Monday, August 27, 2018

Is It Okay to Have Aesthetic Goals?

Recently (well, ok, it’s always been a thing), my attention has been drawn to all the contradicting messages on social media regarding health and body image. It feels like every time I scroll through my feed, I’m hit with something different:

“Detox to lose 7 lbs in 7 days!”

“You don’t need to diet – love yourself the way you are.”

“This 30 day workout plan will get you abs in no time!”

“Work out for health, not to look a certain way.”

And on and on… my head hurts just thinking about it.

Maybe you’re a fitness competitor and you’re training and eating to look a certain way. Or maybe you’re happy with your body and are just committed to enjoying your life. You’re just doing YOU – but it doesn’t matter because according to social media either lifestyle is wrong. There is no right way – you’re either completely devoted to your appearance or you don’t care at all. What happened to the middle ground? That gray area? Does it even exist anymore? Did it ever?

For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having aesthetic goals. Who am I to judge someone whose profession it is to have a kickass physique or a new bride who’s working out to have killer shoulders for her sleeveless wedding dress? Or maybe you just want to wake up in the morning, take a look in the mirror and think “dang, I worked hard, and I look good.” As a society, we think it’s acceptable to highlight and feel bad about our flaws – but if we talk about how proud we are of getting back into shape after having a baby or the definition we’ve built in our booty through heavy lifting, we’re considered shallow and obsessed with our appearance.

On the flipside, there are some of us who are taking conscious breaks from working out super hard. Maybe you had an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise, so now you are working to fix it by letting go and relaxing. Or maybe you’re a new mom and your priority is your child, not your jean size right now. Well, postpartum moms can’t win no matter what they do – if you don’t drop the weight fast enough, you’re not committed and working hard. If you drop the weight too fast? Then you’re not making your child a priority. Ugh. 

We really need to stop this behavior and understand that as life changes, so will our goals. Sometimes we care about being in shape and other times it’s just not the priority. Either phase of life is totally okay – and there is nothing wrong with working towards an aesthetic goal as long as you are not letting it consume your life or lead to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. The problem isn’t having the stereotypical six-pack. The problem is when we become so obsessed with achieving it that we lose sight of what’s really important and potentially damage our health in the process.

So, where do I stand with all of this? I enjoy working out and being fit, and I have no shame in taking pride in my physique. I eat well (most of the time) and work out (sometimes). But that doesn’t mean I don’t know where my priorities are – my family and overall health and happiness (which includes wine, chocolate, and potato chips) will always come before maintaining a certain body fat percentage!

Question of the Day

What are your thoughts? Is it okay to have aesthetic goals?

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Dear Mark: Is Coconut Oil Pure Poison?

It appears that we’re well into “outrageous media frenzy over terrible or misleading claims by nutrition scientists” season….

Last week I covered the “low-carb” and mortality study, and for this week’s edition of Dear Mark I’m covering the (latest) coconut oil controversy. A Harvard professor recently launched a dramatic harangue against coconut oil, calling it “pure poison.” Is it true this time? Are we indeed killing ourselves?

Let’s find out:

Speaking of fat, I’d be interested in Mark’s take regarding the latest attempt to put the kibosh on consumption of coconut oil–specifically, a Harvard professor saying it’s pure poison, probably because it’s so heavily saturated.

I can’t stand the stuff, personally. I don’t like anything made with coconut, and it doesn’t like me either, possibly because I’m sensitive to the overload of lauric acid. However, this and many other websites tout coconut products as being super healthful.

So is there any truth to these new claims that coconut oil is actually bad for us? Is there any hard evidence that points to related health issues? Or is this just more of the same-old, same-old that we saw with eggs, red meat, etc.?

Here’s what Shary’s talking about.

I won’t even talk about the Tokelau, a Pacific Island people who obtained most of their calories from coconut. Or the Kitavans, who ate a relatively low-fat diet but got most of their fat from coconuts. Both showed pristine metabolic health, and in the case of the Tokelau, they actually got incredibly unhealthy after switching from their coconut-rich diet to one rich in mainland foods, including seed oils.

