Fat: why not getting enough of it is a serious health risk, my story and what I found out about fat intake

My last post mentioned a revelation I had about my diet and how maybe I was getting too much protein and not enough fat….

I’ve been looking into this and the realizations have been profound.

First, I was in my 20’s during the apex of the “low-fat” craze.  The “lower-fat is always better” mentality got ingrained, even after I learned that fat isn’t bad and that most of the reasoning behind the low-fat mentality has been disproved and debunked.

Still, many health websites and recommendations mention limiting fat intake for a healthy diet.  The one big exception is the Keto folks.

Anyway, in my quest to limit calories and up my protein intake, I cut fat even further down….way down….too far down.   I got less than 20g of fat most days since January and probably still less than 40g of fat before then for a long time.  So that you know, a “low-fat” diet is considered limiting fat to 50g per day.

It turns out, eating that little fat is bad.  There is actually a REAL problem with not eating enough fat, lots of problems actually.  There’s even something called “Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency” where you don’t eat enough of the “essential fats”.  Those would be the Omega 3’s and 6’s.  They are essential because our bodies can not make them and we do need them to function.  (Just like the essential amino acids that most of you know all about).

It turns out, my list of developing health concerns and odd observations of my body and mind….line up with every single symptom I found on the effects of not eating enough fat.

These include:

*unrelenting hunger/craving even when “full”

*extremely dry skin, eyes, and other mucous membranes

*poor temperature regulation/always cold

*Specifically: dry cracking skin on lower extremities

*Hormone disruption and irregularity

*extreme mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory problems

*depression

*physical fatigue

*sore joints and muscles

Some personal notes:

Dry skin: About a year ago (maybe more), I started noticing an odd crackling pattern in my skin on both of my shins.  It looked like the dry cracked earth in the bottom of a dry creek bed.  It wouldn’t go away no matter how much coconut oil and other lotions I rubbed in.  I never suspected it was diet related…I saw “clinical fat deficiency” pictures of “lower extremity dryness”…it looked like someone snuck in and took pictures of my legs.  So THAT’s what that WAS?!  Since increasing my fat intake -it improved immediately and it is still present but is almost gone.

When I starting adding fat…in the shower one day I suddenly exclaimed, “oh, my GOD my skin is SO SOFT!”  I was so shocked that I called my husband in and said, “feel my skin!”  He said, “damn, your skin hasn’t been that soft in a long time”.

Hormone disruption: lately my cycles have me telling friends “I feel like a cat being swung around by it’s tail!” and have also described my cycle as “Mr. Toad’s wild ride”  Since I’m 46, I thought…here it comes…the dreaded change.  It is too early to tell, but could some of that be hormone disruption I was experiencing from fat deficiency? (I HOPE so, since eating more fat will help make it better if that is the cause.  If not, then I guess I have to “batten down the hatches!” cause that storm’s a-coming.)

Poor temperature regulation:  Up until recently, I was a “warm” person.  You know, there’s those people who are always cold/never warm, then there’s people who are always warm/never cold.  I was the always warm and never cold type.  I wore shorts in the winter, overheat easily in summer, positively WILT if it is over 95 degrees outside.  Except, this winter I could not get warm.  I was cold, even in a hot bath…cold from the inside-out.  I couldn’t seem to get warm.  Now I know why.

Mental fatigue/memory/concentration: I’m generally pretty sharp, focused, and quick-witted.  I considered my mind one of my greatest assets.  But lately? Issues there across the board.  Trouble concentrating, “can’t think” , making odd distracted math errors, stumbling on my words, blanking out…I was really worrying and wondering what the hell was wrong with me.  I had scary fears that I would maybe develop dementia like my mom, when did her’s start?, etc…

Since eating more fat…it’s like a thick brain fog is clearing.  My mental clarity, sharpness, and concentration is coming back, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders again.

Fatigue:  I felt like I had the flu, bone-deep tired.  I would get tired more easily than normal and need to rest more often.  I thought, “is this me getting old?”

