I Eat Well.
Really, Really Well.
Studying nutrition, biology, biochemistry, physiology, and neuroscience is a major passion of mine. My idea of entertainment is reading medical journals and attending my university labs. (I know, nerd alert.) I have been applying what I know to my own body for over 7 years now, and not only have I amassed a wealth of knowledge from the literature, but also on an anecdotal level, both from myself and from my beautiful, inquisitive readers (you).
You can step into the Epic Beauty Guide time machine and read past posts that mention my forays into vegetarianism, veganism, raw food, Tim Ferriss’s slow carb, and everywhere in between. I love experimenting and I never do anything half-ass. Raw food you say? 100%. Right now. Let’s do it. I discover a lot along the way, and the process always leads me back to center, back where the sanity and practicality hang out.
What I have learned in these 7+ years of research and personal experimentation, is that there are a set of food guidelines that I MUST follow in order to be and look my best. This is not to say that I am fixed in a specific “diet” (read: not “diet” in the weight loss sense of the word). I make adjustments and play with variables as part of an ongoing process called life, and it has become second nature. Most importantly, I unwaveringly hold true this one belief: a beautiful, glowing physical appearance is achieved mostly through internal means – low stress (see Part 1), good food, and generally being a decent human being. But I’m here to talk about my food today, so let’s get rolling.
I do not count calories. I eat when I am hungry and I eat until I am satisfied. That does not work for everyone, particularly if you have a metabolic issue, but it is what works for me. I eat slowly, enjoying my food and allowing my satiety signals to come through so I do not overeat.
I eat a lot of fat. I eat the right kind of fat and in the right context. This means I eat saturated and monounsaturated fats, typically with high levels of omega 3s. I avoid polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in nuts and seeds, which are high in omega 6s (these tend to be inflammatory when there’s too many of them and not enough 3s). Regarding context, this means I do not eat a lot of fat and a lot of carbohydrates. Fat + carbs (particularly sugar) = weight gain. It’s a simplistic equation, but pretty true nonetheless. Think about it. If you’re chowing down on some big slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake, that thing is going to hit you with 30+ grams of carbohydrate (from refined sugar, which means no fiber to slow it down) in one go, along with a hefty portion of fat. So when you put on a few pounds after repeat affairs with the cheesecake, you are inclined to blame the fat, but alas, it was the dreadful combination, and the carbs are actually more guilty. This has a lot to do with how your body stores carbohydrate (glucose). When your muscles are sitting pretty with a full bank of glycogen, where are the various sugars from your carbalicious meal going to go? Uh, fat cells. There’s nowhere else for it to go.
Here is a list of quality fats I use and eat on a regular basis, requested by one of my readers (thanks, Saffron):
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Duck fat (I don’t have easy access to quality duck fat, but this is a great fat to cook with if you can get it)
- Bacon fat or lard (extremely important this comes from healthy, foraging pigs or wild hogs)
- Grass-fed ghee
- Unsalted grass-fed butter (not suitable for those sensitive to dairy or notice a breakout correlation with consuming it)
- Wild-caught fatty fish like salmon, tuna belly, ocean trout, herring, anchovies
- Fattier cuts of grass-fed beef, e.g., T-bone, rib-eye, porterhouse, standing rib roast, brisket, round roasts, 10–20% ground beef
- Fattier cuts of pasture-raised chicken and turkey, e.g., dark meat in general, skin-on chicken thighs
- Liver and liverwurst
- Pastured, omega 3 eggs
- Macadamia nut oil (I don’t use this for cooking, just for homemade mayo and cold dressings)
- Full fat raw goat milk kefir (made by my local goat farmer, a special treat)
- Coconut cream and coconut butter (super delicious to eat on its own)
- Almond flour (I use this to make gluten-free baked treats on occasion)
My results from eating a lot of good fats was (and is) this: balanced hormones, stable and sufficient cholesterol levels (which is essential for balanced levels of sex hormones, just FYI), and super moisturized skin. Lotion? Pffft! One of the biggest payoffs for me is that I no longer have dry, super sensitive skin. If you’ve been with me these past few years, you’ll remember I used to talk about the woes of dryness and redness and what not. That is a thing of the past, thanks to fat. So for the past (almost) 2 years, my fat intake has enabled me to forgo any body moisturizers, has eliminated random dry spots that crop up in winter, has greatly thickened my hair (I thank the increased protein for that, too), and removed all redness. After bathing in hot water or washing my face, my skin would get red. Not anymore. Fat is your friend.