Nor will I talk too much about the animal studies, most of which have found favorable effects on health as a result of eating coconut oil.

Let’s just focus on the human trials—the intentional studies in which actual living humans ate coconut oil and then underwent lab tests to determine the health effects. Concrete, objective effects. If coconut oil is as toxic as this Harvard professor claims, the evidence should be overwhelmingly negative. A Harvard professor would never misrepresent the evidence, right?

First, there is 2017’s Effect of a Diet Enriched with Fresh Coconut Saturated Fats on Plasma Lipids and Erythrocyte Fatty Acid Composition in Normal Adults. Healthy adults either added coconut oil or peanut fat to their diet for 3 months, and researchers examined how the different fat sources affected their biomarkers. Coconut oil increased HDL levels and the proportion of an anti-inflammatory lipid subfraction in red blood cell membranes. All told, coconut oil had a neutral to beneficial effect on health.

2017 also had Physical Form of Dietary Fat Alters Postprandial Substrate Utilization and Glycemic Response in Healthy Chinese Men. As far as coconut oil’s toxicity goes, this one was a dud. Whether the men ate coconut oil or sunflower oil made no difference in their metabolic response to meals (though when the fats were in gel form, there was an effect).

Oh, but this one sounds negative: Coconut Oil Has Less Satiating Properties Than Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil. Finally! We’ve found a kink. Unfortunately, this one isn’t bad for coconut oil either. Although MCTs proved more satiating than coconut oil, the latter was still more satiating than the control oil—vegetable oil. This is actually a strong counter to the Harvard professor’s main contention that coconut oil is bad because it’s so high in saturated fat; MCTs are pure saturated fat and performed very well here. Also, most MCT oil products come from coconut oil.

Next is The Impact of Virgin Coconut Oil and High-Oleic Safflower Oil on Body Composition, Lipids, and Inflammatory Markers in Post-Menopausal Women.  There were no differences in body composition. Coconut oil raised total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL, but it was a wash. Both groups ended up with the same TC/HDL ratio (one of the best markers of overall heart health we have). One person had increased inflammation due to coconut oil, but most of the others had lower inflammation. Overall, though, the “impact of VCO and SO on other [inflammatory] cytokines varied on an individual basis.” The implication is that different people had different responses to the different oils. This is known, and it’s good to see researchers admit that people are different and the individual response arguably matters more than the statistical average of the responses.

In 2016, this came out: Postprandial serum endotoxin in healthy humans is modulated by dietary fat in a randomized, controlled, cross-over study. At first glance, it doesn’t look good for coconut oil. Compared to fish oil (which reduced it) and high omega-6 oil (which was neutral), coconut oil eaten with the meal increased the levels of serum endotoxin. Endotoxins are produced by bacteria in our guts and tend to increase systemic inflammation when they make it into our bodies. Coconut oil was pretty good at helping endotoxin make it past the gut and into the body. The good news is that this did not increase systemic inflammation—but keep in mind that these were “healthy humans.” An increase in serum endotoxins may have stronger effects on inflammation in unhealthy or obese humans. Another bit of good news is that pairing coconut oil with, say, fatty fish should mitigate any rise in serum endotoxins.

There’s also A Randomized Study of Coconut Oil Versus Sunflower Oil on Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Patients with Stable Coronary Heart DiseaseThe title tells it: patients with heart disease added either coconut oil or sunflower oil to their diets for two years. Researchers tracked basic risk factors and the number of “events,” or heart attacks. Despite people with actual heart disease eating the “worst” oil possible, “there was no statistically significant difference in the anthropometric, biochemical, vascular function, and in cardiovascular events after 2 years.” No difference.

Heck, according to 2016’s The Effect of Coconut Oil Pulling on Streptococcus Mutans Count in Saliva in Comparison to Chlorexidine Mouthwash, the coconut oil “myth” all the “experts” love to malign—that swishing coconut oil in your mouth can reduce harmful bacterial colonization—is actually true.