Since more fat…more energy, more “get-up-and-go”, more “motivated”, less tired.

Sore joints and muscles:  I’ve been more sore lately (often for no good reason) and developing some joint pains.  Not sure if upping my fat intake will help, this one is on “see what happens” status.

Depression: you may have read about my recent struggles in previous blog posts.  I have had more difficulty with depression in the past 5 years in general, but the worst bout of it was recently, not long after this new “diet” started.  Again, I’ll have to see what happens, but I can say I feel more like my normal self since I increased my fat intake.  I simply feel better.  Will it last?  Hard to say, but I guess it is another “see what happens” moment.

 

So, we will see what happens, but I can see and feel the difference since I stated eating more fat and the improvements have been dramatic.  So, for me the conclusion is that I was definitely not eating enough fat and many of my health issues were or likely were caused by not getting enough fat.

Oh, and I read many articles and websites the course of my personal research.  This one is a must-read for everyone!

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Body’s Wisdom: a story of too much protein not enough fat? Too much not listening when my body says “something ain’t right!”

This is one of those…where do I begin? posts.

As you may know, I started this new phase in January and began this blog as part of that.  My first post  explains where and how I came to that place, including my gastric-bypass and long history with weight and body image issues.

I felt pretty good…for about 3 weeks.

I had some things right, and some things possibly very wrong.  Knowing myself, I went “all-out” at the beginning (right).  I decided to only give myself one rest day a week at first (right), but then carried that out for several weeks (wrong).  I didn’t set a pre-decided time limit on when I would scale back to “reasonable” limits (wrong).  So, every time my body said “TIRED!” I ignored it and kept pushing (obviously wrong).  I pushed until my physical and mental status declined terribly.

Oh, but wait, there’s more.

See, I had a misguided idea that more protein is better, always better.  You can’t eat too much protein.  I designed my food plan to limit daily intake to about 1200 calories with what ended up being about 120g of protein most days.  This is the upper end of what some say bodybuilders should eat and double what the “don’t eat too much protein” people would recommend.

Another GIANT mistake was not caring about the other macro’s (fat and carbs), I just cared about maximizing protein and minimizing calories.  It turns out, in my quest to keep calories low and protein high, I was minimizing fat.  Not because I believe in a low-fat diet (I know better than that!), but because of the misguided ideas above.

 

The combination of all this meant that, as the weeks went on, I felt shittier and shittier.  Physically and mentally I declined.  Slowly at first, the rapidly.

What I now realize/believe is that I was going into an inflammatory state and that caused several “symptoms” like:

*my joints started hurting and getting sore – more than what would be “normal” for me.

*I felt terrible, my energy bottomed out, and I felt like I had the flu all the time.

*My muscles would get extremely sore for no good reason – even light workouts would leave me very sore sometimes…and it took me twice as long to recover.  Once, a light leg workout left me unable to walk right for TWO days.  What I did should not have left me sore at all…much less hobbling for two days.

*I started getting very depressed, WAY more/worse than what I would call “usual” for me.  I wondered why I suddenly struggled so much more and worse than normal for me.

*I daily had the thought, “what the heck is wrong with ,me!?”

See….my body sent out the signals louder and stronger every day “something ain’t right!”

But I didn’t listen…so I just kept feeling worse and worse.

Then I just happened to do some reading about eating too much protein.  I wondered about it.  I experimented this week with cutting back on protein…and began feeling better.  I looked at my eating plan this weekend.

I read something about how too much protein combined with not enough fat can be disastrous for your body.  I decided to see how much fat I was actually consuming in my plan.  I did the math….OH CRAP.  I was eating less than 30g of fat a day, most days hovering close to about 20.  Even a “low-fat” diet says 50g a day, I was less than half that most days!

So, I made some adjustments.

*I  upped the calories to 1400-1500, which is more reasonable for my activity levels AND still a deficit so I can lose that last 10 pounds.

*I cut protein down to about 70-75g per day.

*I upped my fat intake to 45-55g per day (maybe still too low but better!)

*I added a rest day on Wednesdays (now 2 days rest per week).

