Your body needs to feel safe to heal and thrive. That’s true for emotional safety, and it’s absolutely true for physiological safety. Unfortunately, due to fancy food marketing and years of junk science twisted to benefit the food companies, we have commonly consumed foods that are keeping your body in an unsafe, stressed out state. We have strayed so far from food that our great-grandparents ate that our bodies are sounding the alarm on every level – yet we keep trying the newest things.
So I’ve rounded up a list of the five things that I believe are creating long-term chaos in the body’s ability to function optimally – from a cellular level to neurotransmitter level to every area in between. We all want what’s best for our health, but it can be so confusing figuring out the best ways to be healthy. I believe, based on the piles of research I have done and the training I have received, that these five trends masquerading as health could be extremely destructive, especially when habitual.
Five Health Trends That Aren’t Healthy:
- Using reduced fat, low fat, or light, sugar-free anything. I can’t believe I even have to say this, 30 years after the low fat movement led us all into hypoglycemia and prediabetes (that may come off as an exaggeration; I do believe there is a strong correlation). Fat is necessary for so many functions in our body. It is crucial for cell membrane health. It is necessary for brain health. It is extremely satiating and keeps us full and our cravings down. When fat is removed from something that naturally has fat in it, it throws off the balance of carbs and fat, which can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. In some cases, like in light salad dressings, chemical stabilizers (and sugar or artificial sweeteners) are added to maintain texture and flavor. That overly sweet flavor can stimulate the cephalic blood sugar response and set you up for blood sugar roller coasters and hanger. Still skeptical? A meta-analysis of 16 studies showed that those who consumed full fat dairy were less likely to be at risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Also, a study of women who ate low fat dairy increased their chances of infertility by 85%. to As my friend Chelsea, the Christian Nutritionist says, God didn’t make cows with low fat udders. Eat the fat. Be full.
- Consuming seed oils. For years we were told canola oil is safer and a great source of omega 3. Same with soybean oil, vegetable oil, corn oil (I still see commercials about how it’s heart healthy), palm oil, sunflower, and safflower oil. These oils are damaging to the mitochondria – meaning your cellular health is at risk by over consuming these oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are very unstable and break down (oxidize) under high heat and heavy processing. Not to mention they tend to throw off the omega 3:6 ratio, which can increase inflammation if omega 6 oils far exceed omega 3. They are in coffee creamers, processed chips and baked goods, cereal, nut butters, ice cream, breaded chicken products, bread, tortillas, salsa, canned goods, etc – BUT there are options that don’t have them as well. It takes reading the ingredients, not the nutrition facts like we’ve been trained. When all else fails, go organic. It is very rare that inflammatory seed oils will be in an organic product. This is an excellent reference guide from Dr. Cate Shanahan here.
- Drinking oat milk. Take the inflammatory oils from item number two, turn a glyphosate-ridden grain into a “milk,” add some other fillers and stabilizers, and tell people it’s healthy because it’s plant-based. It’s genius marketing, which seems to be working, based on all the varieties of oat milks out there. I have nothing against organic oats for most people. But oats aren’t milk. They go very well with milk, but they aren’t milk. To be milk, a lot of processing needs to happen. And because recent studies show that eating ultra processed foods increases depression and anxiety, why add one more item of processing to your morning coffee? If it’s here and there, I don’t see an issue. But most of these items on this list, this one included, are replacing daily staples. It’s not worth it to me. If you truly have an issue with organic dairy, whether a sensitivity or allergy, pure coconut milk is the best option for a substitute. Most of the plant-based milk options are highly processed and can be aggravating for sensitive systems.
- Eating 5 small meals a day. On one level, this seems to make sense. We’ve been told that by eating five (or six) small meals a day, it can support satiety, blood sugar, and “stoke the metabolism.” However, recent research is showing that it might be doing more harm than good. Multiple studies have shown that meal frequency doesn’t actually impact metabolism and lead to greater weight loss as we’ve been told. For those with digestive issues and gut imbalances, eating too frequently hinders the work of the Migrating Motor Complex, which is basically the internal gut vacuum, taking out the trash to keep our system cleared out from excess debris that could cause inflammation. It needs a good four hours on average in between meals to to do its job. By constantly eating, we prevent it from happening. Furthermore, we are seeing a massive increase of insulin resistance in all ages and stages of life. When you are continually snacking, especially when it’s a low calorie, low fat but higher carb/sugar food, you are constantly asking your insulin to support the load, which can lead to hypoglycemia and down the line, insulin resistance. Research shows that eating less meals that are more satiating and packed with sufficient fiber, FAT (there’s a theme here), and protein, will keep blood sugar from constantly spiking and dropping throughout the day.
- Doing intense cardio all the time. I’m not hating on you runners or HIIT people. I used to be one. Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, is an incredible hormetic stressor. This means that your body is put under a little bit of stress for a short period of time, then it recovers, and you become more resilient. The problem with most people living a modern, fast-paced lifestyle, is there is little room for recovery. This used to be me. My alarm went off early in the morning, I threw on my workout clothes, and headed out for a run. Then, still buzzing from the energy (stress) created by the run, I jumped into the shower and prepared for a packed day, rushing from one thing to the next. I rarely stretched, I rarely recovered. So my body maintained the stress created by the run. Reminder: even good stress can be a stress. How do you know if you’re doing too much? For most people, doing over 30 minutes of cardio most days per week could be harmful, especially women in the luteal or menstrual phase. If you find yourself exhausted when you wake up, pushing through exhaustion during your workout, chronically sore and in pain, highly anxious and edgy in spurts throughout the day, waking up throughout the night… you may benefit from slowing it down some days. Even adding in a couple days of yoga or strength training can be beneficial. And always, always stretch and breathe after an intense workout. This reminds your body you are safe and no longer “running from a tiger.”
I will finish by reminding you that a body in stress won’t digest. So while I have focused primarily on food and what NOT to do, keep in mind that learning to manage stress and creating an environment for safety and healing is always going to be the most important thing you can do for your health. I will also add that losing weight rapidly due to extreme caloric restriction or a processed food based diet program does not equal health. It is very stressful to the body, especially if detoxification is hindered by insufficient nutrients or nutrients in a synthetic form (like folic acid). Furthermore, it may be creating metabolic adaptations that can cause long-term difficulties maintaining a healthy set point weight while consuming “normal” amounts of food. More on that here.
Realistically, we won’t be able to avoid all seed oils. We won’t be able to stay away from all toxic chemicals. We can’t erase our stress, as much as I’d love to. But what we want is to become more stress resilient. By minimizing the toxic load as we are able to, by becoming more aware of what is stressful for us, we can take steps toward resilience and healing and safety. Your body is on your side.
Need more support? I’m getting ready for a new round of Feast 2 Fast next month! This one month program is a metabolic makeover using real, whole food – no diet drinks or substitutes. Sign up here if you are interested, or message me for more information!