The quality of my food is extremely important. I purchase only organically grown produce – the certification does not have to be there, and I usually buy from small/local farmers who do not bother to go through the expense of certification. Often, they go above and beyond the requirements of organic certification. I purchase animal products from small farms close to me, who raise their animals in the environment they are supposed to enjoy. This means pastured (truly free-range, not a gimmicky label) and in the case of cows, 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. Is it more work and more expensive to buy from small farms than going to a normal grocery store? Actually, no. Check out these numbers:
MEAT: I picked up my annual half-cow (about 212 lbs.) from Utah Natural Meat, which is a mere 5-ish hours drive from me. This family-run farm is beyond organic, where they raise 100% grass-fed, free roaming, healthy cows. It doesn’t get any healthier or more ethical than that. Total price per pound: $3.50. Total cost for the entire year: $745. Compare that to the organic and/or grass-fed beef available at large supermarkets, which is $5-$10 per pound. Instead of spending $200-$400 every month on organic, pastured meats from the store, I spent $745 for the entire year (that’s only $62 per month).
Additionally, I spend about $30 per month on organic, pastured chicken.
SEAFOOD: About twice per year I buy wild-caught salmon in bulk from Vital Choice, since it’s cheaper than my local Whole Foods and I trust the source. It works out to $33 per month.
PRODUCE: I buy a basket of organically grown, fresh local produce from my neighborhood CSA every weekend. It costs me $15. That’s $60 per month in produce.
My total grocery bill for 100% organic, local, fresh, sustainable meat and produce is $185 per month. That feeds me and my 6’1″ hungry fiancé.
Of course, there are the little incidentals that can drive my bill up once every few months: a few bottles of organic red wine for cooking, a bag of kale chips, frozen blueberries, a few jars of coconut oil or ghee, etc. Since I do not buy packaged, processed, or pre-made foods (like crackers, gluten-free cookies, trail mix, etc.), that saves me a ton of money. I can just buy the fresh ingredients and make it myself.
And if super nutrition wasn’t enough, there are other benefits to eating this way. I am supporting the farmers that are doing it right and treating the land and their animals properly, keeping the environment healthy for future generations. I refuse to support inhumane factory farming (CAFO), GMOs, and conventional pesticide-overload, nutrient deficient farming practices. How you spend your money dictates what corporations do. If no one buys their crap food, they go out of business. Thus, they have to adjust to what we want, or they can go extinct. So if what we want and pay for is healthy, nutritionally rich, environmentally friendly animal products and produce, then that is what we will get.
Want to Know Where You Can Buy Grass-Fed/Pastured Meat and Organically Grown Produce?
A Typical Day of Eating for Me.
Breakfast: Usually an omelet. I’ll first sauté a big heap of kale in a tablespoon of organic, grass-fed ghee. (Cooking hearty leafy greens helps break down the indigestible cellulose so our digestive tract can access and assimilate the nutrients contained within the plant’s cell walls.) I’ll then add to the pan a chopped up chicken sausage (sugar-free and no fillers or synthetic preservatives) and 1 or 2 whole pastured omega 3 eggs. I’ll serve it with 1/2 an avocado on the side.
Lunch: Ground beef (from my Utah cow, see above) with heaps of veggies and the other 1/2 of that avocado from breakfast. I like to cook up a few pounds of ground beef at one time, season it with whatever spices sound good to me at the moment, and throw in a bunch of produce like red bell peppers, cabbage, zucchini, etc. I cook my beef in coconut oil or ghee, depending on what flavors I want to achieve. Coconut oil and ghee are stable at higher heat, so I love cooking with them.
Dinner: Smoothie made with 1 cup almond milk or macadamia nut milk, 1 heaping Tbsp. Gold Label coconut oil, 1 scoop Sun Warrior Vanilla Warrior Blend (I can’t do whey protein, and I love the ingredients in this), 2 HUGE handfuls of baby spinach or mixed baby greens, 1/2 frozen banana, and a handful of frozen berries or cherries. Before or after the smoothie, I will have a serving of wild-caught fish, usually salmon, cod, mahi mahi, or tuna salad (with Well Fed‘s recipe for healthy homemade mayo – yum!) and a side of leafy greens like kale or chard sauteed in ghee.
In summer, I gravitate toward lighter, sweeter fare like fruits, leaner grass-fed/pastured meats, and leaner white fish like cod and mahi mahi. If I do some strenuous activity, I will need to modify pre– and post-workout meals to optimize performance and recovery, but that’s a whole different post and not necessarily something that falls into EBG territory.
I also love fermented foods: sauerkraut, kim chi, kvass, homemade water kefir, and South River’s delicious handcrafted non-soy miso. I love using nori sheets as burrito wraps and popping dulse and wakame into my soy-free miso soup. Berries, cherries, watermelon, peaches, green apples, and green smoothies serve as my dessert. On occasion, I enjoy short grain brown or white rice with my chicken and homemade teriyaki sauce (chicken bowls FTW!) and non-soy miso.
