How I Reduced My Cholesterol By Eating More Bacon And Eggs
The Results Of Our Four-week Paleo Experiment
Take a look at my two lipid panel blood tests. The first occurred on January 3rd, 2019 and the second occurred a little over four weeks later on February 11th, 2019.
So, how did that happen? With a lot of bacon and eggs!
Let me tell you my story.
When I was in my early teens, I went to the doctor for an annual physical. My cholesterol came back at around 210. My sister’s was also a bit high. I specifically remember the doctor telling my mom, “I wouldn’t worry about it, many kids around puberty experience cholesterol changes.” But I was blessed with the most caring, loving mother on earth, and she decided to do something about it.
My mother, bound and determined to assure her kids were set up for the best possible life, did what any loving mother would do and started reading and researching cholesterol to find out how to fix it. As a result of her studies, she began feeding us crazy amounts of oatmeal and salmon. We had oatmeal every morning and salmon more nights than I care to remember. We had so much oatmeal and salmon, that to this day, I still really hate oatmeal and salmon. This went on for around six months, until she had us re-tested. Low and behold, it had worked. My cholesterol, if I remember correctly was 187. My mother breathed a sigh of relief while my sister and I both drew in a breath of panic. We knew we were in for a lot more oatmeal and salmon, and then still more oatmeal and salmon.
Fast forward to my early 30’s when I had my annual physical and was told my cholesterol was a tad high again. The doctor told me to stay away from this and that and to make sure to exercise. Having learned from my mother to try to take care of myself, I decided to take action. “Why do any research?” I asked myself. My mother did it 15 years ago. Nothing’s changed, right? So I didn’t research anything, I just began choking down oatmeal every morning since I knew it already worked. I thought I would start there because I didn’t want to eat salmon everyday and oatmeal is way easier to make.
If you want to know how much I hate oatmeal, all you have to do is watch me eat it. I had this pointed out to me by a friend because I didn’t even know I was doing it. As if being forced to ingest poison thereby causing my own death, I would scrape off what little amount I’d placed on the spoon with my front teeth, chewing it for a long time in disgust, hoping the taste would transform into something remotely enjoyable, all while trying to work up the nerve to swallow. Needless to say, it takes me like a half hour to choke down this tiny bowl of gruel when most people eat it in a minute or two. Ya, ya, I know—put cream, yogurt, fruit, brown-sugar, or other yummy toppings on it you’re thinking. Didn’t work.
I never followed up with the doctor, “There, that must have done it!” I said, after almost a year of oatmeal. I trusted the desired results had occurred but was too scared to verify it because I couldn’t possibly go on eating oatmeal. Instead, I subconsciously came up with a better plan—I decided to stop getting physicals for a few years. Ignorance was bliss, but I knew one day I would need to be more astute about my routine physicals and unfortunately that time has come.
I’m a foodie. I love food—a lot. It is one of my favorite things in life. I once heard a man say he ate a tunafish sandwich on white bread for lunch every day for 10 years. If that were me, two months in I would have been wrapped in a straight jacket, bouncing around a padded room in some hospital for the clinically insane (I’m guessing this may or may not have something to do with oatmeal and salmon).
So, after my physical this January, I panicked a little and thought, “I can’t do the oatmeal and salmon thing again. I just can’t!” I know it sounds dramatic because my cholesterol really wasn’t THAT high and I’m in pretty good shape otherwise, but the debate began to rage inside me: was it better to die earlier eating what I want or live longer torturing myself with foods I hate?
It wasn’t just the cholesterol. I found my energy levels slowly creeping downwards over the last few years. I also began having lots of trouble with inflammation. I would have random tendonitis in wrists and ankles that would come and go, but mostly come. And lastly, I would describe myself as not being in a good mood very often. Maybe it had something to do with the lack of energy I was experiencing? Maybe it had something to do with the Three-shell Monte of ailments which were now part of my life? Maybe it was just my mood in general? I didn’t know. What I do know is I didn’t notice the decline in my mood because it happened slowly, until (spoiler alert) my mood got better after changing my diet.
