How Eating Fat Changed My Life
Many of you have noticed that I’ve lost a bit of weight and am not limping as much as I used to. In response, I’ve mentioned my new way of eating, and there have been a lot of questions. Read on to get some answers!
A Month of Anniversaries
The month of April is full of anniversaries on the farm-especially this particular April! It’s Beth’s birthday month (the 11th), and our wedding anniversary (21 years, on the 18th!), and it heralds the start of our 20th season farming! But I want to focus on a different anniversary. Two years ago this month, I started eating Keto. It’s my second anniversary of eating fat as the primary source of all I consume - and more specifically, the healthy pasture-based grass fed protein and fats we produce here on the farm. And...it has completely transformed my life.
But first….a disclaimer:
I’m sharing this story to let you know about a choice that has made a huge difference in my life. I’m NOT doing this to advocate for a certain way of eating or to give advice about what you should eat. I’m also not a nutrition expert or understand fully the bio-chemistry that drives the results I speak about. I’m simply telling you about how this has worked out for me. If you want to learn more, I’ve included some resources that I’ve found helpful at the bottom of this article.
The Barn Fire 40.
Many of you know that we had a barn fire about five years ago and that we decided to rebuild. We made a lot of decisions back then that have led us to now. We balanced our to needs to keep running the farm...temporary barns, cold storage, offices and bathrooms... with planning for the future. We had to design and secure financing for the new barn facility while we developed a farm expansion plan that would allow us to handle the pressure of new debt. We traveled constantly between three properties - and surprising to no one but me - I handled the stress in part by snacking each time I climbed into the pickup. Not just snacking, but throwing down the types of snacks that gave me that short term bump in energy I felt I needed to keep going. You guessed it: sugar - I’ve always had a major sweet tooth. I was as likely to eat “sharing size” bags of M&M’s or entire packages of Oreos as I was a delicious grass fed hamburger, especially while on the road.
First Doctors Visit
I’ve learned that sugar is a major inflammatory food. Combine that fact with some extra pounds and any weak joint will start to swell a bit. For me that was my left knee which blew up to grapefruit size with the slightest provocation. That along with feeling I needed a comprehensive check up sent me to the doctor’s office two years ago this month. I’ll skip the details, but the main points were that I was a bit overweight and blood testing prompted the designation “pre-diabetic.” That got me motivated to make some changes. I contacted a friend who had been to the edge of morbid obesity and returned to highschool weight in less than a year. During that time he trained for and completed the Vermont 100 mile running race, all while losing over 100 lbs. He counseled me to look into eating the Keto way.
Keto is a way of eating that focuses on fat instead of the carbohydrates (sugars and starches) that dominate most American diets. Right now most of us live off glucose as the primary fuel that drives the body. Glucose is the simple compound derived from breaking down carbs in the body. If we drastically reduce our carb intake and replace that with healthy fats, the body’s primary fuel will become ketones - derived from the breakdown of fats. If you are able to change your body’s primary fuel to ketones then you are said to be ketogenic. Once your body becomes ketogenic then you breakdown fats all the time - including body fat - even while you’re sleeping! By contrast, glucose is used up quickly (leaving you craving more) or is transformed into body fat if not used quickly.
Second Doctor Visit
I started eating Keto. I dropped as much sugar and starch as I could and started eating more fatty meats like pasture-raised beef and pork (yes, bacon too!). I added grass fed high fat cheeses and creams, and nutrient-dense fatty nuts and fruits (macadamias, 85% chocolate, avocados and blueberries), wild caught fish and delicious Maple Wind pastured eggs. At first it wasn’t easy kicking the sugar habit. I handled the challenge by eating as much fat as I could, and often packed away 4000 calories a day. After a tough first few weeks, I got on a roll and it started to feel possible. And then I started noticing that my clothes didn’t fit the same and my knee, while still painful, wasn’t swelling up any more.
Then, in July, I got some poison ivy in my eye, and went back to the doctor’s office. These days, each time I visit the doctor they take my weight, and this time was no exception. They treated my eye and sent me on my way. But an hour or so later they gave me a call. “Mr. Hennessey, we’re sorry we didn’t catch this while you were here, but we noticed that you’ve lost 42 lbs since the last time you were in. Would you say your weight loss was on purpose?” I took a moment - I honestly had no idea I’d lost that much weight. We don’t have a scale at home and my focus was on my knee swelling. “Well, I have been eating a little differently,” I said. “So I guess it’s on purpose.”
Feeling Good, Thinking Better
Losing the weight and swelling were great outcomes, but those haven’t been the only results. I have a much steadier level of energy without the sugar highs and crashes I had before. I sleep better and manage stress in a healthier way. One of the best results has been the increased level of mental capacity I feel (at least that’s how I perceive it…;-). I’m able to hold more details and keep a good number of projects running without major lapses (though still lots of minor ones). There is evidence that the brain runs better on fat!
The other thing that has made this possible for me is that it is not a calorie restrictive “diet.” I eat as much as I want when I’m hungry. I’ve also worked on the very real principle that I’m not perfect, so I’ve decided that success means staying on the program for 80% of the time - with the other 20% eating whatever feels good at the time. It means I feel positive and in control even if I decide to eat something that’s not on the program, instead of feeling like a failure. Given that leeway, this is the way I plan to eat for the long term.
The Right Kind of Fats
I believe this is a healthy choice because of the good fats I eat high in Omega-3’s and CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acids). Plus, our pasture raised meats and eggs are full of essential nutrient-dense fats that decrease our chances of becoming diabetic, reduce our risk for heart disease and make for a tremendous body and mind energy source! It doesn’t get much better than that.
Bruce’s Daily Eats
A lot of folks ask what I eat each day, so here’s a sample:
Breakfast: 3 Maple Wind Eggs with melted cheese fried in bacon fat, Maple Wind Bacon or Pork Sausage, often dressed with avocado slices or mixed with organic spinach. Lots of water, and strong coffee with grass fed heavy cream.
Lunch: Mixed Nuts, Avocado, Cheese Slices, Wild Caught Sardines in Olive Oil, Maple Wind Summer Sausage, 85% Dark Chocolate - lots of water of course!
Dinner: There’s lots of ideas to choose from. Here’s a link to what we had a few nights ago: Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole with Maple Wind Pasture-Raised Bacon, and Maple Wind Ground Beef and Eggs.
Dessert: Butterworks 100% Grass Fed Whole Milk Yogurt with a packet of Truvia and a handful of blueberries.
Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog by Grant Petersen, an easy read with lots of additional resources and studies.
Bacon & Butter, The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet by Celby Richoux. A tremendous cookbook with lots of easy to use recipes