Friday, March 4, 2016

Info Fiend Find: Don't Fear Fat

Making a Case for Eating Fat
MARCH 4, 2016 5:45 AM March 4, 2016 5:45 a

For years Dr. Mark Hyman was a vegetarian who kept his intake of dietary fat to a minimum.

Whole-wheat bread, grains, beans, pasta and fruits and vegetables made up the bulk of his diet, just as the federal government’s dietary guidelines had long recommended.

But as he got older, Dr. Hyman noticed something that bothered him: Despite plenty of exercise and a seemingly healthy diet, he was gaining weight and getting flabby. At first he wrote it off as a normal part of aging. But then he made a shift in his diet, deciding to eat more fat, not less – and the changes he saw surprised him.
He lost weight, his love handles disappeared, and he had more energy. He encouraged his patients to consume more fat as well, and many of them lost weight and improved their cholesterol. Some even reversed their Type 2 diabetes.
Today, as the director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, Dr. Hyman has become an outspoken advocate about the health benefits of eating fat. He promotes it on talk shows, educates other doctors, and has even managed to wean his close friend Bill Clinton off of his previously prescribed low-fat vegan diet.
Now in a new book called “Eat Fat, Get Thin,” Dr. Hyman takes a deep dive into the science behind dietary fat, making sense of decades of confusing health recommendations and building a case for why even saturated fats, which have long been vilified, belong in a healthy diet. Dr. Hyman argues that Americans have been misled about the benefits of fat because of a disconnect between nutrition science and food policy. In the book he challenges the nutrition orthodoxy while also exploring the food industry’s outsize influence on official health recommendations.
Recently, we sat down with Dr. Hyman to discuss his thoughts on the gap between nutrition science and health recommendations, the reason you should always plan your meals, and why he never leaves home without a stash of “emergency foods” in his backpack. Here are edited excerpts from our conversation:

Why did you write “Eat Fat, Get Thin”?
I wrote it because we’ve been suffering from 40 years of bad advice about fat that’s led to the biggest obesity and diabetes epidemic in history. The myth that fat makes you fat and causes heart disease has led to a total breakdown in our nutritional framework. I felt it was important to tell the story of how fat makes you thin and how it prevents heart disease and can reverse diabetes. I think people are still very confused about fat.


In the book you argue that nutrition recommendations are often contradictory. How so?
This year, for example, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for the first time removed their longstanding restrictions on dietary fat. But they still have recommendations to eat low-fat foods. They say total fat is not an issue, but you should drink low-fat milk and eat low-fat dairy and other low-fat foods. It’s a schizophrenic recommendation from the government, and it’s the same with other professional organizations such as the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. There’s a mismatch between the science and the government and professional recommendations.


What’s driving this disconnect?
I think the government based its recommendations on some very flawed science, which took hold. It became policy that was turned into the dietary guidelines and the food pyramid that told us to eat six to 11 servings of bread, rice, cereal and pasta a day and to eat fats and oils sparingly. It’s very hard to overturn dogma like that. It’s embedded in our culture now. It’s embedded in food products. The food industry jumped on the low-fat bandwagon, and the professional associations kept driving the message. Unfortunately the science takes decades to catch up into policy and into practice. And I’m trying to close that gap by bringing awareness to the latest science on how fats and carbs work in your body.


You reviewed hundreds of studies while writing this book. What is your conclusion on saturated fat?
It’s a huge area of controversy. But large reviews of randomized trials, observational research and blood-level data have all found no link between saturated fat or total fat and heart disease. Yet there are still recommendations to limit saturated fat because it raises total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. But it also raises HDL, and it increases cholesterol particle size, so you actually get a net benefit.


What do you say to scientists who argue that saturated fat does in fact cause heart disease?
I think the challenge with the research is that a lot of the data combines saturated fat in the context of a high-carbohydrate diet. The real danger is sweet fat. If you eat fat with sweets – so sugar and fat, or refined carbohydrates and fat – then insulin will rise and it’ll make you fat. But if you eliminate the refined carbs and sugar, that doesn’t happen. I think saturated fats can be bad in the context of a high-carbohydrate diet. But in the absence of that, they’re not.


