Sunday, October 14, 2012

Why We Get Fat

As many of you know, I care a great deal about health and wellness. I am always up for learning about new research or views on what it means to be healthy. In the summer of 2011, this lead to me becoming a vegetarian thanks in large part to my friend Nicole and brother Nate who both recommended books at the time that changed my life ("Skinny Bitch," "In Defense of Food," and "Eating Animals"). Now, almost a year and a half later, I am hitting a new leaf in my continual aspiration to be my best self.

I have been thinking about exercise a lot lately as Richmond is in the midst of a huge training season with the marathon and half marathon next month. I have been discussing with people how much we actually need to exercise to be healthy, because I feel that I have hit a plateau in my running and think that I could cut back from 5-6 days a week to 3-4 it wouldn't matter (I actually eat more when I exercise, but I do enjoy the mental aspects of a good workout). Well, my coworker Ernie, who is an English teacher at my school, recommended I read the book "Why We Get Fat" because he and his wife are also very into health and wellness. This book brought to light how everything we have ever told about what is healthy, is pretty much a lie. That it is not about eating less and exercising more, but about WHAT we are eating (and not calories or fat). This book, with research to back it up, explains that carbohydrates are like cigarettes- they never should be eaten, even in moderation, because what good is it to smoke in moderation? I will not go into details because you should read the book, but basically when we eat carbs and sugar, that is what our body will burn, and all the fat we eat will be stored, which makes us fat. When we eliminate carbs, our body has to switch to burn fat, which in turn causes you to lose weight because it is burning all the excess fat that is stored.

Now you may be thinking that this makes no sense because people lose weight when they eat less and exercise more. Well, of course they do, because all weight lose programs (Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, South beach, ect) assign more points to, or allow less, carbs. A pasta dish may have up to 7 points on Weight Watchers, but an egg is close to 1. An egg has 0 carbs and pasta is loaded. So naturally, whenever people lose weight they do cut carbs. However, when carbs are not limited almost completely, you are still craving those foods and are often hungry. Eating almost exclusively meat (or tofu, veggie burgers and fish for me), protein and veggies eliminates cravings for carbs/sugar because you are eating enough fat to not be hungry. And those studies about increases in heart disease and cholesterol with excessive fat? Heart disease actually INCREASED when starches and breads were heavily introduced into our diet and there is no link to fat and an unhealthy increase in cholesterol (both LDL and HDL go up).

As far as exercise goes, this book also explains that while exercise is very important, we don't need much to get what we need. Twenty minute bursts a few days a week is fine, because your eating will compensate for how much activity you are getting. Studies have proven this (he has a lot of good studies cited). Also, your body can only change so much- genetics is the main reason we look the way we do (sorry:(). We can only do our best to make sure we are eating right and controlling what we can. This, of course, is easier said than done, but just 2 days of actually reading carb content on nutrition labels has blown my mind. My "healthy"cereal? My "healthy" preztles? My "whole grain" bread? LOADED with carbs. No wonder I am hungry in the middle of the day.

My first step is becoming carb-low is to change my breakfasts to eggs, cheese and veggies and to get rid of all granola/cereal bars instead for afternoon snacks of cottage cheese, cheese sticks, veggies in regular dressing and other protein products. Then I will tackle lunches (my dinners are pretty carb-low anyways, but I will need to get rid or go through all of my rice/pasta). Sweets will be the hardest, but if I can cut back everywhere else, I can still allow myself to stay under 60 grams of carbs a day with a sweet treat after dinner. And being a vegetarian (besides fish), this will also be difficult, but I know of plenty alternative options and eating full-fat everything will fill me up even without meat.

Don't believe me or think this is all bull? Read the book and then we can discuss:)
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