I was active and fit throughout my teenage years. When I was in high school I walked 20 minutes to school and back everyday. I played basketball twice a week and I had track and field practice three times a week.
The weekends were pretty active, too. In my family, we never sat around all day but always went outside at least once a day, even if it was a quick trip to the grocery store. And we always walked there, never drove.
Being that active kept me fit all the time, despite the sweet tooth I always had (and still do). I probably didn’t even know how many calories were there in a chocolate bar!
I never had to think about what and how much I eat.
Things changed a bit when I moved from home for college in antoher city. Because I lived further away from the campus, I would always drive or catch a bus to get there. I didn’t walk that much anymore.
Especially the first year in college was a tough one. I still remember those Mondays that started with 8am German grammar classes and finished with Latin course twelve hours later. Because schoolwork took majority of my time, I dropped the basketball trainings. I still practiced track and field but not as much as I used to before.
And I definitely ate too much chocolate late night, because, well, I was homesick and felt lonely in the new city.
To support my studies I started working at a restaurant as a waitress. As you probably know, restaurant food is not always the healthiest, and all the “tiny” bites you have here and there quickly add up. My love for sweets didn’t help either.
As a result of all this, I had gained more than 20 pounds by the end of the third year of college.
For someone who had always been fit, weight gain was embarrassing.
I realized that I had to do something about it, so I joined Weight Watchers.
The philosophy of WW was simple: eat all the veggies and fruit you can – which was a great thing – but stay away from fats. Not so great thing. But back then I didn’t know it.
Weight Watcher’s view on fat was very straight forward: Always choose low-fat or fat-free options, use margarine instead of butter, limit your oil intake to two teaspoons a day.
Instead of eating food, Weight Watchers “ate” “points” – every food gave you certain amount of “points”.
A slice of avocado or a small handful of nuts gave too many “points”. Even egg yolks contained too much fat and “points”. Beef and pork were not supposed to be good for you; instead, it was recommended to eat lean chicken and white fish. Salmon, again, gave too many “points”, so the rare times when I had it, I only allowed myself a small piece.
At the same time, you could have containers of fat-free yogurt, bowls of oatmeal or decent amount of pasta for just a small amount of “points”.
I followed those rules and started cooking according to them.
For breakfast I would have oatmeal made with water, topped with a spoonful of jam.
For lunch and dinner I had usually pasta with lots of veggies, but I never used any oil or butter for cooking them. Hey, there was fat in them, right!
Because I ran a lot, I figured that I need a lot of pasta, so one of my favorite meals became spaghetti with veggies. I added just a little bit of the lightest cream cheese I could find but adding any meat sounded like wasting of “points” to me.
My life started to revolve around food.
I would literally stand there and stare when my mom cooked dinner to make sure she won’t use any oil or cream in it.
I even skipped milk from my morning coffee and remember thinking that my sister is insane when she filled only half of her cup with coffee and half with milk.
I basically refused to eat out because I didn’t know how much fat was in my meal. Even if I did eat out, I never chose the food that I actually wanted but the one that I thought had the least “points” and fat.
I had the “points” and fat calculator in my mind all the time.
It even got so bad that while having a conversation with a friends over a dinner, instead of focusing on what they were saying I would constantly calculate how many “points” and how much fat there was in my meal.
But I got the results I was looking for. I lost weight and my body fat percentage went down. During those 5 months that I was in Weight Watchers group I lost weight every single week. I was so proud of myself.
However, all this had a downside. My period had never been too regular, but thus far I had at least had it. Now my period stopped altogether.
My doctor thinks that the problems I still have may be the result of overexercising and and not eating enough, especially fat.
I don’t know if it’s the absolute truth or not, but it is possible.
I had beed struggling with constipation since I was a kid. My mom used to give me a tablespoon of oil every evening that kept my bowel movements a little better. Now when I refused to consume basically any kind of oil or fat, it got only worse.
I was also very tired. At that time, I ran at least 10K every single day, most of the days even more, but I didn’t fuel myself accordingly.
For years, I had been overexercising, restricting my food intake, I was in a bad relationship. My life was a mess.
In the end of 2012 my life changed a lot when I moved to California for one year to study there. There could not have been better time for this change.
Moving was liberating in many ways. I met new people, enjoyed the much nicer weather, got to travel. I quit the relationship that had felt wrong for so many years.
Together with all that I just forgot about all the food related limits that I had set for myself.
I also started to eat more and especially fat – avocados, olive and coconut oil, almond butter… I also allowed myself not so good fats – (too much) ice cream and fro-yo.
I put on some weight, but my health got better.
My hair got thicker. My skin wasn’t as dry as it had been before. And I got my period back. That was pretty much miracle after not having it for more than four years.
But I didn’t like my weight gain. All that booze and late night fro-yos I enjoyed when living my fun life definitely showed on the scale. So when it was time to move back to Europe, I was determined to lose my American pounds like we call them.
That’s what I did but again, not the best possible way. I remembered how I had successfully lost weight last time.
So I started measuring food and avoiding fats again.
I lost quite a bit of this weight that I had put on. And I also lost my period again.
Then I met someone who told me about Paleo. Of course I had heard about it before too but was still intimidated to try it out.
I knew that going Paleo would mean giving up my oatmeal and pasta that I loved and having lots of fats – good fats, though, but still – instead. I was afraid to gain weight again.
But I gave Paleo a try. The beginning was hard because it felt like I don’t get full. My friend just told me to add more fat to my diet. Apparently I was still afraid of it. But I took his advice, started to add more fat when I cooked and it got better. I stayed full longer.
I also noticed that my hunger didn’t kick in as suddenly as it used to. I used to be the one who needs food right now or I would freak out.
Now I was able to wait a little longer if there wasn’t anything available; I didn’t need to get the food right away.
Note: I went 100% Paleo for 3-4 months, but I’m not doing it anymore, after figuring out the non-Paleo foods that work great for me. I don’t eat a 100% Paleo, but I learned a really valuable thing that made a huge difference for my health: I stopped fearing fat and finally started to eat it.
Together with the diet change I started to lift weights more and run less. And I lost the extra weight, by running less and eating more fat than probably ever before.
Now, I’m still working on getting my body to function normally again. But this time I want to do it right – get my calories from plenty of good fats and proteins and limit the empty calories from booze, ice cream and cookies. Just limit, not avoid altogether though.
I’m eating avocados, bacon, eggs, coconut and olive oil – all the good stuff. I want to see if my body is able to maintain the weight that I feel good with and finally start functioning properly.
Have you ever avoided fats?
What is your favourite way to eat your fats?