Bonnie Modugno, MS, RDHealth Blog - Nutrition


Smaller body, no change on the scale

Published on 2009-12-26 by Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD


December 23, 2009

Bronchitis again. Every December it feels like I am destined to succumb. A simple sinus infection immediately invades my lungs and I am at the doctors for antibiotics. I don’t like this, but I haven’t quite figured out how to stop my life and not get exhausted.

We celebrate three birthdays and four holidays in six weeks. It is crazy every year. I do most of the cooking and shopping and preparation. I enjoy it, but it inevitably brings me down. This year was especially crazy as both Noah and Frank had musical performances and I was scheduled for six presentations in December alone.

So I make this appointment work for me. While I know I need the antibiotics, I am well aware of their overuse. I am glad that this doesn’t happen more than once a year. But I also ask for the doctor to schedule lab tests. I want to see how my grass fed experiment is impacting the cholesterol values that got me thinking about the role of animal feed in my diet in the first place. So, I’ll go for tests after I get well. It has been a full three months, long enough for changes to be evident.

I also get on the scale. I expect to see a smaller number. It’s not. I measured 180 with clothes on –about 178 without. It is about the same. I silently groan, but I have been here before.

I first figured out I couldn’t handle a high carbohydrates diet the way it was recommended in the early 1990s. Far before The Zone hit bookshelves, I already experienced an impressive body change from eating less carbohydrate, more protein and fat. In the first six weeks of that experiment, I also changed body size radically with no change on the scale.

When I ate a high carbohydrate diet I couldn’t fit into 14’s despite 7-10 hours of exercise a week. It was maddening to struggle to lose weight. Once I shifted the ratio of carbohydrate, protein and fat, I eventually found myself comfortably fitting into 12’s. I am 5’8” and a size 12 works for me. I have to starve to fit into a 10 and I don’t ever need to do that again.

So here I am, staring at a scale that doesn’t register the changes I feel. All the holiday clothes are loose and comfortable. It’s ironic how readily my mind remembers how clothes fit the last time I wore them. So mostly I am pleased, but silently I wish again that I would have thought to measure myself before I started this experiment.

December 25, 2009

Christmas morning was lovely—even without my morning latte. I bought extra grass fed milk with family in town last week, but two half gallons weren’t touched. It has been over a week, and now I have sour milk. I’ll figure out something to make with it.

In the meantime, we stop by a local market after a bike ride to pick up some milk. It is not a Whole Foods market but I don’t have a lot of choice. After all, it is Christmas day. I haven’t been in a local market for months. It is strange to view the food as less than wholesome.

Most of the produce is not organic; all of the meat is from grain fed cattle. Most of the dairy products come from grain fed cows except some imported sheep and goat’s cheese. They do carry organic milk, but that is not the same as grass fed. There is plenty of organic corn and soy out there. Vegetarian diets don’t cut it either. Corn and soy is vegetarian. These grains are not the cow’s natural diet.

I am bemused when I pick up a half gallon of organic Horizon milk. It is now fortified with DHA—docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is a 22 carbon omega 3 fatty acid with six double bonds. It is a fatty acid that is associated with less inflammation. Why is Horizon milk adding this nutrient to their milk?

The answer is simple. It is a cheaper way to balance out the omega 6 fatty acids in milk from grain fed cows. This product can now be considered a “neutraceutical”. A neutraceutical is considered a “functional food”, a food that masquerades as a nutrient supplement.

I have never liked the idea of neutraceuticals or the misappropriation of the term “functional food”. Adding DHA to grain fed cow’s milk feels like a cheat. In this case, it is trying to make up for not feeding the animals their natural diet. It is a lousy cheat to boot. It doesn’t do anything for the cow’s digestive tract. It does not change the deplorable conditions in which the cows are kept. It does not change the problem with manure management and potential contamination of water supplies. It doesn’t change the extended problems with soil ecology and dead zones in the ocean when we artificially fertilize corn and soy so it can be fed to animals.

It does not change the fact that most of the fatty acids in the milk are omega 6 fatty acids. This is not a zero sum game. My guess is that adding more and more omega 3 to the diet to counter all the omega 6 fatty acids is not the same as not eating all those omega six fatty acids in the first place. At the heart of the problem, adding DHA to this milk product is a feeble attempt to fix the problem. The omega six fatty acids are still there. They are still inflammatory. We need to feed cows their natural diet. It’s grass.

I buy the milk, knowing we are having two families over for Christmas dinner. But I can’t wait for tomorrow. I will happily visit Saturday’s farmer’s market and buy my grass fed raw milk.


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