Bad Fats and Good Health

National news programs, both morning and night, love to talk about obesity in America. Obesity affects us all in some way: either we will know someone who is obese or we will be/are obese. I will flat out admit this: according to my BMI, I am obese (30.6). It’s not something I am proud of and getting on the scale at the doctor’s office is a blow to my ego. But I’ve accepted that while I hate the numbers, there is some truth to the matter: I need to make some changes to my lifestyle to move that number between 18.5-24.9 and be considered medically healthy.

By shifting my BMI into the non-obese range means that I could be adding years to my life. While I can’t guarantee those additional years will be good years due to the MS, I can make sure the good ones are filled with quality due to good physical and mental health.

The main culprit in the obesity epidemic in America is high-fat foods, specifically deep fried foods. As mentioned in my last post, it’s very hard to walk into any restaurant and not find multiple fried foods on the menu. The Western Diet is large portions, high-calories, high-fat, and high-sugar. I am being reductive, but anecdotally it is easy to see how pervasive the high-fat diet culture is in media and day-to-day life.

Making the necessary changes in my diet tend to be rather hard for me. There are several things I’ve said to myself when I have chosen unhealthy options over the healthy ones:  it’s affordable, it’s fast and easy, it’s portable, and I deserve this. On the Internet I have read multiple times how much cheaper it is to eat fast and fried food versus the healthier options. Having gone through a starvation via poverty period myself in adulthood, I can agree: it is cheaper to eat higher calorie meals that helped sustain me for the entire day.

Let’s be honest, the healthier options do take more work: either to prepare or to mentally prepare yourself for being “good” and not indulging on the more sinful delectable.

Being healthy in America is doable, but it’s hard when there is so much temptation out there. And once you’ve had a taste of that golden goodness, it’s hard to not want to go back again and again.

I’ve previously blogged about how foods affect our microbiomes. Today’s post is going to expand upon that concept by focusing on one type of food that affects our gut bacteria: high-fat foods and how that might affect weight, emotional health, and physical health.

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Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.


Taking One to the Gut

If I had to make a completely unfounded claim that is based purely on anecdotal evidence, I would make the argument that all things gut related is the current fascination of the scientific and medical world for the past several years. It seems that on a monthly basis a new study comes out relating to the importance of gut bacteria on personal health.

Just in September, these are some of the health connections made in studies regarding gut bacteria:

This study (or a similar one) was making the rounds earlier this year. And that’s the one that got me to thinking: while I can’t cure my MS since it has already developed, could I manage it if I brought my gut flora under control?

Personally, as an everyday person, there is no way of knowing the makeup of my gut bacteria without special tools and the supervision of medical professionals. There are some rudimentary ways of determining the health of my gut flora, but I don’t even know if I will be able to readily find the particular bacteria I need to control/maintain/cope with my MS without having to undergo some more extreme measures.

And maybe these studies will prove to be unhelpful in MS therapy, but I find the connection between gut health and overall health a compelling and reasonable conclusion considering we are talking about billions and billions of microorganisms living in our bodies. Therapies and studies are already moving to reflect the fact that these microorganisms really do have an impact on our overall health.

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Wine and scotch with an Iron tumbler

Week 1: No More W(h)ining

While I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, I do appreciate having a cocktail when I eat out or have a dram of Scotch on a lazy Sunday afternoon when I feel like it. I have been on droughts before: I just went through one when I was pregnant with Jai. It wasn’t a big deal and so by making this my first removal it is a bit like cheating because it’s so easy.

I don’t plan to make this a permanent removal like some of the other foods. Alcohol is actually considered reasonable to consume when on an anti-inflammatory diet provided you consume in moderation and it doesn’t conflict with medication. The praises of the occasional glass of red wine on your health are published almost on the daily.

But we need to call a spade a spade: technically what I am doing is considered a detox or a cleanse. Read More