What foods do you eat and recommend to your patients?
What I eat is a cross between paleo and vegan diets. It combines elements of the two, so I call it a “pegan” diet. It’s low in sugars and refined carbs, and it’s very high in plant foods. About 70 to 80 percent of your diet should be plant foods. It should also include good-quality fats like nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil and fatty fish. It should basically include whole, fresh food that’s unprocessed and high in fiber and phytonutrients. I always say that vegetables should make up 50 to 75 percent of your plate.


In a world where fast food is everywhere, wouldn’t that be fairly difficult for most people?
It’s actually very easy to eat well if you just know what to do. The reason most people don’t succeed is they don’t plan their food. They plan their vacations, they plan their kitchen redesign, but they don’t plan out what they’re eating, and that’s a recipe for failure. I always think through how and where I’m going to get my food every day of every week. I also carry with me a set of emergency food so that I’m never in a food emergency.


What are the “emergency foods” that you carry?
I have to protect myself from myself because I’ll eat whatever if I’m hungry in an airport. So I always carry packets of almond butter, cashew butter, an Evolution bar, a Bulletproof bar, a Tanka bar and a KIND bar. I basically have fat and protein as my snacks, and I have enough food in my bag to last an entire day so I don’t make bad choices.


We talked a lot about fat. But what is one overarching message you would most like people to understand?
I think we have to get rid of the prevailing dogma that all calories are the same, and that we just need to exercise more and eat less, which is what the food industry and the government promote. The truth is that you can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. Metabolism is not a math problem. It’s a hormonal problem. Food is not just energy. It’s information. It’s instructions that turn on or off different switches in your body that regulate hunger and metabolism. Obesity is not about how much you eat. It’s about what you eat. If you just focus on quality, not calories, then the quantity takes care of itself.

New Things I've Been Trying

Health and wellness is a lifestyle. You don't just, boom, become healthy, or fit, or muscular, or clear headed, have clear skin, poof, brain fog is gone day, it takes time. Just think about how long it took you to get acne, or that extra 15lbs, or regular bowel irritability; none of it happens over night, it takes time to break down, just as it takes time to build it back up.

With that said, little bits daily, over time make a huge impact. Like eating a salad for lunch every day. Or moving every day, simply just going for a walk or taking the stairs, it adds up! And we all know that there isn't enough time in any of our days for 30-1 hour chunks of time to workout, or take a walk, or make your lunch instead of grabbing a fast food lunch, but think about it, if you took little steps each day, slowly, but surely, one day you'll have health and wellness, almost without even noticing it. The more you do little each day perpetuates healthier choices for the rest of your life.

It comes down to self-care. Which so many of us are horrible at. Don't feel bad, we all do it. We put everyone's needs before our own. We worry about our kids, our spouses, our family, our friends, our coworkers, even our boss, before we worry about ourselves. It is only when someone points out that you should be taking better care of yourself, or something bad happens (knock on wood), like a perpetual cold, or a injury, or creepy chronic illness; that we take note, slow down and say to ourselves, "Hey, maybe I should take better care of myself."

So let's not get it to that I-must-take-care-of-myself-know-place-or-I-might-fill in the blank (get diabetes, gain another 15lbs, have high blood pressure, die!) because little things each day add up and make a difference! AND the more you start taking care of yourself the better you will feel, the more you will want to continue to take care of yourself (ie make healthier food choices) and it will make taking care of all the those people around you easier. Trust.

So here are a few things I have been adding to my daily routine, that I am really liking:

Daily Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is exactly as it sounds, you brush your dry body with a dry brush. It sounds kinda weird and like it may hurt a little, but it feels great. You do it right before you get in the shower. I like to let the hot water run a bit to get the bathroom all warm, then get neked and start brushing in long smooth, gentle strokes from your toes to your neck. 

I know it seems weird, but seriously give it a try. Buy a soft bristled, natural brush and give it a whirl. You know that typical winter skin tightness and itchiness that won't go away no matter how much lotion you put on - gone! Seriously, my skin is not dry or itchy and I am not going through every lotion known to man this winter. 