And cover your eyes because the poop talk is about to begin.
I—what’s the word—evacuate. A lot. I always have. Without getting into graphic details, let’s just say the quality was not great. I didn’t need to be a doctor to know, it should be better. I did go to the doctor though and have stool samples analyzed to rule out any major problems. I also consulted the famous Bristol stool chart and found I was around the 5, 6 and 7 range pretty regularly.
Ok. So what now?
Enter the Paleo-Diet.
I stumbled across a show on Netflix called The Paleo Way with Pete Evans. Turns out, what I thought about the Paleo-Diet was not correct at all. I also discovered I wasn’t alone in that misperception, as most people actually don’t know much about it. I liked what Pete had to say, but more importantly, much of what he was making looked really delicious and filling. I don’t want to be scraping things off utensils with my teeth, trying to work up the courage to swallow. When I think of the traditional diet dish—a naked, dry, skinless chicken breast with a side of steamed broccoli—I shudder with fear. It’s not that I don’t like those things, it’s just boring, dull, flavorless, and my personal hell.
Look at me! Maybe I am going to do my own research just like my mother modeled for me. After all, much has changed over the last 25 years. It seems like nobody knows what the deal is. Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, eat eggs again. Avoid saturated fats. Avoid trans fats. Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee. Have wine with dinner, don’t drink wine everyday—you’ll become an alcoholic! Big food companies are lying to us. Carb-free, low-carb, no dairy, no gluten, avoid sugars. Nobody knows what the hell is going on anymore.
So maybe it’s time to get back to our ancestral roots?
I was naturally drawn to the Paleo-Diet, and I started reading tons about it. It didn’t take long before I committed to trying it for a month. It wasn’t eating sticks, twigs and berries like I thought. I have also heard it referred to as the caveman diet, but I find that misleading. I don’t have the expertise, nor is this the place to cover the whole diet, its origins, and tell you all the multitude of reasons people advocate for it. What I can tell you is that the reasons and science I researched resonated with me. Let me tell you what stood out most.
While there is some dissent in the Paleo-Diet community about items like potatoes and sugars, the version we followed is mostly dairy free, except for eggs and ghee. This diet is gluten free which means no more oatmeal! Perhaps this explains the draw for me. It’s also free from beans, rice, soy, potatoes (except for sweet potatoes). It’s free from alcohol, and free from most sugars (pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, Stevia, and organic honey are allowed). Most importantly, no high-fructose corn syrup. If I were reading this article at any time in my life prior to deciding to try this diet, I would be running for the hills about now. But something inside me was urging me to press forward.
So that’s a lot of what you can’t eat, but let’s talk about some of the things you can. Unlike the Ketogenic Diet, fruits are allowed and so are some other good carbs like sweet potatoes. Processed foods = bad. Whole foods = good. You can eat meats, but buy the good ones like pasture raised and finished or free range organic meats with no hormones or antibiotics. Bacon is good, but buy the healthy bacon with no antibiotics or nitrates. What I really needed were recipes, and ones that were not too involved and didn’t take me hours to make. Despite my love for cooking, I didn’t have the time to dedicate several hours each day to doing this.
I was eating the beautifully clear, man-made oils touting “No Cholesterol” and “Zero Trans Fats” and “Zero Saturated Fats.” We threw all that away and started using coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee (which is clarified butter), and bacon fat. YES, BACON FAT! Poured right out of the pan of my freshly cooked yummy-ass bacon into a jar for future use. Olive oil is good too, but you need to use the organic, extra virgin kind. Look at the labels of those fats and you will find saturated fat inside. I was baffled. It felt like much of what I knew about diet, food and health might turn out to be wrong.
