank you, George McGovern), obesity, diabetes and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions. Exactly the opposite of what that kind of diet is supposed to do.
Makes you kinda stop and think, doesn’t it? At least, it’s made me stop and think – mostly about the lovely steak and salad with lots of fat-laden dressing I’m going to have for dinner.
Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday