Health Fads

I began struggling with my weight in my early 20s.  I gained 50 or so pounds within a year.  I hadn’t made any major lifestyle changes, but the weight was not going anywhere.  Then my menstrual cycle stopped, so I sought medical help.  I received the diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).  PCOS is a disorder that attacks the ovaries.  The pancreas works in overdrive producing too much insulin which then, in turn, creates little cysts on the ovaries that look like a strand of pearls have been wrapped around them.  This causes the ovaries to behave abnormally and don’t always ovulate on a regular basis.  While PCOS can be managed with medication, in my opinion, the most effective way for most women to combat PCOS is to manage their eating habits and begin an exercise routine.

In my journey to have a healthy lifestyle, I have tried several avenues.  It wasn’t until I became a nutritionist that my understanding of my own health, weight, and desires changed for the better.  It seems that at every turn, the media is shouting at us to be a little skinner, a little tanner, grow our hair longer etc.  There are SO SO SO many weight loss programs, waist slimming products, cleanses, that celebrities swear by.  From my own life experience and knowledge, I’ve gained through education; here are my thoughts about some of the most popular health fads.

1. Butter, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado Oil…What’s Healthy?

In the early 80s, the FDA shouted from the rooftops that butter was horrible and margarine was healthy.  Then over the last 40 years more types of cooking oils, spreads, have entered the market.  Walking down the aisle at the grocery store can be overwhelming, to say the least.  Have no fear, here is what the facts say…

Butter: it is healthy in moderation.  While it does have saturated fats you can also find several fat-soluble vitamins A and E as well as minerals such as calcium (depending on the brand).  Bottom line, butter is a much healthier choice than margarine; but while the saturated fats in butter are considered healthy saturated fats and help raise the HDL (good cholesterol)…saturated fats clog the arteries of the heart over time if eaten in excess.  If you have a family history of heart disease, consuming butter may be something you do on special occasions.

Coconut Oil: this oil has been on the shelves for years, but only in the last decade or so has it really become popular.  Coconut oil, like butter, also has the saturated fats that increase good cholesterol, HDL, and lower LDL or bad cholesterol.  Also, consuming coconut oil has shown to increase the body’s caloric burn.  Bottom line, coconut oil, per tablespoon, is double the saturated fats than that of butter.  Coconut oil also has no added benefit of vitamins and minerals.  The jury is still out if the saturated fats from coconut oil cause heart disease over time.  Yes, just like butter, it claims to increase the good cholesterol and lower the bad; but saturated fats are all equal over time when it comes to clogged arteries.

Olive and Avocado Oil: Avocado oil, is a great substitute for canola or vegetable oil.  It is a light colored oil that has hardly any flavor which makes it great for baking and it has a high smoke point so it is great for frying as well.  Also per tablespoon, it only has 2g of saturated fats whereas butter has 7g and coconut oil has 13.5g per tablespoon (give or take depending on the brand).  Avocado oil may reduce triglycerides and improve heart health.  It is also high in lutein which is an antioxidant that helps improve eye health.  Other claims include avocado oil may reduce arthritis symptoms and prevent gum disease.  Olive oil is a flavorful oil.  I think Rachel Rey is the one who made it popular, EVOO-extra virgin olive oil…I’m a little ashamed to say that it took me a little longer than it should have to realize that is what EVOO meant.  Olive oil has some major health benefits such as being rich in omega-3 and omega-6.  It also has a monosaturated fat called oleic acid which is super healthy and has been reported to help reduce inflammation and cancer cells.  Olive oil also helps reduce heart disease, is rich in antioxidants, and may aid in Alzheimer’s and type 2 diabetes.

