Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor. All medical conditions should be assessed by a trained medic before attempting to self-treat. I will not be held responsible for any liability, loss or risk resulting directly or indirectly from the use of or application of any contents of this blog post.
Following on from our look at sugar and the harm it wreaks in our bodies, I thought we would examine another confusing area, linked to it. Very often we know we weigh too much, but don't really know what to do about the situation. In the 'old' days I would have cut fat down even more, and started an exercise programme, but with years of experience of only losing a few pounds just to put them all back on again I had at least learnt that that is not very helpful. Of course I now know how vital plenty of fat is for my health. Many folk start counting the calories - which often means avoiding fat as well as carbohydrates.
Then, what about those folk who have been ill and have the opposite problem. They are losing weight. I've heard of cancer patients being told to eat numerous Mars Bars to put weight back on, which filled me with alarm knowing the effects of sugar and how it has been found to feed cancer cells. This seemed sheer madness. Cutting fat won't help to lose weight, only puts you at risk of throwing the hormones out of balance which creates a hot bed for ill health. Eating lots of sugar to put on weight has the same effect. So what's the answer?
Well, it's a question I've been interested in for a long time and my first real breakthrough came with reading Diana Schwarzbein's book, 'The Schwarzbein Principle, The truth about Losing weight, being healthy and feeling younger'. Although I have since come to disagree with some of the foods she advocates eating (for example she says not to eat coconut, whereas many other natural health doctors, Dr. Natasha Campbell-Mc.Bride included all say coconut is one of the most health imparting foods in it's pure unrefined/unpasteurised state) her analysis of the situation is spot on. She highlighted how dangerous 'dieting' is.
It is impossible to lose more than two pounds of body fat a week - even if you have a high performing metabolism and exercise rigorously. This is a very important fact and one that is frequently lied about by the diet industry. If you are on a diet and losing weight faster than two pounds a week (after the first week) you are losing lean body mass, not fat.. (p. 195)
In other words, if you lose weight too quickly, it will not be body fat you have lost, but material from your bones and muscles. You are dieting yourself away literally. You will be tempted to think that the diet is working as your weight is going down, so you continue. This slows down your metabolism as your body tries to prevent itself from using too much muscle and bone mass to build with. Once you reach your goal weight and start eating normally again, your body rebuilds the lost muscle and bone mass and increases body fat. So you end up back at square one.
Many Natural Health experts suggest taking our eyes off of the scales and examining what we are putting on the end of our forks instead.
All calories are not created equal they say. Butter has far more calories than a low fat biscuit, but nutritionally speaking will do you far more good. Calories do not have the final say. Our focus should be instead upon feeding our bodies the most nutritious foods. The foods that will build us up, not tear us down. Foods that will supply our bodies with the necessary building blocks to keep every part working as it should. Obviously, refined and processed foods are nutritionally very poor. Sally Fallon calls them 'negative calories' - which as we saw last week, draw more from the body to digest them than they put back in, literally, leaving your body in debt! Her advice? To stay away from sugar and white flour.
Dr. Schwarzbein's advice is to only count your carbohydrate quantities in terms of grams, not calories. She gives a helpful table in her book so that you can see what an appropriate portion of carbs looks like for your build and exercise level. She also gives a breakdown of how much of each food you can eat to make 15g of carbs. Again she advises strict abstinence from processed foods and that we buy the best quality meat and vegetables that we can afford.
Sally Fallon also suggests (amongst others) never eating anything too highly sweetened and always having sweet things with some fat to go with them, e.g. cream on fruit, or butter and eggs in pies and cakes etc... as the fats 'slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream while providing fat-soluble nutrients that nourish those glands involved in the blood sugar regulation mechanism.' (p.535)
Hence also, you don't have to worry about the glycaemic index of foods as when eaten with fat the body processes them differently.
What about artificial sweeteners?
The very word artificial should alert us to be careful. Anything artificial should be avoided as it will be toxic to our bodies. Aspartame has been found to have damaging effects on the brains of growing children, others have a laxative effect which rather shows they can't be good for us. Basically, better not to have them. Watch out for them in so called 'sugar-free' drinks. Make your own juices from freshly juiced fuits and vegetables, or just drink plain water. Better still make your own water kefir - a deliciously healthy drink, or even kombucha.
In our experience, without dieting as such, on the GAPS diet and not eating many sweet foods, we have all toned up considerably. Those of us who had weight to lose lost it and then started to build healthy muscle rather than layers of fat. Just to clear a point of confusion, many seem to get the impression that GAPS is virtually carbohydrate free as we don't eat grains or starchy vegetables. Dr. Natasha Campbell-Mc.Bride says it's not even low carbohydrate as you could eat lots of allowed fruit, although she doesn't advise this if you want to see healing taking place. But even without lots of fruit, we eat copious quantities of veg, some just cooked and served with a meal, some souped and some juiced. So we are eating plenty of non-starchy carbs which is the way to go!
So to sum up:
Eat whole natural foods.
Only eat natural sweeteners, that is, sweet foods that are intact without the nutrients taken away, like raw honey (honey not heated), Maple syrup, rapadura, date sugar, molasses. Have a look round your local Health food shop.
Always eat sweet things with fat.
Don't overly get hung up on weight, rather make your food as nutrient dense as possible by excluding refined and processed foods, e.g ready meals, biscuits, sweets, crisps, bought cakes, bought bread.
Eat plenty of natural fats - i.e animal fats to help keep those hormones in balance especially those involved in the blood sugar controlling mechanism.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. A member of the medical profession should be consulted about all matters relating to your health. This information is for advice only.
1. Campbell - Mc Bride, Natasha. The gut and Psychology Syndrome. Cambridge, UK: Medinform Publishing, 2010
2. Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions; The Cookbook that challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the diet Dictocrats. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, Inc, 2001
3. Schwarzbein, Diana and Deville, Nancy. The Schwarzbein Principle; The truth about losing weight, being Healthy and feeling younger. Deerfield Beach, FL:Health Communications, Inc. 1999