Back in the 80’s I bought into the big trend that declared eating fat made you fat. They weren’t just advocating low fat diets, they were encouraging no fat diets and food manufacturers were quick to include “NO FAT” on their labels to grab the emerging market. I was in high school at the time and vibrantly healthy. Barely a teenager, I made the executive decision my body needed a fat free diet. It was an easy diet to follow and I excelled at obeying all or nothing rules.
This trend coincided with the discovery of a fat substitute called “Simplesse”, by none other than Monsanto. From a marketing standpoint it is hard to say if Monsanto was meeting the needs of the fat free diet frenzy, or if Monsanto was backstage driving the new diet trend to increase “Simplesse” sales and profit margins.
As unbelievably ridiculous as it may seem now (especially since intensely high fat weight loss diets are a continuing trend), “Eat no fat, don’t get fat” was thee landmark weight control “discovery” at that time. What’s more? Most fat free foods filled the fat free gap by adding more sugar, which put you in the fast lane for unwittingly developing hyper or hypoglycemia, diabetes, skin disorders, body chemistry imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune conditions, systemic inflammation, increased pain, hormonal disruption, digestive problems, candida and all the symptoms related to these conditions, and more. Not to mention quick progression towards sugar addiction. This no fat diet was probably the birthplace of my sugar addiction and what was to become my diet staples: pretzels and marshmallows, which are both fat free, on the go, quick, easy foods, available everywhere.
One size fits all weight loss regimes promise results. They are simple, you just follow the instructions. They are also deceptively reassuring as best sellers with the perfect celebrity endorsement(s) and the testimonials are so enchanting that you want your own dreamy success to mirror theirs.
Single size extreme weight loss diets are positioned above the laws of nature, and without respect to your unique body. But physical and natural laws are not negotiable. If they were, you and I wouldn’t be here. These single size weight loss solutions pit nature against itself for quick temporary weight loss outcomes. Unfortunately they don’t mention the expensive long term consequences.
With hindsight, I know with confidence my innocent and naïve conformity to the Fat Free diet trend, was my official starting line of a medical landslide. Natural sources of fat in moderate amounts are essential for healthy function, proper physical and mental development, hormones, body chemistry, energy, proper sleep, emotional stability and more. The first sign that something was very wrong showed up through my menstrual cycles. I had periods that lasted 10-14 days, 20-38 day cycles or no cycle at all. I had excessive downpours of blood that I nicknamed “gushing moments”. Despite my extravagant hygiene precautions, having to leave school to change was not uncommon. I always laughed when books claimed, as fact, that average blood loss from a period was 2 tablespoons. One single gushing moment would produce more than the so called monthly average, and a single blood clot like mass made for a heaping tablespoon.
While my body was screaming for dietary help (inclusion of healthy fats) via those first obvious signs of a problem, I was only 15 years old and didn’t have enough experience with menstruation to know that what was happening, was the result of my diet. I was also too young and naïve to understand that while I was admonished to tell the truth and punished if I didn’t, the majority of adults and media lived by a different code of behavioral standards than the ones they dictated. Unfortunately, today’s scruples are more twisted than back 30+ years ago because as people grew keener in seeing the truth, the industry improved their strategies of deception.
I was seeing doctors, but they didn’t ask about my diet, and/or didn’t understand the direct relationship. I was eventually prescribed birth control pills to stabilize the ups and downs. It worked, but within a year I was encountering rites of passage on all fronts. First came the itching, then came speculums, scrapings, confirmed yeast infections with creams and vaginal suppositories. My yeast infections became cyclical and chronic as the yeast crossed tissue barriers towards my bladder and lower intestine. Bladder infections, antibiotics and daily oral anti-fungal medications soon took their place in my life. Prior to my no fat diet I didn’t even have a regular doctor. I didn’t need one because I didn’t have any problems.
The fall out I was experiencing from a fat free diet was predictable. Dietary fat and cholesterol are necessary for balanced body chemistry and hormones in both men and women. The birth control pills were fixing what the no fat diet had created, but birth control pills change hormones, deplete nutrients, alter body chemistry, change internal microbiomes, and are known to increase triglycerides (blood sugar levels). I guess I was lucky that the fall-out wasn’t worse.
Extreme diets reliably predict future health trends
I eventually left the fat free diet, got off the pill and no longer needed the oral yeast medication. To my surprise my periods started right up and were so cyclically in sync with the full moon that I could predict my next period by looking at the night sky. But returning to a natural and balanced diet did not reverse the weaknesses created by the landslide I had gotten caught up in. My conformity to what seemed like an innocent no fat diet trend changed the state, function and environment of my body – forever.
Your body’s got back up systems. It recycles, stores extra nutrients and converts this to that as needed for unexpected problems (sickness, injury, stress). Your body’s back up strategy helps you bounce back quickly from physical sets backs, and keeps you alive. Removing entire food groups taxes your body’s reserves, capacities, and weakens essential links until they snap, which sets the dominos a fall. My fat free diet didn’t create problems in my body right away because my body’s back-up system had me covered.
One size fits all diets are a gamble
By the time you realize you are gambling, and what the stakes are, you’ve lost
David, a man I knew for about 9 years, had been following the Atkin’s keto trend and loved a reason to love grease, fat and protein laden meals even though he admitted to missing rice, bread and pasta. He eventually went into the operating room for clogged arteries and came out with a souvenir stent. Some years later, only in his late 50’s, he dropped upon waking and instantly crossed over from heart failure.
Claire’s endometriosis (medications and surgery) were distant memories from her late teens. Medication free since, now in her 30’s, she was active, healthy and hoping to conceive. She was surrounded by others on the Paleo diet and as she continued to hear their banter she got on board. The first year she had strange appearance related symptoms (skin, hair, nails). Doctors attributed them to aging. Not only did the symptoms not go away, they intensified and new symptoms began to manifest. Soon she was back on prescriptions to manage her endometriosis and conceiving a baby was no longer an option.
The longer you follow a single size diet, the more it becomes a lifestyle habit. Where there is a habit, there is a sacred cow. The more ingrained and longer standing the lifestyle, the more untouchable and sacred the cow.
Has a one size fits all diet become your sacred cow?
The day a diet becomes a sacred cow is the day it has become an eating disorder
My no fat diet had become my sacred cow and my avoidance of fat a silent mental, emotional and behavioral fixation. That’s an eating disorder. I was scared to eat fat, not because I was scared of having a gallbladder attack, I had become scared of eating fat based on a media fed idea I had latched on to and because of what I believed it represented. You’d think my health problems would have encouraged and motivated change, but instead they mobilized more fear of change. We live in a free country and yet I was not free. I was hypnotized into trusting the media and doubting the signs my body was giving me. That isn’t free.
You are either obeying media and a diet’s rules or listening to your body
It is impossible to honor both at the same time
Exclusivity weight loss and weight control diets tip your body’s health balance, but not in your favor. High fat diets and “Fat bombs” are probably more dangerous than no fat diets. High protein is no safer than no protein. Carbs are not the enemy and your unique body may require gluten to function properly. Intermittent fasting as an excuse to binge till you pop, is not the path to follow. Single size diet trends grind away at your body and are not safe.
Listen to YOUR body. Eat what helps, avoid what harms, notice what happens and make adjustments. Become your own personal food mechanic. It will not only get you to permanent weight loss, but it will keep you healthy and safe.
PS – The information in my next article “To Extreme Diet or Not? Part II” is super important. There is a time and a place for extreme diets, extreme diets that are personalized, and when you understand this other side, you will really begin to grasp the concept of how food is medicine. Medicine that destroys or medicine that heals.