About the Grass Fed Girl
After a lifetime of following conventional diet wisdom, also known as doing all the wrong things, I have finally found peace of mind. Two years of a low carb paleo diet has stabilized my weight and balanced my system.
I was plump by age six, attending Weight Watchers meeting with my parents. In middle school I was a pudgy sugar addict. In high school I went on a Lean Cuisine and Diet Coke regimen, counting every fat gram. I started college a fairly fit 175 pounds, reasonable for my 5 feet 8 inches, but by graduation four years later I was tipping the scales at nearly 240 lbs. I felt terrible in my own skin and was happy to hide behind my cap and gown.
Over the next few years I lost 80 lbs on a low fat diet accompanied by tons of cardio exercise. This inspired me to become personal trainer in 2006, so I could help others lose weight. After several years of training people I started studying holistic health, following a soy-based vegetarian diet. By 2009 I was exhausted and constipated. I sought help from many different doctors/practitioners. I learned I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks its own thyroid tissue. In an ironic twist, just about the time I became a certified holistic nutritionist I got sick myself, which give me real empathy for my clients.
It has been a long road to recovery, but being on an ancestral, grain-free diet for the past two years has helped my energy and improved my immune system. I wanted to write this blog to help young students avoid metabolism-damaging mistakes I made. I hope this entry helps others avoid the thyroid problems linked to repetitive yo-yo dieting, blood sugar imbalances, and excessive stress.
Cook your own food
First semester at college I got a meal plan, eating from the genetically modified, Frankenfood buffet all year. I quickly gained 25 pounds! Some girls cooked their own meals in the dorm kitchens, but that seemed like too much trouble. I wanted to go with the flow, and did not yet understand how food quality impacts the waistline.
Being in charge of your own food takes effort, but it can be done. My little brother is in college right now, and taking a different approach from mine. Fed up with the mandatory meal plan, he took matters into his own hands. He makes coconut milk shakes in his Magic Bullet, and hauls his frying pan down 3 flights of stairs to cook meat-and-veggie stir fries cooked in grass fed butter, cooking enough for two tasty organic meals. Read more of his inspirational story about overcoming asthma here.
Eat animal protein at every meal
I understand the reasons many young people go vegetarian, but often these attempts are misguided. There are many problems with feedlot meat but shunning animal protein is not a solution. Protein-deficient young adults quickly develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Many formerly vegetarian clients tell me of uncontrollable sugar cravings, fatigue, depression, digestive distress, PMS and acne after removing meat from their diets.
Animal foods are the richest sources of nutrients on earth; we know of no traditional culture that shunned meat. Eat the best quality meat you can find, preferably 100% grass fed and organic. Humane treatment of animals also means fewer fat-promoting pesticides and antibiotics.
However, if you can’t get good meat still eat meat! Beans, rice and other grains quickly turn to sugar, promoting diabetes and abdominal fat. Soy foods like tofu and veggie burgers contain fat promoting estrogens. They also blunt thyroid hormone production, slowing metabolism. Choose low carb favorites chicken, pork, beef, seafood and lamb without breading whenever possible. Fill up on healthy fats and proteins, while avoid all the bloating bread, rice and potatoes.
Bread in all forms can make us fat and sick. Cereal, rice, bread, pasta and other grains are the hardest foods to digest, causing a great deal of irritation in the gut lining. The inflammation caused by these grains has a trickle down effect leading to acne, allergies, weight gain and more. Experts estimate that 60-80% of all people are gluten intolerant. It seems like everyone is on the “breadwagon” but you can buck the obesity trend by saying no to bread and all grains. For more information, please visit Suicide by Sandwich? 12 Reasons to Banish Bread at GrassFedGirl.com.
Eat eggs for breakfast
In my college cafeteria I would always make a beeline for the cereal dispensers. I loved Shredded Mini-Wheats, Honey Nut Cheerios, and many other cereals. It never occurred to me that these “healthy” whole grains were a big problem for my body. I believed that cereal and whole grains were healthy, and I never understood why I couldn’t stop eating them once I started. I just thought I had no will power, and didn’t comprehend why cereal never filled me up. I didn’t know that these foods, low in fat and high in sugar, are designed to override my innate satiety signals. I also didn’t know that spikes in insulin from carb filled foods signal the body to store fat.
Ironically, I avoided nutritious low carb foods like bacon, sausage and eggs because they are full of fat. But eggs and bacon for breakfast stabilize blood sugar for many hours, letting you breeze through important assignments. The body is designed to run on these proteins and fats, so these foods will give us hours of stable energy.
Eat real butter
Real butter has important antioxidant vitamins which are vital for a healthy thyroid and sturdy adrenal glands, helping us stay slim and handle stress. Butter is one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which has been shown to help women keep their weight down: Women with adequate stores of D weigh an average of 17 pounds less than women who are deficient in this hormone-like vitamin. (It’s a good idea to have your D levels tested; a healthy level is about 60ng/dl. You can check it at VitaminDcouncil.org or your doctor’s office.) Vitamin A in butter is helpful in preventing colds and flu. Butter is full of short chain fats, preferentially and easily burned by the body. Butter from grass-fed cows, such as Kerry Gold, is the most nutrient-dense. See also: 12 Reasons To Cut The Canola.