I found my go-to guide, which ended up being the second edition of Practical Paleo: A Customized Approach To Health And a Whole-Foods Lifestyle by Diane Sanfilippo. This book does a great job of explaining the how, why, and what of a Paleo-Diet lifestyle. More importantly, it had a bunch of 30-day meal plans which included meals that I could actually make without a ton of time cooking, and most of them turned out to be really delicious. So, Michael and I planned out our first week, made a shopping list, and headed out to the store to buy what we needed. Here’s our counter after our Sunday shopping for the week’s supplies:
At the end of this article, I’m going to show you some of my favorite meals that I discovered during my journey. For now, I want to talk about RESULTS. Keep in mind, I was eating bacon three to four days a week and eggs almost EVERY. DAY.
You saw what happened to my cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol went down into the acceptable range and although the “good” cholesterol came down, it was still slightly out of range which my doctor advised this was arguably a good thing. My overall ratio was loads better also. Weight-wise, we both lost seven pounds in five days. While weight loss was not my objective, it was a positive side effect since I can see my stomach muscles again for the first time in a while. So there’s the science. Now, let me tell you about how I felt.
My energy went up. I had WAY more energy than I had in years. I slept less and wasn’t as tired during the day. Starting work was way easier than before. I accomplished so much more, but didn’t have to scold myself to do it because I already had the energy to start doing the things I needed to do. I didn’t suffer from the post-lunch-food-coma. That was my least favorite thing about my day—and it just didn’t happen anymore. I was in a markedly better mood overall. And besides the incident where I lopped off a chunk of my thumb trying to make sweet potato toast by using a mandolin slicer (I’ll spare you the photo but remind you to be careful!), my instances of daily ailments significantly decreased. Even the skin on my back cleared up. I have been battling bouts of "bacne" on and off the last few years.
I credit much of the ailment reduction to the homemade bone broth I made twice during this experiment. Since the bone broth only keeps 4-5 days, I would freeze it in portions using a silicone muffin pan and then freeze two at a time for serving portions later. Here's the recipe! This article doesn't say, but I did end up figuring out to roast the bones first at 375 degrees for 30 minutes after you brush tomato paste on them. It makes for a much deeper broth and a better flavor.
Now. Let’s talk poop again.
I would like to try to keep this section far away from the food section so let’s get it over with. The number of times I “evacuated” most days went from four to five instances down to only two. That and the quality was much better. There was still room for improvement, but I blame the coffee for that. If I don’t drink coffee on top of it all, it’s even better, but I just can’t (as of yet) find it in me to part with my morning cup of joe. Overall, I was content with the improvement.
Now, what about money? Yes, it’s expensive to buy some of these fats to cook with. Yes, it’s more expensive to buy the nicer quality meats and organic vegetables. I argue that out of all the money I waste on frivolous stuff in my life, spending a little extra on me and my body is money well spent. Overall, our spending went down, however, and here’s why:
Following a Paleo-Diet at most restaurants is virtually impossible. Even if you order the sweet potato fries, they probably fried it in the wrong oil. If you order from the vegetarian, vegan or gluten free options, they almost always contain soy and dairy. Even the Whole Foods hot bar had only three things we could eat. That was very frustrating, but what happened was that we were forced to not eat out as much. Compounding the problem, dinner in South Florida has become ridiculously expensive. It’s not uncommon to drop 70-100 dollars for the two of us, especially if we have alcohol. We spent way less money on food during this month because we were eating in. Our supplies for the week cost us on average about $150.00-$200. We did eat out a couple times for special occasions, and in those instances, we did the best we could, even if there was some soy, cheese, or dairy in what we ordered.
What was very frustrating about this month was trying to explain to people about the Paleo-Diet. “Oh, so you’re eating twigs and berries?” And then others would yell at us, “You skinny people dieting makes me sick. Why do you need to diet?” Michael and I agreed to stop using the word diet and to just tell them we eat a certain way. I wanted to take it a step further and say, “You worry about what you eat, and I’ll worry about what I eat,” but he didn't like that idea. We also agreed thinking of this as a “diet” was NOT a good idea for our success. We wanted to think of it more as a way of life. So that’s what we did.