*I am remembering the importance of the mind and making meditation an important component of the plan.

 

So far, I am already feeling MUCH better overall.  I felt better on my run yesterday than I have felt in a while!  When I woke up feeling yucky today (my husband and I both seem to be coming down with a cold), I did some of my workout to see how I would feel (body work, then a 1.5 mile run) and I could tell my body was really saying “not today” after about a mile, so I headed home early.

I will keep trying to listen to my body and stop over-riding it’s wisdom.  Let’s see how this goes over time….

Flight of the Bumblebee…

I realized suddenly today that my life and mind feel like the flight of the bumblebee lately…

A video that pretty much sums it up.

Can you believe that I forgot about meditation?  Seriously, I got/get so caught up in it all that I forget that meditation can help, can cure what ills me.

I’ve been spinning around with:

*a significant home renovation project (this week half the house was covered in plastic as the walls and ceilings got “put back” with drywall) , now we have what furniture didn’t get moved into the garage last weekend covered in plastic as we begin priming ceilings and walls…

*trying to keep up with a daily workout regimen and making “eating plan” meals…

*trying to keep the house in livable condition while “everything is everywhere”

*calling the vet about the skin issues my young Doberman is having that are driving her and everyone crazy..

*speaking of said young Doberman…trying to keep up with the SAGA of destruction of this dog.  Seriously….she ATE two, yes TWO, pool vacuums, EVERY sprinkler head in the backyard, she manages to move 50lb rocks we strategically placed to prevent her from digging in certain “favorite” spots…then she digs it all out.  It feels like a full-time job just trying to have a yard that doesn’t look like a war-zone with an increasingly green pool.

*teaching full-time while serving as Union rep, on the school Site Council, being the senior class advisor, helping to start the new music club/choir….and trying to keep up with planning and grading, keeping up with the constant revolving door of kids going out on “independent study” (read as: parents wanted to take 2 week vacation during school because it is cheaper).

*working with my sister to deal with and find solutions for my mom’s advancing dementia and my aging dad being overwhelmed by her needs.  This included spending an entire Saturday deep-cleaning their kitchen and bringing dinner and visiting every Wednesday – helping with chores and things while there.

*designing a new camper van that I wish I had time to actually buy and work on! (gotta have something FUN to think about!)

 

I kept feeling like I need rest.  I need a break…I want to just run away from it all and live in a hut in the forest! (or in a van down by the river!)

Today, I remembered meditation…but I thought of it a new way.  “Mental REST”

I realize….I have rested my body (not enough, but some).

But, I haven’t “rested” my mind.  It just works and works and works, crunching away on one problem after another…finding solutions, making plans, realizing new problems, trying to find solutions for those, remembering this appointment, and then that thing that needed to get done yesterday and this other thing I need to do right now, and then…and then…and then…and then…and OH crap I’m late for ___!  Shit, I forgot to___, Damn, I can’t do ___right now, because that ___is in “emergency” status!

Calgon, take me AWAY!

Then…today I remembered meditation.  I said, let me just take a “mind break” and just let all this shit go for a minute.

I did a favorite exercise that I developed some time ago (and forgot about):

I breathed in and said “rest” to my mind.

I breathed out and saw my breath as a gentle breeze blowing thought my brain and clearing out all the “dust and clutter”.

With each “rest” breath, that gentle breeze blew out just a little more “mental dust” (thoughts)…I know one breath won’t blow it all away…but each breath blows just a few more granules…after a few breaths my mind feels…cleaner.  All those thoughts are miles away, blown far away on that gentle breeze of my breath.

I find some clarity again, less rushing around in there, less making everything such a big deal, more letting go.

And suddenly this little bumblebee finds a nice little flower to rest on and laughs at all the insanity (instead of finding myself all caught up in it).

 

 

Having it vs. MAKING it.

Time, energy,  motivation, you name it.  Is it about having it? Or making it?

This post is inspired by the thought I had about 5 minutes ago, “I need to post something new on my blog, but I don’t have the time.”