Be a sassy snacker
Peanut M&Ms were my favorite college snack, but they made me feel guilty because I wanted another pack as soon as they were finished. The point of eating candy was to get energy for late-night studying, but after a pack of these sugar bombs I wanted a nap. Candy creates a blood sugar roller coaster, killing energy and igniting cravings. Study smart with these healthier paleo diet friendly snacks: salami, prosciuto, berries, boiled eggs, gluten free jerky, kale chips, crudités, olives, raw cheese, pate, macadamia nuts, almond butter, coconut butter, 80% dark chocolate, cheese sticks, full fat plain yogurt or cottage cheese.
Get your beauty sleep
The more sleep you get, the more hunger hormones will be under control. Ghrelin, one of these powerful hormones, is suppressed when we get fewer than 8 hours of sleep. Invest in earplugs and an eye mask to block out distractions. Make your room a sleep sanctuary, keeping it as dark as possible and turning off all electronic devices, which produce electromagnetic frequencies that stimulate obesogenic chemicals in the body. Snoozing is a top priority because when you are sleeping you are a fat burning machine. See also: 10 Simple Ways to Improve Your Sleep.
Workout smart not hard
Skip cardio for weight training; it will provide more bang for your workout buck. For guaranteed exercise, take a fun physical education class. If you hate the gym, just go for a walk, adding short bursts of faster walking or jogging to release fat burning hormones. Interval sprints such as Peak 8 give great benefits for minimal time input. Mercola peak 8 link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NmNS75w9hI
Ditch the diet drinks
Diet Coke, Crystal Light and similar products stimulate our appetites by triggering carbohydrate cravings. This can lead to weight gain. Too, chemical sweeteners are very close in structure to bleach, and can have brain damaging effects contributing to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Artificial sweeteners can also reduce beneficial gut flora by 50%. This bacterial imbalance can contribute to weight gain, depression, and constipation/diarrhea.
Decompress the stress
Incorporate yoga or stretching into your paleo diet routine to lower the fat promoting hormone cortisol. Do some deep breathing and find your center to get out of fight-or- flight mode. When we are over-programmed and constantly busy we never find our Zen. Replenish energy with a warm Epsom salt bath or a funny movie. Try not to bite off more than you can chew or burn the candle at both ends. Poorly managed stress and a nutrient deficient diet will set the stage for weight gain, infertility and, later in life, osteoporosis and dementia.
Improve your alcohol awareness
The college years are full of drinking temptation but think when you drink. Gluten found in beer is one of the most allergenic foods, causing weight gain, skin rashes, sinus problems, headaches and bloating. If you drink, choose wine, or clear spirits mixed with citrus or a splash of juice. I advise my clients to drink potato-based vodka with lime and soda water (not tonic; it’s sugary) if they want to imbibe. Mix a clear liquor like Patron with stevia sweetened soda. Switch to bubble water after one or two drinks, and no one will be the wiser.
Be above par at the salad bar
Vegetables are full of liver-detoxing vitamins and minerals, making it easier to burn fat. Avoid canola, soybean and corn oils, especially on cooked vegetables. However, it is important to use fats like coconut oil or butter with your veggies so you can absorb the fat-soluble nutrients they contain. Be wary of salad dressings; they are often made with rancid GMO vegetable oils, accelerating aging and stimulating hunger. Use olive oil and vinegar/lemon on your salad, or make your own dressing before you leave home and carry it in a small snap-top container. It is a good idea to stash a small bottle of good olive oil in your purse when you are on the go. When visiting the salad bar load up on colorful paleo diet veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, bacon and avocado to keep you full, focused, and in your skinny jeans!
Bonus Tip: Stand up for yourself
I have always been a people-pleaser, going with the flow — until I lost 80 pounds. Then the need to please others went out the window. We have to stand up for our own needs and stop caring what people may think. We have to cease being doormats, accepting whatever choices come along. A take-charge attitude is essential to safeguard our health and find the right foods to look and feel great. Fill up on meats, eggs, fish, veggies and healthy fats like butter and coconut oil to reach your weight loss goal. Reduce or eliminate grains, starches, and sweets so you can easily avoid the dreaded freshman 15 pounds (or more). Stick to your regular low carb / paleo diet routine for a successful school year!
About the Author:
Caitlin Weeks BA, Certified Nutrition Consultant, C.H.E.K. Holistic Lifestyle Coach, NASM Certified Personal Trainer is a San Francisco based Holistic Nutritionist serving clients locally and beyond (US & international) via phone and Skype consultations. Since 2001 Caitlin has had success conquering obesity after a lifetime of struggling with her weight. Since 2009 she has been winning the battle over Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis by managing stress and using a whole foods low carb diet. She is committed to educating others about the benefits of Primal eating and efficient exercise. She writes weekly about health and nutrition on her blog: www.grassfedgirl.com. Follow Caitlin on Twitter and Facebook.