It’s obvious just from looking at these very recent studies, even some of the ones with negative or neutral effects, that coconut oil is far from poison. “Experts” do themselves no credit when they ignore and misrepresent the evidence like this.

Luckily, we can read for ourselves. And we can try for ourselves.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Thoughts on this coconut oil controversy—or other health related media hype? Other studies you’d like me to look at? Have a great week.

References:

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Weekend Of Many Courses

We had such amazing weather this weekend: crisp and cooler, but still plenty warm for outdoor activities!

Thursday night I went out with a group of girlfriends to celebrate a birthday and couldn’t resist getting the usual at Zocalo: a virgin jalapeno rita and the pepper! I saved half the pepper (so full!) and had the leftovers for dinner on Sunday night.

On Friday, I met Mazen and the neighborhood crew at the bus stop. The first week went well! Mazen’s biggest complaint was that he didn’t like having his lunch packed and wanted to go through the lunch line, so he bought his lunch on Friday. It was pizza day, and I told him he would be expected to take a fruit and vegetable (and eat it). I *think* that all went well, but it is kind of strange that he’s so independent that I really don’t know what he had for lunch! (And as an RD, I’d rather be packing, but as a mom I would be thrilled not to have to pack a lunch every day, so it’s kind of a wash!) We’ll see how it goes from here, but he won’t be buying every single day. We might pick two lunches a week based on the menu.

VIDEOS

We went with the neighbors to Tonsler Park splash pad and then to La Michoacana’s popsicle shop! They have a million flavors and many of them are unique (like Tres Leches!)

(He gets so many compliments on this shirt, and it’s on sale! The shark’s tongue is a pocket!)

We had family pizza night at home for dinner, and Thomas picked up our favorite from Belmont. I made a point to set the table nicely and made a salad before he arrived home. Magic Linen sent me a tablecloth and duvet cover to share on the blog, and they are both awesome! I love the thick texture and the dot edging. The tablecloth is so great to cover all the stains on our picnic table.

Friday night bedtime Lego battle:

On Saturday morning, I had breakfast in three courses:

First, a slice of locally made pumpkin bread.

Then two fried eggs with cheddar, folded over into a tiny omelet.

Then watermelon!

Mazen and I went to the gym, where I did a 45 minute stairmaster + walking workout, and then we headed out to the Struckmann house for lunch and playtime.

Sarah made a lovely lunch, which we enjoyed outside with her parents. Biscuits with roasted vegetables and an Italian egg dish with tomato sauce. Yum!

We played by the pool and in the yard for a while. The Sayas played restaurant for a while!

Mazen was invited to stay for a sleepover, and I headed back to town to meet up with Thomas, who had spent his morning on the golf course. We took Gussie for a walk and then dressed up for a date night downtown.

31 weeks!

We had dinner outside at Commonwealth, and per usual, ordered too much food.

I had a yummy Earl Gray mocktail with honey, lemon and herbs.

We shared a cheese plate with some awesome gourmet cheeses. We enjoyed taking our time to nibble through these before ordering our dinner.

For dinner, we shared the pork lettuce wraps and a chicken piccata plus green beans and a side biscuit. It was too much food, and we brought the biscuit and beans home for lunch the next day. Super delicious though!

We were saving room for Chaps Birthday Cake! I asked for one scoop and was handed two, so I had no choice but to eat it.

It was nice to eat while we walked home to feel like we were canceling out the ice cream a little (although I know that would be more like a 4 mile run :mrgreen: )  I covered about 15,000 steps / 6 miles yesterday and my legs and feet were feeling it when we got back. I had to prop them up to de-swell.

To end of the weekend on Sunday morning, I had my biscuit half plus an egg and the last of the watermelon.

We did morning chores and got Mazen for a family-fun afternoon at the pool!

Today, I’m heading to NYC for a little blog event – perhaps my last one for a very long time! I’m meeting up with my sister and Emerson for the day before I get to my hotel. Should be a fun but very quick trip!



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