What I Ate This Year To Lower My Cholesterol (Besides Butter)

If you read part 1, you know that I was diagnosed with high cholesterol last year.  After changing doctors and doing some research, I realized despite the ugly numbers, my overall risk for cardio vascular disease was low.  But, I still wanted my numbers to look better, so I decided to start eating more fat.

What I Ate

Food Group Breakdown
Snapshot of my daily calorie ratios for different food groups with some examples.

A couple things to note:  If you stack up the top three categories – nuts/legumes, meats, and oils – you get roughly 2/3 of my calorie intake.  If you throw full-fat dairy on top of that stack, you’re looking at over 3/4 of my calories.  So yeah, I ate a lot of fat.

Is this like Paleo or Atkins?

Sort of, but not really.

Macro Percentages
Breakdown of macros for a recent day (from MyFitnessPal).

The diet I’m on now is best described as Low Carb High Fat (LCHF).

It’s similar to Paleo in that I eat whole foods, lots of veggies and meat.  The difference is I still eat dairy, some grains, and legumes (beans and peanuts) and eat very little fruit.

It’s similar to Atkins in that it’s high fat with a variety of meat.  The difference is I don’t eat eggs (slight allergy), and I don’t eat as much fat (or as little carbs) as they suggest.

I’m Not Doing this to Lose Weight

I suppose if my goal was weight loss, or better yet, body fat reduction, I’d probably shift myself closer to the higher fat/carb ratio that Atkins pushes (5-10% carbs and 70-75% fat).  But, I really just want to maintain what I have and get my cholesterol fixed.

What Most People Say I Should’ve Been Eating

USDA My Plate

The latest USDA recommended guidelines are based on a plate.  3/4 of your plate is carbs, 1/4 is protein, and as a special bonus, a glass of dairy (probably skim milk).  Now to me, this is harder to follow than the classic food pyramid because I don’t always use a plate when I eat, sometimes I use a bowl.  Often I just use my hands to grab random items out of the pantry and shove them directly into my face.

“I’m Living in a Slaughter House”

Some of you might be thinking: “Alright I know how this went down.  You woke up one morning and tore through the kitchen with vengeance in your heart, throwing every last slice of bread or animal cracker out the window.  Then you watched an instructional video and spent the rest of the day decorating you kitchen with sausages.”

Ummm…Not quite.  It was actually a MUCH slower transition process occurring over a period of a few months.

Where You At?

The first order of business was to see what I was dealing with.  So, I grabbed the MyFitnessPal app and started tracking what I ate.  After a few days, I learned quite a bit about myself:

[I like carbs]

  • I still clung to a soda habit.  A few months prior I had successfully weaned myself off a 20-year diet soda love affair and onto a 3-4 a week sugary soda routine.
  • Sugar with my tea, please.  I had fallen in love with Big Train’s sugary chai tea mix.
  • Buns are for burgers and bread is for sandwiches.  It’s the American way, right?
  • I liked rice, pasta, or bread with dinner.
  • Chips and salsa are so good, especially with a burrito.

[I don’t like saturated fat]

  • Meat fat is disgusting.  I preferred lean turkey, chicken breasts, and fish.  Beef occasionally, but only if the visible fat was painstakingly trimmed and discarded.  For some reason, hamburgers didn’t bother me as much as steak.  I guess it was a visual thing.
  • They sell whole milk dairy products?  I had grown so accustomed to fat-free or at least low-fat cheese and yogurt, I didn’t even know if full-fat versions of these products existed.

[I’m no salad eater]

I always tried to get some veggies with every meal, even if it was in the form of potato chunks dipped in oil.  Salads as meals just weren’t really on my radar.

Mmm…Liquid Donuts

Alright, time to start sprinkling in some change.  My wife gets credit for discovering what’s officially called bulletproof coffee. It involved adding butter or coconut oil or both to your coffee and blending it, but since I’m not a coffee drinker, tea it will be.  The first time I tasted BP tea, it was like I was drinking a liquid donut!  Sooo good!  Now some of that goodness was no-doubt due to the fact I was fattening up a pre-sugared chai mix, but one step at a time!

My Version of The Elvis

Breakfast was another area I could tweak.  I was already eating a fake (soy-based) sausage patty with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  What if I grab a full-fat sausage patty and skipped the jelly?  Full fat was great!  I was really loving the grease, but the jelly I kinda missed.  So, I moved my mid-morning banana snack to breakfast.  As time went on I made more changes, moving from sausage to a slice of bacon and eventually cutting out one slice of bread from my PB sandwich.  Here’s where it eventually evolved:

A Normal Breakfast

Tiny Bubbles Make Me Happy

Sodas were challenging to give up.  They were my office out-to-lunch-crutch.  They made Chipotle taste so good and burgers amazing.  Not to mention the caffeine boost to get through the afternoon.  I turned to a rotation of water, tea, and sparkling water (cuz I missed the bubbles) to wean my way off the sugar water.   It was hard at first, but I eventually worked my way down to two sodas a week; then one; then none.

It’s The Little Things That Kill

Sadly No More Ketchup

As time went on, other things would catch my eye.  Ketchup is one of those seemingly harmless condiments, but it does contain corn syrup and it all adds up.  I moved my yogurt snack from non-fat sugar-free to low-fat plus sugar to whole plain grass-fed.  I turned my sugar tea habit into a once a week splurge.  I brought nuts to the office with me so I wouldn’t be tempted by the free M&Ms or fruit snacks.  I still ate chips, but the higher fat kettle-cooked kind.  I ate fries, but I tried to get sweet potato fries when I could.  I added just a little more veggies when I could.

No More Rice. Please.

My wife does most of the cooking, but I will proudly point out that I make my own breakfast.  Although lately, she’s been cooking the bacon.  In any case, months before last year’s doctor visit, she had already started nudging our main meals at home toward LCHF.  Honestly, I wasn’t totally onboard with it.  In fact, for a while, she continued to cook a separate serving of carb (rice, pasta, etc) just for me.  After weeks of private arguments with myself, I finally gave in:

Me to My Wife: “Please don’t make the rice anymore.  I’m good.”

Pile on the Chicken Thighs

Curry Chicken Thigh

I think my wife had the same initial hesitations about more fat, especially meat fat.  But eventually, we both started to embrace the grease.  We traded our chicken breasts for thighs, ate more salmon, and threw in some grass-fed beef and bison.

 

Cheat Day

This is a fairly recent addition.  I stole it from Tim Ferriss after reading his book, The 4-Hour Body.  You pick a day, usually Friday or Saturday, and basically eat whatever you want.  Sadly, I’ve become so used to fat and so distant from sugar, that loading up on a bunch of donuts, cake, pie, or even some extra garlic bread tends to bring on a queasy feeling.  Sometimes my cheat just ends up being a few chunks of dark chocolate with a teaspoon of butter.

So, did all this craziness paid off?  Next time, we’ll take a look at my latest blood test results and see if I really ended up cheating death.

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