2. Protein Diets: Atkins and Keto

High fat/protein diets have been around for decades.  They work to reduce fat because they are very low in carbs and sugar which puts the body into ketosis.  This forces the body to burn fat instead of glucose.  Consuming carbs raises insulin levels which then prevents the body to let fat cells into the bloodstream to be burned, so instead, the fat cells stay stored in reserves of the body.  Lowering carb consumption lowers glucose in the bloodstream which then, in turn, lowers insulin levels.  The problem with protein diets is that it is a high-fat low carb diet.  Most individuals who decide to have a go at a keto diet decide that all proteins and fats are created equal and consume increased amounts of red meats and full-fat dairy products.  SO SO SO not the case.  Increased amounts of red meats and full-fat foods increase cholesterol over time and can cause heart disease.  It can also cause kidney stones, gout, and possibly kidney failure over a prolonged time.  The healthiest way to do a keto diet is to be wise in protein and fat choices.  Consuming lean meats, fish, beans, nuts and low-fat dairy products will still put the body into ketosis and will also keep cholesterol levels low.  ALSO…did you know that your body does need carbs?  The brain needs at least 100 grams of carbs a day to for optimal function.  Now…that doesn’t give you the go-ahead to consume more carbs on the keto diet.  If you are overweight, then your body has plenty of stored carbs to maintain brain function.  BUT…ya know the term ‘meathead’ for bodybuilders?  In some ways, it is a true statement.  Bodybuilders’ whole goal is to lower body fat percentage and have aesthetically pleasing muscles.  Now, they are ones who do need added carbs each day for optimal brain function.  Bottom line, Keto diets are amazing!  But only if they are done right.  Meal planning with easy, quick meals can lead you down a dangerous road.  At the very least it can cause malnutrition at the worst it can cause major organ damage.

3. Strength Training vs. Cardio

I love running, and I also love lifting weights.  Running enables me to lose myself in the rhythm of my feet pounding on the ground.  I can turn on my current favorite playlist and just go.  Weightlifting gives me the control over my muscles.  It is so satisfying to focus on one muscle or group of muscles and see the strength grow over time.  BUT…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard girls say they didn’t like lifting weights because they didn’t want their muscles to get too big.  They don’t want to look ‘ripped’.  Well…at my peak strength training before I became pregnant with Goob, I could max bench at 80lbs.  AND…I never looked ‘ripped’.  Cardio burns more calories during the activity, but strength training causes the body to continue to burn calories throughout the day, long after the activity is over.  Bottom line, the body needs both.  Cardio strengthens your heart and lungs.  Depending on the cardio activity it can also strengthen certain muscle groups.  Running hills will strengthen quads, hams, glutes, and calves.  Running can also help strengthen your core.  Weightlifting strengthens your muscles, bones, and joints.  It aids in the prevention of osteoporosis later on in life.  Strength training also helps protect your joints from stress when you do certain cardio activities such as running.


This post is my own opinion.  I have experience and plenty of research under my belt, but in the end, I am not a licensed dietitian (yet) or a doctor.  Every ‘body’ is different.  Some have hormone imbalances, some have heart disease, some diabetes or Crohns, some have cancer or a genetic predisposition to obesity.  If you are truly serious about wanting to get a handle on your health; the best advice I can give is to seek medical help first.  Have blood work done so you know exactly where your cholesterol, insulin, and hormone levels are at.  Seek out a licensed dietitian, take your medical records with current lab work, also be 100% transparent with the dietitian.  It doesn’t hurt them if you lie about your food consumption, it hurts you.  LASTLY…don’t let your primary reason for dieting be because you don’t like the way you look.  If you don’t love yourself before, you still won’t love yourself after.  Lifestyle changes work when it’s a true lifestyle change and not just a temporary diet.  Change the way you eat because you want to instill good health habits in your children.  Change the way you eat because you want to live a long, healthy life with your significant other.  Change the way you eat because you want to prevent yourself from future health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.  Losing weight is 80% what you put in your body and 20% what you do with your body.  Believe me…I’ve brainwashed myself into thinking I could exercise to burn enough calories so I can eat whatever I want.  NOT TRUE!  MODERATION…if you want to eat that piece of cake, then do it…just don’t do it every day, or even every week.  Even consuming water can hurt you if in excess.  Salt, saturated fats, sugars, carbs…MODERATION.  Learn to love fruits and vegetables.  Not all, even I still loath brussel sprouts, but green beans, sweet potatoes, asparagus, squash…all can be very tasty if prepared right.

Have you been on a roller coaster with your health?  Do you have a health fad that you swear by?  Or have you tried a health fad that totally didn’t work?  I hope y’all are off to a great start for the week.  AND…may your health journey take you to where you hope to be.

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