Where Has All the Full Fat Dairy Gone?

I am seeing some cold, hard evidence of our country’s fat-phobia when I stand in front of the dairy case at most grocery stores. Even Whole Foods! Oh how the mighty has fallen. I wrote last week about the debate I often have with myself about whether to include dairy in my diet or not, and on those times that I am including it, I’m going to eat the full fat stuff. And I would really like it if it weren’t so damn hard to find.

Full-fat dairy, as recommended over non-fat by everyone promoting a Paleo or High Fat Low Carb diet, as well as everyone who knows that our fat-phobias stand on shaky ground at best, has more protein, less sugar, and boasts the slow-food trait of being far less processed than its low-fat cousins, has disappeared from the shelves.

Whether you’re trying to control your blood sugar or reduce your carb intake or not, it’s still pretty shocking to see an entire food product, an arguably healthy one, which I know exists, gone from the landscape. It was only a few years ago that I could buy a Fage Total at the café in the gym I worked in, but that soon disappeared. The grocery store, especially organic-friendly ones, though, never disappointed. I could get my Fage, or some other exotic variety of strained, full-fat yogurt. But recently, and this seems to strangely coincide with how close attention I’m paying, the yogurt I always knew would be there for me are gone! Perhaps this is just a sign that I should give up the dairy already, but if I’ve learned anything through my entire nutritional journey that I have a stubborn, deeply seated tendency to want something that much more once I learn I can’t have it (or in this case, find it.) And so, the search continues.

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Buzzword: Motivation

In just the past week or so, I’ve come across two recommendations for the same book that, inopportunely, is out of print: The Blackmail Diet, by John Bear. This book is actually a wildly enlightening story of motivation. The Blackmail Diet starts with Bear, a PhD graduate in psychology, taking on his long-time struggle with obesity and dieting in a completely new and unusual way, by altering his motivation: he puts $5,000 into an escrow account (which makes it under the control of a lawyer, and completely out of his own) with the strict stipulation that, if he fails to lose 70 lbs over the course of a year, the money will be donated to…wait for it….The American Nazi Party.

Yikes! Talk about motivation.

As one can imagine, this was a completely unacceptable outcome for Bear and he – yay! – lost that 70 lbs and kept his money. This experiment certainly makes a solid point about how to drop 70 lbs, but the greater idea here is about your goals, and what kind of motivation it takes to achieve them. Those goals may be weight related, or not. John Bear helps us wonder, if motivation is or has been a goal-block in the past, then what kind of commitment are you willing to make that will be there even if the motivation wanes?

Well. That’s something to ponder for a moment during your busy day, and to feel free to share with your personal trainer who is always willing to help you make those commitments (….within the limits of reason, of course. This is definitely not an invitation to rope your trainer into some legally binding contract involving unsavory political parties and garbage bags of cash. Just so we’re clear.) Whether your goal is to lose weight, to eat more vegetables, to look like the Spartan soldiers from the film 300, or to start and maintain a healthy routine, then start by checking the motivation barometer: is it high? Low? In need of an unpleasant threat? Take a look and find out.

For those of you who feel more comfortable finding your motivation in a more personal and less alarming manner, I’ll leave you with a quote from leadership expert and coach John C. Maxwell from his book, Failing Forward:

“Motivation is not going to strike you like lightning… Forget motivation. Just DO IT. Exercise, lose weight, change your diet, whatever – do it without motivation and then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep doing it.”

PSA: Eat Dairy Responsibly

I am constantly on the fence about dairy. Try as I might to focus my diet on what is included rather than excluded, dairy is one food item (along with nuts) that I often have to ask myself: am I eating this now or staying away from it?

To begin with, what dairy and nuts have in common in this case is that they’re both major domino foods. How familiar does this sound: after buying the economically-sized tub of Greek yogurt with intentions of eating only reasonable, well-measured portions, half of it is gone by the next morning. Don’t get me started on this phenomena with nuts (my newest, strictest rule: no more buying in bulk). And cheese? Forget it. I’m pretty sure cheese is supposed to be more of a garnish than an entrée, but it is pretty stinking easy to put back a thousand or so calories of cheese, especially when eating it in front of the TV.

