I Stopped Eating Oil For 6 Weeks, and My Skin, Energy, and Digestion Have All Improved

Sep 3 2020 - 8:05am

I've always believed and encouraged people to include healthy oils [1] in their diets. I mean, that's what all the experts say, right? Olive, coconut, avocado — you need these healthy fats in your diet. But after reading Eat to Live [2], a book by Joel Fuhrman, MD, I felt compelled to give it a try.

Dr. Furman does believe we need healthy fats in our diet, but he thinks we should get them in the form of whole foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds. When you eat healthy fats in whole-food form, you get the added benefit of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. He says cooking with oil adds extra unnecessary calories — 120 per tablespoon [3] for some oils. It may not seem like much, but I was using it every day — a couple tablespoons in my salad dressing, a couple tablespoons to roast veggies or in stir-fries, and a generous smear on toast (vegan butter). I also found oil hidden in foods I bought like tomato sauce and vegan meats, and I also used it in my baking, which I realized really adds up.

I decided to give up oil for six weeks, as recommended in the Eat to Live Six-Week Plan. I always thought including oil in my diet made me feel better. But keep reading to learn about all the health benefits I experienced when I went oil-free that have made me want to cut down on my use of added oil as much as I can.

How Did You Not Eat Oil?!

I was so used to adding olive oil to my pan before cooking and roasting veggies that I freaked out a little. I thought my food would just be mushy, flavorless, and gross! But after I learned how to water sauté my veggies, I realized I didn't need oil as long as I used my nonstick pans [5]. I realized how much unnecessary oil I was using to cook with.

For roasting, I either used my silicone Silpat mat or parchment paper to prevent sticking, or I cooked things whole, like sweet potatoes. If I wanted a crispier texture, I used my air fryer [6] — it was great for potatoes and tofu! I also did a lot of steamed veggies.

As for sauces and dressings, I gave up my creamy sesame salad dressing and used a really good balsamic vinegar coupled with fresh fruit like sliced strawberries, grapes, or blueberries. Or sometimes I used salsa, which sounds weird but is amazing with a green salad that has corn, tomatoes, and black beans. When reading labels, I realized how oil is added to everything like tomato sauce, hummus, veggie broth, some plant milks, cereal, and bread. So I just had to spend a little extra time grocery shopping to find oil-free versions. I definitely ended up buying fewer packaged foods!

Going oil-free also inspired me to get crafty in the kitchen. This was the first time I made my own tomato sauce (with tomatoes and basil from the garden!), refried beans, and oil-free hummus, and my baking recipes also got an oil-free makeover [7] (thank you, applesauce!).

After a couple weeks, I had new recipes and products down and eating oil-free was much easier. I will say I randomly had the urge for vegan butter on toast, but I was equally enjoying crunchy peanut butter or smashed avocado. My tastes definitely changed over the course of those six weeks.

My Skin Cleared Up

Adult acne is no fun, but it especially sucks when you've had it since adolescence! My skin has gone through its ups and downs, but lately I've had a lot of breakouts and blackheads on my chin and forehead — I always have at least a few pimples, and it sucks.

I had no idea that giving up oil would clear up my skin — it was the first benefit I noticed. It only took a little over a week, but I was shocked at how much smoother and even-toned my skin looked. For being 43, I was pretty psyched! I wish I knew this back in college when my skin was really bad. Of course, that's when I was eating the most oil (hello, french fries and chips!).

Cutting back on sugar [8] and eliminating dairy [9] definitely helped with my breakouts, but not 100 percent. After giving up oil, I noticed a huge difference.

I Felt Less Bloated

During this little experiment, although I didn't eat these very often, I stopped eating foods that contained oil like corn chips, vegan brownies from the local bakery, and granola. I made my own chips using tortillas, baked my own oil-free scones, and swapped oatmeal for granola. So I didn't feel deprived at all!

Over the six weeks, I felt lighter and less bloated and had no issues with constipation, which I thought might happen giving up oil. I'm sure eating fewer store-bought foods also had something to do with it, since I avoided the ones I used to buy that contained oil. Improved digestion also helped me have better sleep. When I was eating oil, I'd sometimes get woken up in the middle of the night with gas pains. This was a benefit that really surprised me.

I Had More Energy

Before giving up oil for whole-food healthy fats, I could barely stay awake past 8:30 p.m. All of a sudden, I realized I was easily able to stay up past 9:30. And the really exciting part was that I was less tired when my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. to head out for my morning run. Maybe it was because I was sleeping better because I felt less bloated? Or maybe eating less oily foods gave me more energy — who knows, but I was excited!

Previously, I was hitting the snooze button so much that I was lucky to make it out of the house by 6:30 a.m. And now, I'm out around 6 a.m. I'm even able to catch the early-morning spectacular sunrises, the deer that are nibbling on the crab-apple trees, and hot-air balloons launching over the pastures (I know, I'm lucky!).

My six-mile runs have been feeling easier, and I'm having to stop less to walk, which means I'm getting home faster to see my kids wake up. I have energy all day to work and do a family bike ride or walk after dinner. Last weekend, I even was able to do my regular morning run and then a two-hour hike with the kids — and was still able to stay up and hang with my husband without wanting to nod off.

I Lost a Little Weight

Let me be clear that weight loss was not the reason I gave up oil. It just really made sense to me, health-wise, that I might as well get my healthy fats from whole foods that also offered other nutrients. But ever since I hit age 40 three-and-a-half years ago, I've slowly been gaining weight every year. My diet hadn't changed and I was actually exercising more vigorously doing CrossFit, so I thought maybe something was wrong with my hormones or blood sugar levels. I even went to the doctor to get tests done to make sure my thyroid was functioning properly and that I didn't have issues with my insulin. Everything was normal.

I didn't even realize I had lost weight until three different people commented, saying how I looked fit and healthy. I actually had stopped doing CrossFit regularly back in April and was running now, but then it dawned on me that ditching oil was the one thing that really changed.

When I stepped on the scale, I realized I'd lost six pounds over those past six weeks. Maybe a pound a week doesn't seem like much, but for me, who's been constantly battling slow weight gain for the past few years, this seemed worth noting as a benefit. It was definitely noticeable on my 5'2" frame. I didn't think 120 calories per tablespoon really seemed like much, but apparently it made a difference for me.

Being Prepared Was Key!

I was pretty much winging it the first couple of weeks, eating simple foods I knew were oil-free. After experiencing all those benefits, I wanted to ensure my success in sticking with it.

One thing I did was carve out extra time on Sundays to meal prep. I made overnight oats for breakfast [10] and mason-jar salads [11] to have one big salad for lunch or dinner, baked some sweet potatoes, cooked up some brown rice and beans, and made sure I had frozen fruit in the freezer for nice cream [12].

I also researched some oil-free recipes and cooking techniques so I could enjoy whole-wheat pizza with oil-free tomato sauce, refried beans, soups, vegan cheese sauce made with cashews, and nut-based salad dressings. This new way of eating was really inspiring me to branch out, and I loved how fresh and flavorful my food tasted.

Let me add that many experts still support eating healthy oils like olive and coconut in your diet. You should do what works for you, but I now know I feel much better without them! I'm still conscious about getting my healthy fats through avocado, flax, hemp, chia, and pumpkin seeds and nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, and peanuts.

The one obstacle I haven't really tackled is eating out because of the pandemic. I'll definitely avoid obvious oily foods like french fries since I know I won't feel good if I eat them, but I won't freak out about a little salad dressing or curry that I know has added oil. I want this to be a sustainable lifestyle, but so far, I haven't really missed the oil, so I know this will be easy and enjoyable to stick with.

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