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The Italian Experiment

italiaThis April, we spent 10 days in Italy. Best. Trip. Ever. And we ate. Everything. Cheeses, oil soaked veggies, gelato, pizza, bread, pasta…All of it. The entire week, I did not have one stomach ache (typically I average 1-2/day) and I lost weight. Truth spoken people.

Aside from moving to Italy, there is a lesson in this – and it’s two-fold.

  1. Pure, unprocessed fresh food is good for your body. Period.
  2. Fat is good.

1st point – Italians barely use a refrigerator and do not load their pantries with snacks. Most of them use the college-sized dorm room versions our kids take to school. Everything is bought and made fresh daily. They do not manufacture or consume processed foods.

Now let’s focus on the 2nd point. As I’ve written about before, we have been taught to be afraid of fat and told “fat will make you fat”. I am here, as a witness, to tell you… that is a myth.

More and more we are learning that higher fat diets help balance hormones, make vitamins (A,D,E,K) more absorbable, promote skin, hair, cardiovascular & brain health, prevent diabetes and… help you lose weight. All calories are not created equal. That is a farce. But there is more to it. Some pure logic – some scientific.

The fat you will find in a frappuccino or a milkshake (kinda the same thing), in a processed protein bar, in frozen dinners, in cookies or even in over-the-counter cheese is not the fat I am referring to. These processed fats are not pure, fresh or organic. They are simply that – processed. And your body does not know what to do with them – so the chemicals are converted to fat in your body.

Enter the scientific: The hormonal effect of food is a much bigger part of the equation and is the most important factor when it comes to fat loss. Namely, insulin (the fat-storage hormone, not fat-releasing). According to Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS – author of Smart Fat: Eat More Fat, Lose More Weight. Get Healthy Now, “the American high-carb, low-fat diet…causes a lot of insulin to be released. When insulin is high, the fat cells lock their doors and won’t release their goodies…and fat can’t be burned for fuel.”

Here’s the kicker. Carbs and protein effect insulin levels. Fat? Not-at-all. And it produces more energy per gram than any other food group. And this all works when you eat “smart fats.”

Smart fats include:

Extra virgin olive oil (hello, Italia)
Fish oil
Wild salmon
Nuts
Coconut, palm & nut oils
Dark chocolate (Italia, there you are again)
Free range, organic eggs
Fats from grass-fed organic meats

Toxic fats include:

Factory farmed meat on a grain-fed diet
Man-made processed fats and foods
Processed omega 6 veggie oils (corn, soybean, canola)
Fats damaged in cooking (see previous blog: Best Oils To Cook With)

So, the high-fat, high-fiber, high flavor, moderate protein-rich foods consumed in Italy proved to be the winners.

Try it. See how you feel and if you notice a difference. And always remember to source your fruits, veggies and proteins organically as much as possible.

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  • Sonja Gamgort

    A+ post! Should we skip the store bought packaged pasta then? Would love to look deeper at the case for eating grass fed meats versus grain fed!

    • Debra

      Organic fresh pasta is your best option. Definitely avoid grain fed meats if possible.

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Just Got Burned

I was invited to one of those home-business direct sales parties this weekend – loving the social aspect of great company/eats but apprehensive about the sales pitch that often leads to hypocriteobligatory purchases to support my friend, “the host”.

However, what transpired that evening was life-changing.

I wear a health and fitness badge proudly on my chest for all to see, and live and breathe what I preach.  I spend all this time and energy focusing on my inside, I completely disregarded my outside and feel like such a hypocrite admitting it.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today in the health and beauty industry. Many don’t have any safety data.
  • 80% of the ingredients used today have never been tested for safety.
  • The United States has not passed a major federal law to regulate the safety of ingredients used in personal care products since 1938.
  • The European Union has spent the past two decades banning or restricting more than 1,300 ingredients, the US has only banned 11 to date.
  • Only about 10% of the 10,000 chemicals commonly found in personal care products have safety data.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids every day. And they don’t necessarily have to list them on their products.
  • Our skin is our largest organ – it absorbs up to 60% of what you put on it; on average we use 12-20 products on our skin every-single-day.