However, in pursuit of more energy, increased athletic performance, and stable blood sugar, is dairy actually a good addition to the diet? I know lots of CrossFitters who swear by the Icelandic yogurt Siggi’s (or the new one that is exclusively at Whole Foods, Smari). Incidentally, the CrossFit-favored Paleo diet does not include diary. Cheese, milk, butter, and yogurt are among the agricultural products that, along with grains and legumes, don’t fit the Primal lifestyle. But what makes the Icelandic style special (and, Greek, German, Australian…there are more to be found) is that it is strained so many times that it bulks up the protein while straining off the lactose, minimizing the sugar and carbohydrate content. While a typical serving of regular yogurt only takes about one cup of milk, a serving of Greek takes something like two or three , while Icelandic can take up to five. So, when following a low carbohydrate diet, Paleo or otherwise, this is a high-five. These types of yogurt also have the whole homesteading thing going for them – it’s a traditional food that has sustained a culture for generations. Plus, the two Icelandic brands that you can find on your store’s shelves are rather unadulterated as these things go: very few ingredients, no added sugars or preservatives. Bingo. In the end, this quality trumps an extra carbohydrate here or there for me (though I still aim low.) Besides, does anyone else remember the Chobani-GMO-mold mess that got them dropped from Whole Foods? I do.

So, yogurt aside, what about cheese?

The bacteria in cheese eats up the lactose as it ages, so any cheese aged longer than three months, generally speaking, has lost most or all of its lactose, leaving the cheese to be a high fat, high protein, low-or-no-carb snack. But again, the domino effect strikes: the last time I invited cheese into my diet I found myself eating it at almost every snack and meal, and most of my feel-good markers (energy, performance, blood sugar) were thrown way off as a result. Don’t forget that cheese (again, along with nuts) is one of the most allergenic foods. Even if you don’t have a bona-fide intolerance, just because your GI can tolerate 1 oz of something doesn’t mean it can tolerate 10 oz of it. I see alcohol the same way: one drink? Fine! 10 drinks? No bueno!

As for butter: I won’t give up butter. High quality, grass fed, real pretty yellow butter. The picture above illustrates before your very eyes the difference between conventional butter (left) and grass fed butter (right). Even organic butter can be that sad white color, if the cows are fed organic grains! When it comes to butter, yellow means go. That being said, I also don’t use that much of it. Sometimes – rarely – I make myself a nice bulletproof coffee in the NutriBullet with 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp butter for a smoother, easier, longer lasting caffeine fix instead of a sharp spike. But I also use butter to cook with and have just started using ghee. Another traditional food (this could be the final lesson learned here today: if you’re going to eat dairy, make sure it’s produces from a centuries-old traditional method) ghee is frequently used in Indian and southeast Asian cooking and is clarified butter from which the lactose and casein have been cooked away. The smoke point is also much higher than vegetable oils, which is a very good thing when trying to avoid free radicals and AGEs in your cooking.

So, like the title says, eat your dairy responsibly. This PSA could actually apply to all food in general, but when you’re on the fence about a particular food and are experimenting with adding it in or taking it out, your best chance at getting it to work for you and your goals is to get the highest quality available, and even better if it’s been made from traditional methods. And for the love of cows (or goats, or sheep), eat that dairy mindfully!

Back to Basics Tip – Write it Down

This Back to Basics tip comes courtesy of a personal experience that recently kind of blew my mind in its simplicity. You’re gonna love it. It is, wait for it…writing stuff down.

I hate to admit that I can sometimes be nauseatingly susceptible to over-competitiveness. You’re probably thinking, “duh, you compete. In sports. That’s the point.” And yes, I would agree that it is, to an extent. There is the healthy level of competitiveness that gets you on the bike or track or treadmill every day and keeps you going in a race even when you’d rather quit and go home, and then there’s the unchecked, soul-eating competitiveness that makes irrational comparisons and stops any progress before it even has a chance to start. I am, admittedly, susceptible to the latter.

