We often think our main barriers with fat often lie in mental issues due to the cultural stigma we were all raised in. That can be overcome with deep breathing, and a desire to simply “try”. If you switch to a proper high fat diet I can promise you won’t turn into the human whale you’re imagining, and I swear you’ll be blown away by the change in both your pain and persona. More often overlooked, however, is how our bodies are actually digesting fat. I’ve noticed this as a consistent issue with every endo client I’ve worked with, and it certainly was for me. Years of low fat/poor fat diets wreak havoc on your body’s ability to actually digest, assimilate, and absorb fats the way we imagine they do, and consequently we need some nutritional and supplemental therapies to start the system working properly again. That’s why below I list out the following issues you may encounter:
- I’m still not sure what a high fat diet looks like
- I can’t help it, I’m still scared of fat: how high fat diets help lose weight
- I feel nauseas when I eat fat (or I have no gallbladder)
- Where do I find high quality ancestral fats?
Troubleshooting #1) I’m still not sure what a high fat diet looks like
I emphasize a high fat, moderate protein diet, moderate/lower carb diet for healing endo. Many people immediately think bacon cheeseburger, hold the bun, but what I’m promoting is no Atkins style diet. High fat means a larger percentage of calories is coming from fat, although because fat is condensed in calories the percentage on your plate will still look quite small. I'm not talking about fatty cookies, baked goods, and chips, or delivered pizza and buffalo wings. I'm talking real food! That can look like any of the following meals or snacks, which aren’t often immediately considered when we think of high fat:
- Salmon with a dill cream sauce and steamed collards
- Lamb roast with turnips cooked in the drippings
- 1 cup of broccoli topped with 1 tbsp butter
- Blueberry/greens smoothie with 1 tbsp coconut oil and 2 raw pastured egg yolks.
- 2 cups grass-fed, whole milk kefir or yogurt
- Big plate of greens topped with sardine salad (just like tuna salad) and drizzled with 2 tbsp cold pressed flax oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Indian style curry with veggies sautéed in liberal amounts of ghee, and simmered in full fat coconut milk
- 2 butter fried eggs over a bowl of steamed greens topped with coconut oil, braggs, and nutritional yeast.
- 3 oz grass-fed burger patty topped with raw cheddar & sauerkraut with a large kale salad topped with olive oil and sea salt.
- Matcha tea blended with collagen powder and 1 tbsp pastured butter and 1 tbsp coconut oil
See, these dishes aren’t piled with layers of greasy bacon and cheesesteaks (although they could be if that’s what you’re craving), they’re whole food meals that simply incorporate more fat and less starch. Fat will give you energy, strength, and lasting power… meaning you won’t be hangry in 2 hours or freak out if you forget snacks. This ability to “last” means your adrenals aren’t kicking in every few hours when your blood sugar drops, leading to so many ugly endo-related issues it’s not even funny. Fat is your friend, and replacing excess carbohydrates with it can have an immediate impact on your health and happiness.
Note: I don't recommend a long-term ketogenic diet for endo women! Such a diet can be used long-term to manage some auto-immune conditions (such as multiple sclerosis), but overall, women need carbohydrates to help regulate their hormones. I do believe ketogenesis can still a great short term or fasting therapy -- especially when used to help kick-start your body into fat burning mode -- but otherwise I recommend women with endo aim to consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates every day. Again, working with a skilled practitioner will help you understand where your best percentages are at.
Troubleshooting #2) I can’t help it, I’m still scared of fat: how high fat diets help lose weight
If you grew up in a family of dieting or calorie counting women, it may be hard to adjust to the mindset that fat in your food does not equal fat on your bum. If you combine that with having poor success on low-fat diets, where you can literally still gain weight on a 1200 calorie/day diet, your mind can become terrified of eating too many calories. Especially fat calories.
