THE ALTERNATIVE TABLE: How I Lost 50 Pounds
By KAREN GAY
Cape Charles Wave Columnist
This is the first of a series of columns I am calling The Alternative Table. I will discuss many topics beginning with interviews and photos of some of the new sustainable farms on the Eastern Shore and also covering what are healthy food choices and cooking techniques, recipes, important books and movies on these subjects, and alternative health options. I’ll approach these subjects from the point of view of a journalist, reporting on farms I’ve visited and topics I’ve been reading about. I’d like to be clear about the fact that I am a layperson with wide-ranging interests in these topics and not a doctor, nutritionist, or healer.
My first topic is the Weston A. Price Foundation and how it has helped my health. I understand that what has worked for me is not necessarily a weight loss solution for everyone. We all come from different genetics, cultural heritages, and physical experiences, and as a result each of our bodies operates in a slightly different manner.
At first, my friends looked at me incredulously when I explained how I lost 50 pounds by incorporating the principles of the Weston A. Price Foundation. The ingredient that did it for me was fat — lots of fat! Like most people coming of age in the 1970s I learned about the new USDA food pyramid and the need to eat less meat, dairy, and fat. I took this seriously, as my mother had always kept abreast of health trends, listening to Carlton Fredericks and Adele Davis on the radio. My siblings and I were probably the only children who went to school after a breakfast of orange juice and brewer’s yeast. Fortunately, the niacin flush wore off just as I arrived at school.
Fast forward past high school, college, marriage, kids, and a career. By the time I retired in April 2014 I was physically exhausted from raising children, coping with a really stressful career spent mostly in front of computers in dark rooms, and a commute that took occasionally more than two hours on the return trip. I was way overweight, exhausted, and my preference during non-work days was to read in bed. Somehow over the years when initially I tried to make healthy food choices I stopped reading labels and bought food primarily for convenience. I found myself looking forward to meals and snacks as replacements for fun and over time began to crave sugar and then fat alternately.
Once I got those cravings, it got to be an addiction. My drugs of choice were potato chips followed by ice cream. No matter how each day I resolved to skip the grocery store, by the time I finished work I could not resist. At the time I knew I had a problem but did not know how to resolve it. For quite a few years I was convinced that I just lacked willpower.
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However, I kept searching for solutions until one day I signed up for a series of telephone webinars and the food coach mentioned the Weston A. Price Foundation in connection with the health benefits of fermented vegetables. I researched everything she mentioned and ultimately came to read the WAPF website. I was surprised because they were espousing traditional foods that people ate 150 years ago. This meant that I could eat bacon! But as I discovered, it should not be just any bacon, it should be bacon from pigs grown in pasture.
Weston A. Price was a dentist born in 1870 who noticed that most people who had serious dental problems also had degenerative health issues. Over the course of 10 years he travelled to study isolated indigenous societies to determine the factors responsible for good dental health. Dr. Price visited tribes in Alaska, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and even sequestered villages in Switzerland. After analyzing the foods used by these societies he saw that in comparison to the American diet of the 1930s, they provided at least four times the water soluble vitamins, calcium, and other minerals, and at least 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins — from animal foods such as butter, fish, eggs, shellfish, organ meats, and animal fats.
He also noticed that the people in these so-called primitive societies had beautiful straight teeth, no dental decay, and resistance to disease. When he examined people from the same cultures who had abandoned their traditional diets he discovered that they had narrower faces, crowded teeth, and lowered resistance to disease. Dr. Price’s book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, compares photographs of people eating traditional diets to those in the same society who had adopted a western diet. His conclusion: Nutritional deficiencies were causing the rise in degenerative diseases being noticed in the 1930s.
The Weston A. Price Foundation was started by Sally Fallon in 1999 to disseminate the research of Dr. Price and to restore nutrient-dense foods to the human diet. Based on the research, they formulated the characteristics of traditional diets which I’ve copied below from the WAPF Principles of Healthy Diets brochure:
- The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or lowfat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; artificial vitamins; or toxic additives and colorings.
- All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed–muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
- The diets of healthy, nonindustrialized peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin K2–Price’s “Activator X”) as the average American diet.
- All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
- Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lacto-fermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
- Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
- Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
- Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
- All traditional diets contain some salt.
- All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
- Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.
As I read these principles, I wondered how to implement them. Fortunately, I had been reading online blogs by Sarah Pope at The Healthy Home Economist. Her article, “Five Healthy Fats You Must Have in Your Kitchen,” helped me determine that I should revise the fats I use first and implement principles seven and eight. I threw out the canola oil I had been using for decades. I stopped using olive oil for cooking. I did not like the taste of virgin organic coconut oil for cooking savory dishes, so I purchased organic expeller pressed coconut oil.
I knew that just by changing the oil I used I would not achieve a diet with over 30% fat. Looking on the Internet, I found a recipe that blended coconut oil with a little maple syrup and vanilla. I made Hershey Kiss-like drops of this mixture and ate several before and in between meals. Wow! What a difference! Within a couple of weeks my cravings were no more. Here is a link to the recipe from the Coconut Mama website: http://thecoconutmama.com/2014/05/coconut-butter-buttons/
By the time I began this process I had retired, and some of the stress was removed from my life already. I kept up with the coconut oil. By this time, I had found the book Eat Fat Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, and I was hooked. This book explained what had happened to me by describing satiation as the key to weight loss. Eating healthy fats which are included in coconut oil, butter, cream, nuts, meats, and eggs causes the body to produce a hormone in the stomach and small intestine that signals satiation. After enough fat no one would want to eat Oreos, Doritos, or a candy bar.
My weight loss occurred over nine months and I hope it will continue. As time passed, I’ve initiated more of the WAPF principles described above. In my next articles I’ll spend more time talking about fats and health, how the USDA came to tell Americans to avoid fat, and continue the discussion of the remaining WAPF principles and how I’ve tried to implement them. In addition, I’m hoping to be able to showcase the growing number of small farms in our two Virginia counties.
Price, Weston A. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. La Mesa, CA: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 2008. Print.
The Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts. Principles of Healthy Diets. N.p.: Weston A. Price Foundation for Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, n.d. Print.
“The Healthy Home Economist – Traditional Diet, Holistic Health.” The Healthy Home Economist RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2015. <http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/>.
Enig, Mary G., and Sally Fallon. Eat Fat, Lose Fat: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Three Delicious, Science-based Coconut Diets. New York: Hudson Street, 2005. Print.