I have been wanting to write this post for 2 days but my daughter has been sick…and when she’s sick she’s not sleeping and then I’m not sleeping. So I’ve been out of my routine. But still really excited to write this post.
The things I’m learning are CRAZY. I mean CRAZY. Everything I thought I knew about nutrition was undone when I went low carb. I learned that saturated fat was good (not bad!) and that high cholesterol does not mean I’m statin-deficient. I learned that people and companies and even entire governments lie and the lies continue on and on and on for decades until an entire nation is fat and blaming their mother for their fatness. I learned that calories in/out is not how you get fat or thin. I learned that I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my body because I didn’t have the right information to help myself get healthy. It wasn’t that I “lacked motivation,” was “sabotaging” myself, or was doing any of those other things popular psychology makes us think about ourselves when we’re overweight.
I lived pretty happily eating low carb/Paleo for a while. About 6 months, actually. And then it stopped being easy and it stopped working. I started having cravings and finding it impossible to stick to for any stretch of time. I gained 20 pounds and have been unable to lose them. I didn’t blame the diet though, I blamed myself for coping poorly with a very stressful situation. Well, I was wrong. A low-carb diet just isn’t good long term. It comes with a very high metabolic price tag.
And NOW, well, now I’m learning that there are even MORE misconceptions about health and nutrition. Here are some of the Low-Carb/Paleo rules that I’ve recently learned are simply not true:
- Sugar is bad.
- Dairy is bad.
- Fructose is bad.
- A ketogenic diet rocks.
Sugar gets a bad rep because it eats up nutrients really quickly (raises your metabolism) and if you don’t have a nutrient-rich diet you’re going to have problems (like, acne, cavities, heart palpitations). Dairy is a great source of macronutrients and micronutrients and also raises the metabolism. Fructose is an excellent (and low-glycemic) source of carbohydrate and when eaten as fruit or juice it comes with an array of important nutrients. A ketogenic diet may work for losing weight (it didn’t for me, but it does for some folks)…but over time it results in suppression of the thyroid making a loss almost impossible to maintain and remain healthy.
So what causes people to gain weight and become unhealthy? Dr. Peat says the answer is stress hormones. When you don’t give your body the basic nutrition it needs (e.g., depriving it of what it needs to make glucose for energy) it adapts to keep you alive by raising stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, and others, which effectively slow down the metabolism to cope. Other types of stress also raise stress hormones – emotional stress, allergies, exposure to cold (yeah, I said it).
But here’s probably the coolest thing I’ve learned lately. Those following Ray Peat’s wisdom gauge their metabolic health in part by measuring their temperatures and heart rates (HR) throughout the day. By doing this I’ve learned something very interesting. When I eat something that causes physiological stress my temperature drops over the next hour – usually a degree or so. Typically that is paired with an increase in HR and an unpleasant mood change/fatigue. I’m learning that these are classic signs that stress hormones have increased in my system…and that as long as stress hormones run the show I’m going to remain overweight and unhealthy.
I tested pork chops – major temp drop and heart rate increase, plus my throat and eyes became itchy and my nose ran. It actually caused a histamine response (which increases inflammation!). Having never had that reaction from pork before I asked my friends on the Ray Peat Facebook page what was going on. The answer I got was this: when you start eating a non-inflammatory diet and then introduce something crappy, you’ll be much more sensitive to it. Huh…really? So what else is my body hating on?
I tested beef – just regular supermarket beef – not grass-fed. Yes…a temperature drop and my throat got itchy. I tested table sugar, coconut sugar, orange juice, milk, cheese – all of these brought my temperature up and increased heart rate somewhat – indicating an increase in metabolism (good!). Brown rice pasta = temp drop, increase in HR = stress hormones (plus I felt tired). I tested candy corn, which I thought would be a thumbs up because it’s mostly sugar, but it made me feel like killing someone, plus my temp dropped and heart was racing. Stress hormones. I tested chocolate with soy lecithin in it – temp and HR stayed the same, so maybe a mildly poor reaction, as I would expect a temp increase from the sugar.
Well, I’m done experimenting for now. All of the things Ray Peat says to eat have caused a positive reaction, and all the things he says to avoid (grains, additives, industrial meats) caused a poor reaction. I think the man knows what he’s talking about. When I just eat dairy (milk, cheese), orange juice, eggs, sugar, and salt I feel awesome! My energy level is high and I feel happy and peaceful. (There’s certainly more to it than just those few foods – I’ll get into protein sources in another post.)
I’ve just started tracking what I eat so I’ll give a macronutrient breakdown in a future post as well.