I felt nauseous thinking of all of the skin and beauty products I purchase for my family that could potentially be detrimental to their health and mine.

According to BeautyCounter, “Decades of studies indicate that serious health issues (including, but not limited to asthma, learning disabilities, cancer and infertility) are on the rise, and due in some part to our on-going exposure to toxic chemicals”. 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women in the US will be diagnosed with cancer. ewg

In panic mode, I immediately went through my cabinets that night – zapping everything I had with the EWG (Environmental Working Group) safety rating app I learned about that evening. Phenomenal tool that helps you determine the safety of a product by scanning the UPC code and giving you a rating (the app is: EWG Healthy Living).

The next day, I replaced nearly everything – hand soaps, facial cleansers, body washes, soaps, shampoos, oils, sunscreen, disinfecting sprays, wipes, facial cream, etc. I looked like a crazy woman zapping every label in the store until I found a worthy winner. And I have continued to follow this crusade daily since that evening.

Once you know, you know – and you can’t go backwards and pretend like you never heard it. And now, every effort counts.

Just as my philosophy with food – you do as much as you can do to lead a healthy life without becoming neurotic. 80/20 rule.

The presentation I went to was for BeautyCounter. Their mission and movement is outstanding. I bought a few products (excellent selection) but also sourced many products separately on my own (with my scanner) that were not as much of an investment. Harmon Discount is a great resource.

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Falling Off The Wagon

Look – nobody is perfect, right? Winter is tough. You are inside – a lot – and all you want to do is eat. I am there. I get it. Forget about the weekends with dinners and friends and just not wanting to cook. So off starts this roller coaster of poor eating habits and consuming too much food.falling_off_wagon

Typically, I have a very specific pattern. I eat really well Monday-Friday and then let a little loose on the weekends. Lately, this is not working for me as Sunday melds to Monday and once I am off schedule on Monday – hey, the rest of the week is shot, right? Yes, this happens to even those that preach health and fitness 24/7.

The only feather in my cap is I still try to eat good quality foods – but just too many (ok, and maybe OD’ing on chocolate and Petron Café a bit since Valentine’s Day. Oh, and that piece of eggplant parm pizza this weekend).

There’s a little bit of consolation in all of this.

  1. I workout regularly and they are not easy workouts
  2. I am still eating less than the average American
  3. I can still fit into my pants (yes, they are tighter)
  4. I am so consistent in my eating/workouts (for the last umpteen years) it really does not have a drastic effect on my body

But, how do I feel?

I AM:

Crankier
More anxious
Fuzzier (I attribute some of this to the over-indulgence in drinking as well)
Less patient
Fuller
More tired
Full of cravings I had gotten rid of
Feeling a little out of control

How do we get off the gerbil wheel and get back in control?
It’s not all or nothing and starving yourself for a day or two to “make up” for the extra calories. This daunting idea of having to give up everything and deprive yourself will only set you up for failure or cause you to go to the opposite extreme.

My best advice is to pick one thing to change.
One thing. And stick with it every day.

Suggestions to pick from:

  • Drink a cup of water with every meal/snack
  • Stop eating after 8 pm
  • Eat breakfast
  • Eat 3 decent meals and snack on only fruits in-between
  • Give up the daily caramel latte
  • Remove candy from your diet (including chocolate)
  • Remove your go-to high carb comfort food (pretzels, popcorn, cereal) and replace it with something light and filling (apple, banana, lowfat organic greek yogurt)
  • Don’t eat any food on the couch
  • Always sit at a table/counter when you eat
  • Brush your teeth after eating (this really works!)
  • Refrain from drinking cocktails Monday-Friday
  • Eliminate added sugar
  • Drink a glass of cleansing tea every night before bed
  • Add 20 minutes of exercise every day
  • Add 10 minutes of meditation every morning

By placing the focus on one thing – it makes it much easier to succeed and other pieces will naturally fall into place. Less emphasis on “I need to get it together” and feeling overwhelmed with not knowing where to start, and more emphasis on improving one manageable thing that will get you to a more attainable goal.

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