I don’t want to live a life where I can’t ever have cheese or can’t ever have a glass of wine. Let’s face it, I’m going to eat cheese and drink alcohol. I just do it less now and try to keep it to one day a week. The other day I was dying for a sandwich. I thought, “It’s been six weeks since I had a sandwich, so I’m going to have a damn sandwich. I’m an adult.” So, I did. I drove up to the NY deli and ordered a gigantic pastrami on rye with coleslaw and mustard dressing. It was yummy, but not as good as I had hoped. What resulted was me laying on the couch all afternoon feeling like Bill Cosby had just bought me a drink. I literally accomplished nothing and had to fight to even keep my eyes open for hours.
I’ve found that to be the case more often than not when straying and giving into cravings. I usually experience one of more of the following symptoms: stabbing gut pains, cramps, diarrhea, tiredness, heaviness, and/or headache.
For me, the secret to success is not trying to be perfect and absolute about everything. The more negative experiences I have after consciously choosing to indulge are pushing me more and more toward the direction of not wanting to eat the old way. Another reason eating the way of the Paleo-Diet has been easy to continue is that unlike the times I ate a vegetarian or vegan meals, I leave a Paleo-Diet meal feeling full and satisfied. The food is really delicious!
If you are familiar with any of my work, you will know I go to great lengths to not tell people what to do. I like to share with people my experiences in hopes I can help others find ways to improve their quality of life, but I’m fully aware what works for me may not work for you. In other words—I never tell you what to do, only what’s worked for me. What I would tell everyone, especially if you are dissatisfied with any of the things I’ve discussed, is to try something new. Find out what works best for YOU. Try it a week or two at a time. I mean, you can do anything for a week, right? Just be mindful about how you feel. Take inventory of your energy, ailments, mood, bowels, etc. Maybe even do a before and after with the doctor to see if any of your numbers improve. The rewards from your experiment may be all the motivation you need to keep you on course.
As my favorite author, Pema Chodron, titled her book, Start Where You Are, wherever you are in your journey, start there. If you see room for improvement, maybe it’s time to experiment with diet. No carb, low-carb, keto, paleo, gluten free, dairy free, whatever! Try something and find what works for you! If you are feeling great and love your diet, stick with that! Good luck and let me know how it goes! Now, without further ado, let’s get to the best part—the food! I just loved these meals. Long gone are the days of begrudgingly scraping tiny bits of oatmeal off my spoon with my front teeth. You can find most of the recipes in Practical Paleo or from Pete Evans’ posts. I’ll try to let you know where to find these recipes. A couple of them I just made up, but they are self explanatory. You’ll see. Michael wanted to make sure whatever we ended up adopting as a lifestyle included dessert. So, there are plenty of sweets we made too. And with that, I found a new love— dates. Dates make a great pie crust and sweeten everything including my homemade ketchup and bbq sauce. Enjoy!
My favorite meal of the day!
This is from Practical Paleo. Takes only a few minutes to prep and 45 minutes in the oven. I added some other shredded veggies I had on hand in addition to the recipe. The good news is, breakfast is done for 4-5 days after you make this. Top it with Paleo pesto, or raw sauerkraut. I added a side of bacon on the days it sounded good.
Sweet Potato "Toast" with EVERYTHING
I missed my avocado toast, so I started making sweet potato "toast" smeared with avocado. I would slice the sweet potato the long way through the mandolin slicer. I would then season the toast with salt and pepper and pan fry it in a little coconut oil. Once that's done, smear the avocado on top and then GO NUTS. I topped it with either seared sardines, bacon, eggs, smoked salmon and red onion, or anything else I could think of doing. One thing is for sure—I never left this breakfast feeling unsatisfied.