Don’t have Time? Nah, that’s the lie I told myself.  I haven’t made time for it.  I have time, lots of it.  I’ve just been choosing to allocate it in ways that puts this blog thing at a lower priority.  Which is fine, it’s just better to be honest with myself.  I have the time.

We lie to ourselves often.  It makes things easier to swallow, I guess.  It’s easier to say you don’t have the time or have the energy to do something, than to deal with knowing you choose to not make the time or save the energy for it.

Even when something is a priority, it doesn’t mean it is enough of a priority to get past every single obstacle in the way to getting there.

When you’re life gets too full of priorities, you end up having to….prioritize your priorities!  The reality is that we are human and our capacity to make something “top priority” is pretty limited.

So,what am I saying?  I don’t really know…just that I feel a little overwhelmed sometimes by all these priorities clamoring for my time, energy, and attention.

Sorry, blog…you got bumped down the list lately.

Weight loss update: meh. I have stayed the same for a bit (both good and bad news).

I am on and off lately…trying to be more on than off…but struggling with it.  I got exhausted.  Funny, when I, as a person with depression problems, get tired….I have lots of worries about it.  Oh no! Am I getting depressed? Am I just tired? Maybe I’m getting the flu? Or, am I over-training? How do I interpret this feeling in my body and how should I best respond?

See, if tired = sick or overtrained, then REST is the cure.

If tired = early mild depression, then PUSH THROUGH is the cure.

The misery of that….is completely opposite responses.  Misdiagnosing the cause and responding incorrectly could mean making it much much worse. 😕

How am I to know what kind of tired it is?

Overtraining vs. Over-rationalizing?

How do you know when you have it right? On a workout regimen, how many rest days should you have? How do you know if you need to rest or you need to push through?

This is a big debate for me.  Today, I took a rest day because I am exhausted.  But….I do it with doubts.  Am I doing the right thing, or am I making excuses to skip a workout when I should get up and do it?

If there was a movie title for my decision back in January (when I started this blog) it would be, “Karen’s Badass-ness Re-loaded”.  My first post explains about my longer history with obesity, my period of “physical awesomeness”, and my decline over the past few years.  Read about that here: Let me explain my title…

So, this all began with a big, “get my bad-ass-ness BACK!” commitment.  Part of that was to “go hard” in the beginning.  I needed that feeling of making a big decision, digging deep, and seeing real results fast.  Knowing myself, I know that is MY key to that decision holding true for the long-term.

I also knew that it would not just be hard to sustain, but that it was likely completely unrealistic for a human who still cares about being healthy and taking proper care of their body (vs. A human who only cares about being thin and ripped).

I gave myself just one rest day a week, and then 80-90 minutes of workout the other days.  Daily workouts have been 20-30 minutes of weight-training with 5 mile runs, Fridays often add an extra workout of Bikram Yoga (aka hot yoga), an intense 90 minute heat-blasted training session.  So, Fridays often have 120 minutes of workout for the day.  Saturday is rest day, and Sunday is a run (5 mile minimum with hoping for more).  All this with about 1200 calories intake 6 days a week.

Add in working a stressful and demanding job, bearing most of the duties at home myself, and needing to find solutions for my parents (mom has semi-advanced dementia and dad is doing his best to deal but needs help).  Right now that means spending Wed. Evenings at their house making food and doing some chores, and last Saturday I spent 7 hours straight trying to clean their kitchen (my sis and bro were cleaning bathrooms and floors), even then….we didn’t finish the house yet.

So…..I am tired.  I lost 20 pounds since January, and muscle is definitely making a welcome reappearance on my body….but this level is unsustainable.  I knew this at the beginning.  I knew I would need to dial back to more reasonable levels.

My big question: should I have 2 planned rest days? Is that too many? Or is only one rest day a recipe for disaster and over-training?  Is over-training a real thing, or a way to give people a way to rationalize skipping workouts?

Ok, ok…over-training is real (supposedly), but where is the line between dedicated, make-no-excuses, get it done training and over-training?

