Last year I created the “Holistic Hundred”. It was a 100-day challenge to eliminate all sugars and grains from my diet and do 100 body-weight exercises every day. I invited people to join me and we ended up having around a dozen people that set the goal to not eat sugar or grains from August 16th through the day before Thanksgiving (November 22nd). You can read all about that journey here & here.
I’ve been asked several times when I was going to do another challenge and guess what boys and girls? It’s time!
I’m changing things up slightly this time around though. I’m going to have two options for your 100 days. Option 1 (Holistic Hundred 2.0) will start this Friday (July 7th) and go through the day before Ironman Louisville (October 14th). I’m obviously being selfish with this option as I’m participating in the race and I want to show up on race day in the best shape possible. Option 2 (Holistic Hundred 2.1) will once again end the day before Thanksgiving and will start 100 days prior, on August 15th.
But before you decide to join me this time around, let me first tell you what the new challenge will be. I just finished reading Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan. This book took a deep, very deep, dive into nutrition and the human body – over 450 pages worth of knowledge that took Dr. Shanahan over 10 years to write! This book was the inspiration for round two of the Holistic Hundred.
For those of you that know me, hearing that I read a 450-page book about nutrition won’t be a surprise. But there were some things that this book shed some light on that I hadn’t known before. At some point, I may do a full book review on all that this book discusses as I think it could change the life of many people. But right now, I’ll just hit some highlights to explain why I made a change to the rules of the 100-day challenge.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I disagree with conventional wisdom that fat and cholesterol are the cause of the many health and overweight issues that currently plague our society. It’s been 50 years since we were told to stop eating eggs, butter and red meat and replace them with low-fat foods or artificial chemicals (aka margarine). Guess what has happened to our health in the last 50 years? You already know that despite all the advancements in modern medicine, people are sicker and move overweight than at any time in human history! So, what’s really the cause behind this health epidemic? Vegetable oils and sugar.
While limiting grains is important as I still think that people eat too many grains, after reading Deep Nutrition, I’m convinced that vegetable oils are more dangerous to consume than most grains.
Most of this was not new to me. I’ve known of the dangers of vegetable oil for years. In fact, they were #1 on my list of The 5 Worst Things You Can Eat. Dr. Shanahan does a masterful job of explaining why vegetable oils are toxic to our arteries because they contain delicate polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are particularly prone to oxidative damage, especially when exposed to heat and when separated from the antioxidants that would otherwise help protect them from that oxidating damage. She uses good science to back up the claim that the historically resent rise in heart disease is the result of the recent invention of refined, bleached, and deodorized vegetable oils (see chart below). The food industry has been adding these oils to our foods without much fanfare and we are suffering because of it.
In order to make things simple, here’s a short list of good oils and bad oils:
BAD (these are industrial fats that cannot handle the heat involved in processing and cooking)
- Canola Oil
- Soy Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Cottonseed Oil
- Corn Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Safflower Oil
- Non-butter spreads (Margarine)
GOOD (these traditional fats can handle the heat involved in processing or cooking)
- Olive Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Peanut Oil
- Butter (the real stuff)
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Animal Fats (Lard, Tallow)
- Palm Oil
You may notice that the bad oil list is mostly seeds. These oils are particularly temperature sensitive because seeds stay dormant over the cold winter. But come the spring thaw, the heat-sensitive PUFAs wake up in response to warming, facilitating germination. In order to protect the seed and allow it to grow in nature, the seeds are loaded with antioxidants. Unfortunately, refining these oils ultimately converts these antioxidants into distorted, unhealthy molecules that the human body cannot handle. If you are cooking with any oil, be sure and look up the smoke point. Even some of the good oils have low smoke points, so they should not be used for high temp cooking.
So what are some common foods that are typically loaded with bad vegetable oils? Salad dressing, rice milk, soy milk, soy cheese, soy-based meat products, breakfast cereals, roasted nuts (only eat seeds and nuts raw), any fried food, crackers and chips, granola, breads, buns, frozen pizza, cakes, pies, cookies, frosting, coffee creamers, muffins, I even found it in organic baby food! Basically, anything that can sit on a shelf for a long time allowing manufacturers to keep food around longer before it must be sold, will likely contain a form of vegetable oil.
If you need more reasons to cut out vegetable oils, consider that they destroy your brain. They do this both directly and indirectly by impacting the gut, your arteries, your white blood cells, the cellular architecture of your nerves and your gene replication. If you have heartburn, gastritis or other digestive symptoms, try eliminating vegetable oils. By inciting chaos, vegetable oil confuses the immune system and ultimately gets the body to turn on itself in ways that can lead to auto-immune brain disorders like multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s and all the other neurodegenerative processes we now understand result at least in part from auto-immune attacks. In addition, if you suffer from migraines or Alzheimer’s, vegetable oils are likely making things worse.
I’ve been anti-sugar for many years now and there are numerous blog posts on the subject if you would like to search and learn more about the dangers of sugar and added sweeteners. Here are a couple that I would recommend:
I’m not going to go through that all again in detail, but I just want to point out a few new things about sugar that I learned while reading Deep Nutrition.
The first was that sugar weakens bones and muscles. We all know that sugar is sticky. Simply lick a lollipop (or a ring pop is you prefer) and then feel how sticky it gets. Sugar gets sticky because it reacts with the proteins on the surface of your skin to form a chemical bond. This bond is called glycation. The same thing happens when sugar is inside your body. The sugar sticks to your cells and tissues, making them stiff and brittle. It clogs nutrient channels, slowing communication. It stiffens the collagen in your tendons, joints, and skin, causing arthritis and premature wrinkling, while interfering with the production of new collagen.
She also cited a study that showed something that I think we all already knew. The more sugar people tended to consume, the less they were able to taste it. Sugar literally will dull your senses. I’ve mentioned before that after doing “No Sugar November” and cutting out added sugar for over three weeks, things like carrots and beets taste very sweet. So the good news is that if you require three packets of sugar in your coffee, with time, you can reduce the amount that is required to achieve the same taste.
Cutting both vegetable oils (unnatural fats) and sugar from your diet will not only protect your heart, but it will protect you from all other chronic diseases. And if that’s not enough to convince you, Dr. Shanahan also sited multiple athletes who made incredible performance gains in strength simply from by cutting out vegetable oils. This athletic improvement is likely possible thanks to an improved blood flow and maybe even some improved mental focus.
Before you start to panic and think that you will starve to death once you eliminate foods that contain these dangerous oils and sweeteners, keep in mind that most processed foods that contain vegetable oils are typically also loaded with sugar. So, you will be killing two birds with one stone. If you stick with whole foods like vegetables, organic meats and fish, free grange eggs and some fruit…you will likely not have to worry vegetable oils or sugars at all.
Just like last time, the goal is not to never eat vegetable oils or sugar again for rest of my life. The goal is to go without it for 100 days to bring attention to how many “foods” contain these dangerous substances and to see how much better I feel and perform once I go 100 days without them. With this knowledge, I will be able to make better choices about what I eat going forward.
So if you want to join me and try to eliminate all unhealthy vegetable oils and added sugars from your diet for 100 days, comment on this post or on social media. We’ll get a group page set up on Facebook where I can answer questions and we can offer each other encouragement!
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,