Strong 6: N is for Nothing Off Limits, Busting Popular "Fattening" Food Myths
Nope, no keto
I’ll have a Dorito
A sip of wine
That chocolate is mine
Chicken ‘n’ beef
Asparagus in my teeth
I eat it all
‘cause life’s a ball
I really should publish a book of poetry, I know.
I hope that silly ditty lightened your mood because that’s what this segment of Strong 6 is all about-- Enjoying your friggin’ life, bees!
Look, I know that some people have very legitimate reasons for cutting certain food groups. I DO NOT take food allergies or genuine sensitivities lightly. I respect vegans who are taking a moral stance. If you believe that whatever ailment you're suffering from is related to the foods you're consuming, sure, give an elimination diet a go!
However, I can’t in good conscience tell you that eliminating a certain type of food or drink will give you the body shape you desire. I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a "fattening" food. Furthermore, I think attempting to cut a specific food group is generally hard to sustain and a GREAT way to drive yourself bonkers!
The truth of the matter is that you could eat nothing but chicken, broccoli, and white rice and still get fat. Tougher to pull off than filling yourself on highly processed foods, but it IS possible. All foods have the potential to result in body fat gain. That’s because there’s no “magic” health food, NOR is there an “evil” fat-causing food.
For this reason, no food is 100% off-limits in my book with the exception of trans-fats. I eat carbohydrates, gluten, red meat, dairy, added sugar, and I even drink alcohol on occasion.
According to the American Heart Association, trans-fat consumption increases risk of heart-attack, stroke, and Type II Diabetes. These are things we don't want. The good news is that trans-fats are fairly easy to avoid these days! They’re clearly listed on nutrition facts panel on foods, but when in doubt, double-check the ingredient list for “partially hydrogenated oils.”
Carbohydrates. I think of all the "no-no" foods, this is the food vilification that irritates me the most. You've probably heard of the trendy keto diet. If you're not aware, a ketogenic diet is one in which carbohydrates account for less than 5% of a person's daily caloric intake. To be fair, there is evidence that shows a keto diet to be beneficial for epileptic children and for diabetics (Stein). However, keto is frequently pushed in the media as a be-all-end-all weight-loss solution. For the purpose of fat-loss, the supporting evidence of keto as a superior diet is minimal and anecdotal. It's my personal opinion that while fat-loss can be acheived with the use of a keto diet, the extreme, unsustainable nature of the diet makes it a poor choice for the general population. In their review on the current research regarding the keto diet, Harvard School of Public Health states "A ketogenic diet has been shown to provide short-term benefits in some people including weight loss and improvements in total cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. However, these effects after one year when compared with the effects of conventional weight loss diets are not significantly different."
Bottom line: You can consume carbs and still lose fat provided that you're maintaining a caloric deficit. I like rice, I LOVE potatoes, I eat bread, and there ain't no shame in my game.
You’ve probably heard some buzz about saturated fats recently. Are they bad? Are they good? The jury's still out! I personally take a conservative approach here and limit my intake of saturated fats to the AHA recommendation of 5-6% of total calories. Though saturated fats have been linked to heart disease, the foods containing these fats- such as red meat, whole milk, and other dairy products- also contain important vitamins and minerals. For example, a 3.5 oz portion of raw ground beef contains around 1/4 of the recommended daily allowance for vitamins B3, B12, & B6, iron, zinc, selenium, creatine, and carnosine. That's a big punch packed in that patty! Not to mention, Vitamin B12 is unattainable from plant foods and the Iron contained in beef is higher quality and more easily absorbed than that of plant foods. A cup of milk contains a healthy dose of calcium, vitamin D, B2, and B12, potassium, and phosphorus. Due to the high fat content of these foods, they are considered calorie-dense. As with any other food, you should incorporate these into your diet while being mindful of how they fit into your overall caloric intake.
Bottom Line: Let’s be sensible here. Nothing feels good about sustaining yourself on bacon, french fries, and whipped cream. In moderation however, saturated fats provide health benefits and are a part of a balanced diet.
Life is sweeter with a little sugar. A LITTLE. When I was overweight and binge eating frequently, sugar was my drug of choice. It crossed my mind at several points that if I could just cut sugar out completely, I’d lose the weight and life would be FABULOUS. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to go sugar-free, but it’s tough! It didn’t make for a happy Lauren and it wasn’t sustainable for me. The conclusion I’ve reached is that in moderation (pretty much like anything else), sugar is alright. Those fine folks at the AHA recommend calling it a day at no more than 25g of added sugar. Here’s my take: If I’m going to consume sugar, I want to reaaallllyy enjoy it. I’d rather get 15g of added sugar from a serving of Hershey’s chocolate on a Saturday night, than get 20g of added sugar in 2g doses from ketchup throughout the week. Make sense? That being said, I don’t really feel like I need to hit that 25g limit of added sugar on a daily basis. I do get lots naturally occurring sugar via fruit, but I choose to leave the refined treat's for the weekend. If you want to lower your added sugars, I recommend starting by looking at the sneaky culprits- dressings, condiments, breakfast bars, and beverages. You'd be surprised!
Bottom Line: Eat fruit and watch your added sugars. Simple!
As I write this, I’m sipping on my Saturday evening vodka drink. I’m happy. I’m relaxed. I’m not concerned that this drink will make me fat, nor that it will kill my gainz. I choose not to indulge more than once or twice per week primarily because I don’t care to deal with it becoming a nasty habit. There is alcoholism present on both sides of my family and it’s a disease I prefer not to flirt with. When I drink, I’m mindful of caloric intake, as with anything else. If you're unsure of the calorie content of your drink of choice, try this handy-dandy calculator. As far as ze gainz- I only find that alcohol interferes when I’ve consumed it to the point of severe hangover or illness that renders me unable to complete my planned workouts. Anecdotally, my beefy strongman boyfriend has an intimate relationship with scotch, and I have observed no quantifiable decreased performance that could be attributed to that affinity.
Bottom line: Is it too cliche to just say "drink responsibly?" Don't care. I'm doing it. Drink responsibly, y'all.
Whelp, I’m growing tired of writing this, and you’re likely tired of reading it, so I’ma wrap things up:
There is no “bad” “off-limits” “no-no” food. You make the rules. Don’t let anyone tell you that any certain food will “make you fat” or that cutting a particular food group is the key to diet success. As they say, there’s a million ways to skin a cat. Look at the big picture, employ common sense, and adopt the diet that is sustainable and result-producing for YOU.
You've heard my take, now I want to hear yours! Have you successfully lost weight by cutting out a certain food group? I'm certainly no expert and I'd love to hear some other opinions on this!
American Heart Association. “Trans Fats.” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/trans-fat.
(2019, May 22). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/
Healthline. “Is Red Meat Bad for You, or Good? An Objective Look.” Healthline, Healthline Media, www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-red-meat-bad-for-you-or-good#section2.
Stein, V. (2018, August 30). As the Keto Diet Gains Popularity, Scientists Explain What We Do and Don't Know. Retrieved from https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2018/08/411526/keto-diet-gains-popularity-scientists-explain-what-we-do-and-dont-know