Jalapeno Hash Browns
I came up with this on my own. You can cut up, steam, then put in a blender a fresh cauliflower (or sometimes I would cheat and buy the bag of cauliflower rice). Then, brown a little onion and jalapeño in some avocado. Once browned, add the cauliflower rice. Try not to stir it too often and let the rice brown on one side. Then try to flip it in sections and let the other side brown. I had it with bacon and eggs—naturally. The eggs in this picture were the pesto scrambled eggs from Practical Paleo. Those are easily one of my favorite things ever for breakfast now.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
This was in Practical Paleo. It's cauliflower fired rice with bacon AND sausage, fresh veggies and topped with fresh herbs. It looks better than it was, but I still liked it. The best thing about it was that it is very unusual. This one took a little more time to make.
There are a variety of different pancakes in Practical Paleo. Sweet potato pancakes and pumpkin pancakes. I loved both of them. Here's the pumpkin pancakes with blueberries and banana. As sides, we had pasture raised pork sausage from Whole Foods and some scrambled eggs with onions.
Much of the lunch's we ate were leftovers from other meals but occasionally I would make a separate lunch.
Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
THESE. WERE. BOMB. I got the recipe from Practical Paleo, but I added some of my favorite hot sauce to the chicken. Then we used fresh, crisp lettuce and a variety of vegetables and avocado. If you're wondering what's in the center there it was leftover beef we used up from another taco meal.
Michael made a Paleo version of these and they were really so good. The yellow is from the turmeric. We stuffed them full of pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts. Michael found how to do this online. The photos are missing in this guy's recipe, but the nuts and bolts are still there.
Pot Roast is a dying art in this country. I made this amazing pot roast in my pressure cooker and used cauliflower mash and green beans as a side. If you don't have a pressure cooker, use a slow cooker but let me tell you my secret— I cooked it in the homemade bone broth!
I used pork ribs instead of beef ribs, but this recipe was in Practical Paleo also. We had a half a sweet potato and some grilled pineapple on the side. Oh, and green beans too! I used my pressure cooker again because otherwise it took too long. These ribs were done in 25 minutes once pressure was achieved.
My bestie Kelley made these tacos with cauliflower tortillas. Be ready to work if you want to make these tortillas, but this was seriously one of the best taco dinners I've ever had. Looks like I should call them tostadas because I put so much on them they didn't really fold up. I couldn't even put the pineapple on top, but I mixed it in as I ate.
Cornish Game Hens
Cornish Game Hens are a childhood favorite of mine. I did these beauties on the grill after injecting them with cajun seasoning. For sides, there was sweet potato mash and green beans.
Zucchini & Squash Noodles in Alfredo Sauce
Think going Paleo will mean no Alfredo sauce? Think again. This Alfredo sauce is made with cashews, chicken broth and lemon juice. We put it on top of zucchini and squash noodles and then topped all that with a grilled rib-eye steak.
We chose the zucchini noodles in this recipe and used a steak instead of chicken. The photo in this recipe is better than ours which admittedly doesn't look that appetizing. But we really liked it so I included it. Here's the RECIPE!
As beans aren't allowed in a Paleo-Diet, one would think they could wave goodbye to chili. Kelley brought this over one day for dinner and I liked it better than my chili.
One of our go-to's was popsicles. We would take coconut milk and dilute it with equal parts coconut water. Then pick your fruit. My favorite was crushed pineapple. We also did it with blueberries and once with banana. I liked it when we would add in a little organic honey. To help make it a little thicker, we would put in 1/4 cup chia seeds. Mix it all together then freeze it in popsicle molds.
Chewy Molasses Cookies
These cookies aren't sweet, but I loved them. We make them often.
I used the photo from the website because we forgot to take our own photo. Everyone at our weekly Sunday dinner really liked this one.
This was the cake Michael made for me on my birthday. In the spirit of full disclosure, we may have cheated and had some cane sugar in the frosting because we didn't have the right sugar for the Paleo frosting and we had been to the store a million times already. Hey, it's not about perfection!
Maybe we both need a lesson in spreading frosting also. He did better than I did. I thought I could fix it and made it worse.