Dry brushing has a slew of benefits from increased circulation and blood flow, getting rid of dead skin cells (hence the no itchiness), reducing cellulite (who doesn't want that!?), exfoliation, and all around general self love (you can't hate on yourself, while you are brushing, it's not possible, it feels too good). Learn more at from Wellness Mama, a great blogger I follow.

Coconut Oil in Coffee
If you haven't seen my IG posts about this deliciousness or haven't tried it yourself - you gotta! It's like Starbucks at home, but better. I swear, who doesn't want a frothy latte each morning in your pjs from your own kitchen! It's amaze-balls.

I stopped drinking coffee for a little over a year when I realized I was lactose intolerant. I stopped putting cream in my coffee and almond milk, try as I might, was just not good (all those who say otherwise - you lie!) and soy, yeah, no, I try not to eat too much soy. So I got rid of coffee in my life. It was sad, because I have always loved coffee. And really it has never given me much strife. And they say either you can drink it or you can't and your body will tell you. It never kept me up at night, I didn't get coffee poops (Google it), I didn't get jittery or anxious; and I love everything about coffee! The smell, the taste, the subtle nuances, the different roasts, I kinda became a coffee aficionado, so to give it up was a sad, sad day. To me there is nothing better than waking up, curling up in your pjs with a hot cup-o-joe, such an awesome way to start the day, am I right!?

So when I saw something recently about coconut oil coffee I had to try it. I'm in heaven. I still only drink 1-2 cups max a day but coconut oil makes it SO much better. Everyone knows coconut oil is the new wonder oil - slather it on everything right - we've all seen the memes. But seriously I love, love coconut oil, and no don't worry about the fat, it is the "good for you fat". 

Take a spoonful of coconut oil (figure out your preference, start with a teaspoon) throw it in a blender, add hot coffee and blend for a few secs, pour into a mug and enjoy your frothy, latte, only slightly coconut-y, coffee and go to heaven. One tip, I like my coffee super hot, and I found that if you put all your coffee in the blender it cools it down too much, so I pour half my black coffee in my mug, then blend the other half with coconut oil, it stays nice and hot that way.

Apparently there are health benefits (an added bonus, read more here) but I am just so excited to be able to have my morning coffee everyday and it is better than ever.

Ginger Tea with Meals
It is recommend in Ayurvedic medicine to drink ginger tea with meals. It aides in digestion. For someone who has off and on digestive problems adding ginger tea to each of my meals for the last few weeks had made a noticeable difference. I don't get gassy or bloated. Even if I start to get gassy after a meal, if a drink a cup of ginger tea the gas goes away. It is recommended to drink a hot cup of ginger tea with each meal or after each meal, if the ginger flavor doesn't go with the meal, I will enjoy it after (an added bonus for those with a sweet tooth, it kinda is like dessert, if you need it sweeter add a spoonful of honey.) I would highly recommend everyone add ginger tea to your daily meals.

Lastly, I've learned about:

Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique or Tapping. I could write a whole blog post on EFT and I probably will do a follow up. It is amazing! EFT is recognized by the CDC for treating PTSD better than talk therapy for veterans. But it does so much more than treat PTSD. You can use it for everything - from daily stress, to menstrual cramps, to physical pain (do you know that 85% of physical pain has an emotional connection??), to emotional pain, for weight loss, and fears, you name it, I bet you EFT will help.

EFT has pressure points that you tap while focusing on the stress, pain, fear, anxiety, what have you, and it actually changes the energy pathways in your body and brain. Almost like acupuncture without the needles. The rhythmic tapping helps you process the stress or emotion and actually rewires your brain to not register "it" as intensely. Your brain does not know the difference between being chased by a bear or nightmare or movie of a bear chasing you. EFT allows you to help your brain and fight or flight reponse to calm down. With as much stress as we all live with each day, our brains and body's are constantly triggering the fight or flight response, so it burns out and we can't tell the difference between a real or stress or a perceived stress. 

I know it might sound crazy and even looks a little silly, but seriously it works!

I can't say enough about EFT and if you are interested to learn more read this article

If you would like to know more about any of these tools that I am loving right now, or are interested in any others, send me an email.

While these daily things might not be for you, I urge you to find yours, find little healthy things you can add to your day to day, and trust me they will add up and make a difference in your overall health and well-being long term.