How I Keep My Skin Clear Part II — Food

How I Keep My Skin Clear Part II — Food

This is Part 2 from How I Keep My Skin Clear. If you haven’t seen the overview, check it out here. Click here to read Part 1.

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):

Cook­ing Oils

  • 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)
Meat & Seafood

  • 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
  • Eggs
  • Liver and liv­er­wurst
Other Fats & Oils

  • Pas­tured, omega 3 eggs
  • Avocado
  • 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)
Please note that it is impor­tant to use and eat the health­i­est fats pos­si­ble. If you are not buy­ing organ­i­cally raised, humane, pastured/grass-fed meat or wild game, you may want to buy only the lean cuts. Waste and tox­ins accu­mu­late in fatty tis­sues, and you do not want to con­sume excess hor­mones, steroids, and all the other nas­ties found in fatty cuts of con­ven­tional, CAFO meat.

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.

What About Cholesterol?
I try not to go into too much detail and “sci­ence stuff” here since I notice a lot of my read­ers just want prac­ti­cal advice on how they can get great skin. Buu­uut I fig­ured the “what about cho­les­terol?” ques­tion would pop up in somebody’s brain, since it’s been ham­mered into us that high fat (in par­tic­u­lar, sat­u­rated fat) = high cho­les­terol. As it turns out, this is actu­ally pretty incor­rect, and also much more com­pli­cated than fat = cho­les­terol. We are dis­cov­er­ing that it is not your “bad” LDL (LDL-C) cho­les­terol num­ber that should be the focal point and heart dis­ease marker, but the num­ber of “bad” LDL-C par­ti­cles hang­ing out in your veins and arter­ies. There is a big dis­tinc­tion. There are some beau­ti­ful stud­ies that are bring­ing these details to light and clear­ing the bad name sat­u­rated fat has acquired, but instead of list­ing them all here, I will point you to some great info on the topic that will at least give you good facts and ammo: Chris Mater­john, PhD and “Intake of sat­u­rated fat was not asso­ci­ated with an increased risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD.”

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?

Check out Eat Wild and Local Har­vest. You can also try putting your city or town’s name into Google along with the words farm­ers mar­ket, CSA, or grass-fed beef.

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.

GHEE is but­ter that had its milk solids removed. (Sounds sur­gi­cal.) Mak­ing ghee is a process that leaves pure but­ter fat — rich in vit­a­mins and healthy fatty acids, with­out the lac­tose and casein. Peo­ple who are aller­gic to dairy (specif­i­cally the pro­teins in dairy, since that’s what you’re aller­gic to) or are lac­tose intol­er­ant, can enjoy ghee. There may be some rare excep­tions, but in gen­eral, it is a very “friendly” food and does not gen­er­ally cause breakouts.

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.

My Sup­ple­ments.

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. :)

~Steph  x

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