How do I know when I have it right?  How do I know where the line is between too much and not enough? Seriously….fitness folks out there, please leave comments with your thoughts.  I am seriously asking the question, it is not just food for thought.

So, so very very tired.

I has been an insane and exhausting couple of days.  Does cleaning and scrubbing for 7 hours count as a workout??  It sure isn’t a rest day!  And my shoulders are actually sore.

When I was DONE cleaning my parent’s house  on Saturday, I felt like someone had beat me with a bat.  My whole body hurt.  I was “I can’t remember the last time I was this tired” tired.

I think between the hot yoga Friday night and 7 hours of hard labor on Saturday…I was completely spent.  I even had trouble sleeping that night…that too tired and achy to sleep issue.

Then Sunday I tried to get things done at home, totally skipped my run.  And woke up tired this morning 😢.

I did get caught up at home😁 and I still at least squeezed in a 4 mile run this morning.  I feel like I need a day in bed with a good book.

I DESERVE a day in bed with a good book!

Dear Bed,

I have an ALL day appointment with you next Saturday.  Please be sure to be comfy and warm.

Sincerely,

Karen

 

Time to thank Dog.

Yesterday was great.  I woke up all,”bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”.  Such a contrast to the morning before where I woke up sluggish and mildly surly.

Being the hyper-vigilant, self observing, pattern finder that I am, I said, “huh, what’s up with  that?”

I compared everything as as hit my morning run.  Given my eating plan…I ate exactly the same thing the day before on both days.  So….that’s not it.  I basically did the same things both days before. So, that’s not it.  Work was equally a blend of total crap and rewarding contribution to society both days. So, that’s not it.

The only difference was…..the dog.

See, the night before the crappy morning I went to bed mostly on time, had no difficulty falling asleep….and then that damn little doofus-dog woke me up at least 3 times in the night.  She wanted to go out for a drink of water…then she needed to pee…then I think just a bonus to bark at some imagined intruder in the backyard.

The next night….I fell asleep at about the same but a wee-bit earlier because I could tell I needed some sleep.  And then….I woke up….and then a few minutes later my alarm went off.  I was surprised that I had slept through the night without a single…anything waking me up.  And I felt, AWESOME!

Yesterday morning, there was no battle. I got up, did my normal morning things…got to my workout ON TIME, did my bodywork, then went right out on my run.  I ran a nice perky 5 miles, and it felt SO nice to run without wanting to turn around and go home the whole time.

Work went decently well.  Then I went to HOT yoga after work.  Hot, hot, and hotter.  It went better, until the last 20 minutes.  I went from totally fine and dripping sweat, to overheating.  I think I even stopped sweating.  😓 I did make it through to the end without running outside to cool down. 😁

Afterwards, folks were talking.  I guess the thermostat doesn’t get it when the room is too hot…it is just set to heat-heat-heat.  It isn’t a problem when there’s less people, but when it gets full and crowded….the room gets exponentially hotter about halfway through.  Oh, that would be why I was fine…until I really wasn’t.

At the end, when I went outside….the metal door handle was almost too hot to touch.  Seriously, it was that hot.  Maybe they should do something to fix that….turn the heat off when there’s that many people?  I do think the room reached “dangerously hot”. My guess, it was over 120 degrees.

Then I met my bestie for dinner.  We talked for a couple of hours and it was wonderful.

Yesterday’s stats:

Calories and protein: not totally sure (no restaurants in Davis have calories on menu😒) but my best guess is: about 1500 calories and 90 on protein?

Hydration: 88oz.

Activity: AM: body work arms shoulders and abs, ran 5 miles. PM: hot yoga (90 minutes in a room hot as hell).

Goals today: supposed to be rest and relax day….but today me and my sister go clean out parents house (long story for another day).  Given the state of it….it will take all day, ALL DAY.

It is also supposed to be an “eat without worrying about it” day.  Not  “binge and go ape-shit day”, just a day where I don’t have to keep track of calories and set the limit.  You know….a day to be a normal person.

Oh….and the scale is moving again…lost one more pound. Down: 19, goal: 12 more.