Call it perfectionism, call it hard-headedness, call it absolutely crazy for a fully-formed adult to throw what amounts to a temper tantrum when he or she falls short of some imagined standard of success, but it has happened to me and I have seen it happen countless other times to clients as well. Picture this: a successful human being by all reasonable measures descending into a mini-crisis of anger and self-loathing just because he or she can’t execute a proper dead lift. Or is huffing and puffing after half a minute of jumping rope. Or can’t bench press as much as they remember benching in college. Or sees someone much older (or younger) running, biking, and swimming much faster than they in a race. Reading this now, it may seem crazy to you for anyone to measure themselves by such standards, but that is how the unchecked, overly competitive ego acts REacts. And it is a performance killer. In fact, it can be a career killer.

So, before you let such over-competitiveness ruin your chances at greatness (or now that you’ve had a few blinding flashes of recognition in the examples above), what can you do about it? The answer is so simple, you won’t even believe me that it is actually a solution to anything besides helping you remember stuff: Write. It. Down. The purpose here is to always have your most recent benchmark in mind that you are working against. That’s it – instead of seeing what someone else is doing, how fast someone else is going, how heavy someone else is lifting, a written record can help keep your own accomplishments in mind for you to reference with each workout. Your written record keeps your focus on your own standard of performance and helps prevent distractions like ego-fueled over-competitiveness. This is not to say that you can’t use a little healthy competition to chase down someone running ahead of you in your next race, but that’s just the difference: competitiveness acts, while over-competitiveness REacts. So whether you catch that other racer or not, you have your own latest achievements, written down, in ink, somewhere that you can check it easily and often, to keep your standards (and your ego) in check and keep you acting instead of reacting.

And this goes for the new and seasoned athletes alike – if you’re just getting back into shape and getting ready for your first race, or you’ve done countless races before and you’re starting a new cross training regimen, get out your pens or phones and make copious notes of each performance, and the dates that you hit them: run, bike, and swim times based on distance, or various weights based on rep schemes. That way, the next time another racer is smoking you on the trail, or the CrossFit WOD, you will have your own recent accomplishments in mind instead of thinking, “Why can’t I [insert verb] as [insert adverb] as that guy?” Don’t let verbs and adverbs ruin your confidence! Write it down, then get out there and do your best!

#nationalpancakeday

Apparently, that exists! Always one to celebrate a national holiday (usually when it comes to taking the day off) I decided today would be a great day to play around with one of my recent favorite recipes, the Paleo Pancake.

This pancake adventure started on Valentine’s Day when I wanted to make my man-candy some heart-shaped paleo pancakes. The heart-shape didn’t happen, but I added cacao powder and raspberries and that made up for everything. Of course, I couldn’t make these without finding a replacement for flour, and I first read about Nom Nom Paleo using coconut flour to make their own Savory Pancakes. In a surprising twist, though, the only coconut flour I could find (Bob’s Red Mill, a favorite brand) has been “defatted” which is not on the list of things I want to happen to my coconut products, so I went with the amazingly high fat hazelnut flour instead.

And then it’s time to play around. Both on Valentine’s Day and today, National Pancake Day, I made two or three batches of mini (OK, they were pretty much regular sized) pancakes to try out what worked best…and because they’re such a treat in this barren pastry-desert we call diabetes…and because they make a pretty great post-workout snack or meal.

First, the basics:

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Hazelnut Flour
  • 2 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Ground Flax meal
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk

And from there the possibilities are endless. I mixed in coconut flakes for a more savory pancake, chia seeds which give it a little bit of that gelatinous texture in the center (which is a little weird, but not a bad way to get your chia seeds in), cacao powder which was a total hit, and applesauce which may have been my favorite – it added a little moisture and that delicious fruity taste. All of the above ingredients could be used at around 1 tbsp – add a little more coconut milk or another egg if things get too thick. And of course, top with pastured butter, fresh or frozen berries, and/or organic maple syrup or Trimax’s favorite, local organic Yacon Syrup. Or one other secret killer topping: full fat greek or icelandic yogurt. Touchdown!