Regarding intermittent fasting (a.k.a. “IF” - #6 in the overview), I did a standard LeanGains protocol of 16/8 (16 refers to how long you fast and 8 refers to the time frame in which you eat) which served me well for over a year. IF fit in with my natural schedule and inclinations, as I am usually not hungry in the morning. The only possible problem is how IF can disagree with some women, as their bodies can see it as a major stressor and start throwing their hormones out of whack. Since there are little to no studies done on young non-menopausal women and how fasting interacts with their body systems, we have only the impressive results (lowered inflammation markers, lowered IGF-1, lowered cholesterol, etc.) from the male camp to go on. So at this stage, it’s really anecdotal and up to your own self experiments. Personally, I only stopped my 16/8 IF about three weeks ago (beginning of November) because I started getting hungry in the mornings. I suspect that is a result of the combination of even lower stress than usual, better sleep, and zero sugar in my diet (I went on my very strict EBG protocol from the book). Instead of fighting my new natural inclination, I just went with it and started eating earlier. Now I eat 3 smaller meals per day (you can see my daily eating schedule above), whereas it used to be only 2 larger meals when I was doing strict IF. Personally, I absolutely love IF and how effortless it was for me, and it caused no hormonal upset (in fact, just the opposite – zero PMS, everything ran on schedule, totally clear skin, etc.). My body obviously wants something different now, so that is what I am doing and I am enjoying that as well. So for now, my natural protocol looks more like 12/12, which is suiting me just fine. For more information on IF and the different methods, I suggest you read Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains or Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat, which is a science-driven page-turner of a book with over 120 studies referenced. Both are great resources.
What I generally do not eat (ever or very rarely):
- Wheat or any gluten-containing foods.
- Soy of any kind.
- Legumes like black beans and peanuts. I miss peanut butter, but it’s not worth the stomach upset for me.
- Store-bought Straus or Laloo’s ice cream. A rare treat. Plus, I love making ice cream myself.
- Processed, boxed, packaged foods (i.e. snack/protein bars, cookies, chips, etc.). If I want it, I make it myself.
I feel that supplements are only supposed to provide that extra boost that may be hard (or near-impossible) to get from food. Diet needs to be nailed down first, not sort of half-assed with a pile of supplements thrown in to “fill the gaps”. Personally, I no longer take a multivitamin. I eat liver at least once per week (usually ground up and mixed in with meatballs, or chicken liver pâté) and the rest of my diet is a varied blend of serious nutrition, so when I tracked my food intake for a few weeks, I found I was not deficient in anything. (You can track your own macro– and micronutrient breakdown at Cron-o-Meter).
My everyday supplements are Pure Encapsulations 1,000 IU Vitamin D3 and Pure Encapsulations PureProbiotic or Probiotic 50B (I switch off between the probiotics, but I usually stick to their PureProbiotic). I like Pure Encapsulations because they do not use magnesium stearate (or “vegetable stearate” as some manufacturers like to label it, so it sounds friendlier) or titanium dioxide – their formulations follow the research and are expertly made in Massachusetts. Definitely my favorite supplement company.
My other supplements are more specialized and I do not take them long-term. Say if I have a trip coming up in a month that will have me out in the sun for prolonged periods. I will prepare by loading my fatty tissues with sun protective substances: 6–12 mg. astaxanthin daily, extra helpings of fatty fish rich in omega 3s, and bone broth or gelatin. Another example: say I have a binge meal of Straus chocolate ice cream that would normally result in increased oil production and a few little pimples. Well, I want to enjoy my treat while circumventing the consequences, i.e., having your cake and eating it too. First, I buffer the sugar with extra fat, so I’ll drizzle on a yummy olive oil (yes, seriously, a fresh mild olive oil tastes AMAZING with chocolate – Vosges first introduced this heavenly combo to me about 10 years ago, when I was a wee lass working next to their shop). Next, I can counteract any issues with the influx in sugar, androgens, copper/zinc imbalance, etc. by taking the appropriate supplement. I might take alpha lipoic acid, diindolylmethane (DIM), 15 mg of zinc, and/or a few thousand IU of beta-carotene. It all depends on what I ate that day and the exact situation, because I am not going to dose myself willy-nilly. I have two entire shelves in my pantry dedicated to various pills and potions, which is so much fun and very useful (anytime a friend or family member has a minor, temporary complaint about something, I usually have something in that pantry to fix it).
Pretty sure that about covers it! Let me know if I missed something or you have a question or suggestion of something to add. Just leave a comment below.