So, repeat after me: you need to eat fat in order to burn fat. Of course you can’t necessarily add lots of fat to a carbohydrate laden diet and expect to lose weight, but when you replace the carbs with delicious fatty foods you’ll find yourself less hungry with more energy, clearer skin, shiny hair, and the excess pounds disappearing.
Luckily, there’s a lot of science out there showing us how eating fat while reducing carbohydrates will help you lose weight, and this is really the only path for folks dealing with obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, or PCOS. The real problem is too many processed, refined carbohydrates, which feed this cycle and lead to weight gain.
If this is you, please read my two other articles, THIS one on fat burning, and THIS one on blood sugar. Together they should help paint a picture of how life in the high-fat world means you can actually eat a lot more calories while slimming your waist.
**This of course only pertains to women who need/want to to lose weight! For others who want to maintain or gain, this diet helps as well. What it does is bring you into your "equilibrium", the weight that you're healthiest.
Troubleshooting #3) I'm not properly digesting fat: I feel nauseas when I eat fat or I have no gallbladder
Digestive issues are becoming more common in regard to digesting fats, so much so that many people today are having their gall bladders taken out!! Did you ever wonder why a gall bladder would stop working or become infected? Because it wasn’t being used properly — that person was on a low/poor fat diet — and so the bile inside more or less rotted causing gall stones, infection, and severe pain. Remember, we need that gall bladder to be properly in use in order for us to properly detox, so if you feel nauseas when you eat it’s time to focus on gall bladder and liver health.
Additional signs of a fatty acid deficiency can be a floating stool, dry flaky skin, and intense oily/fried foods cravings (think potato chips or french fries), premature aging of skin or fine lines, and easily getting sunburned/sunstroke. If you're eating plenty of fat but still experience these symptoms it could be a big sign that you're improperly digesting fats.
Since healing an issue like fat digestion is a complex topic, I would recommend you work with a practitioner to really get to the root of your digestive issues if this is you. For immediate assistance you may want to add the following to your healing/supplemental arsenal for short term help in order to thin the bile and get your gall bladder happily pumping again. These guys are cofactors needed for healthy bile:
- Beet juice: drink this on the regular, or even just eat beets. Try it every day for a month, I dare you ;)
- Taurine: an amino acid, critical for bile formation
- Vitamin C: helps thin bile
- Pancreatic Enzymes: help signal to the gall bladder to work
- Cholesterol and fatty acids: make up the bulk of bile
Now, if you’re someone who did have their gall bladder taken out, you will have to supplement with bile salts (for the rest of your life) in order to properly digest fats. Doctors will recommend a low fat diet instead, but hopefully after reading this you better understand how detrimental that can be to your body. Instead, take bile salts with every meal that includes fat (so no need if you eat a peach, for example) so that your body can benefit from this nourishing food. THIS is a brand I recommend.
Troubleshooting #4) Where to find ancestral fats
If you’re a big box supermarket shopper or a health food market shopper, you’re probably going to have to go a little more out of your way to find the variety of quality oils you need, but they’re not impossible to find once you catch on to what you’re looking for. Remember, just because you’re at an expensive health food store doesn’t mean the oils are healthy (like the organic canola oil for $20), nor does it mean you can’t find affordable yet quality options at big box stores. Here are some places to get you started.
Costco actually has a quality selection of a few oils, which I was happily surprised about. Their Kirkland brand Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil passed the olive oil standards test (whereas Whole Foods and Safeway failed). They also have good organic Coconut oil as well as Kerrygold butter, which is pastured butter from Ireland.
US Grassland Beef is an online store that has a great selection of tallow and lard from pastured animals. If you’ve never cooked with this stuff before it’s an incredible addition to soups, stews, and other rich fare, as well as great for frying things like potatoes, eggs, and sausages.
There are lots of brands available for nut and seed oils (polyunsaturated fats), too many here to name, so you’ll have to do research to make sure you’re really getting cold pressed. In my personal arsenal I use Barleans cold pressed Flax oil, Natures Way cold pressed Evening Primrose Oil, and Nutiva cold pressed hemp oil.