We're surrounded by anti-fat propaganda, and not just in clothing or modeling: In schools we are taught that we only need a little bit of fat to protect and insulate our organs, and outside of schools we are taught that you are what you eat, and fat is something you really don't want to be. In supermarkets and commercials around the US, "low-fat" has become synonymous with healthy. Low-fat Greek yogurt, skim milk, 25% less fat than the leading brand. Fat has become the ultimate nutritional scapegoat.
I've already spent time dissecting my own issues with being "fat"—namely that diet and exercise aren't the only factors in what a person's "normal" body weight or caloric intake might be—but here I want to briefly reflect on an interesting phenomenon I'm still coming to terms with myself.
I've tried a lot of diets over the years (a lot of them closer to an eating disorder than a credible diet, if I'm being honest), but I've found a category of diet that I think will finally work long-term:
I know I'm not the first person to discover this, but the basic requirements of the low-carb diet fly in the face of what society has told me my relationship with fat has to be. With low-carb diets, you're replacing your primary energy source (you guessed it, carbs) with insane amounts of fat and protein. If you eat too much protein, though, it'll turn into carbs through a process called gluconeogenesis, so most of your daily meal should be healthy fats like egg yolks, nuts, avocados, and cheese.
I started this cautious foray into the world of fat when I first got back to campus for the spring, and I have been astounded by the results. Maybe it's because I'm taking the normal amount of classes this semester, but I've found that I'm way less stressed out. I feel calm, attentive, even peaceful in the in-between moments of classes and exercising and homework. It's still difficult for me to focus on individual assignments, but I gladly welcome the procrastination because of that sense of calm that comes with it. I wake up refreshed and, after a quick morning workout, can feel the hard muscle toning my arms and back. I feel full but not stuffed when I eat, and I no longer crave bread or pasta or baked goods (save for the occasional brownie from the dining hall), nor am I constantly thinking about my next meal or feeling guilty about my last one, which is a first for me. I'm more confident in the dining hall and classroom and in the gym, where I've realized that I can be fat and fit. I am what I eat, and I love it.
Here's what one day of low-carb looked like for me:
Breakfast: Siggi's 4% whole-milk yogurt with a lump of Wee Brie, walnuts, pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds mixed in. Mozzarella cheesestick and mandarin orange on the way to class.
Lunch: Avocado with salt.
Snack: Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Chia Bar dipped in Skippy's peanut butter.
Dinner: Cuban roasted pork, mixed greens, liberal amounts of feta cheese and mushrooms with olive oil dressing.
Dessert: Yogi blueberry green tea with three squares of Green & Black 72% dark chocolate.
I still have days where I go over my recommended caloric limit, where my cravings rear their ugly head, or where my ratio of fat-protein-carbs are way out of whack, and it's always sugar's fault. Sometimes I do need that piece of toast in the morning, otherwise my legs fall apart on the treadmill. This isn't a no-holds-barred endorsement for the low-carb diet, but I encourage you to really examine your relationship to food—especially fat—and challenge it, if need be.
Footnote: I should mention this because the Ketone Test Strips I impulse-bought in January are glaring at me from my bookshelf: the Keto diet is something I considered doing, but quickly realized it was a careful balancing act that I, a broke student, have neither the time nor money for. What I'm doing doesn't have to be as fast-acting as Keto because I've realized I actually look fine as I am (and just typing those words out is something I wouldn't have been able to do a few months ago).