I won’t delay the below extremely interesting Paleomazing Interview with any lengthy introduction, yet I do need to at least introduce my guest, Alexandra Jabr founder of High on Fat or www.HighOnFat.com. Alexandra has spent the past 10 years working as a 911 emergency medical responder and after helping so many others, she has now transformed her own life and body through her dedication to a diet high in “good” fats. She reveals quite a bit about this topic, her new role helping others as a Health Coach and yet another website, FirehousePaleo.com, which has a purpose all in its own.
I am thrilled to have connected with Alexandra and now consider her a dear friend. She shares quite a bit in this one interview and I am sure you will enjoy reading it and learn a lot. Well, it’s time – let’s get into her interview!
1. I love that your website, HighOnFat.com, is about, as you say, breaking the stigma of fat and educating people on the health benefits that good fat has. Can you talk about what some of those stigmas are?
These stigmas I talk about are the ones that tell us that saturated fat will clog your arteries, or that eating fat will make you gain weight. I think there is also an unfortunate “ick” factor or negative reaction when someone recognizes a high amount of fat in a food. It’s just the way we have been conditioned to think and unfortunately it’s all wrong. I think that our fear of fat has led us down a self-destructive direction by influencing us to choose “low fat” products over real food. For years I never looked twice at the content of an ingredients list because I was so preoccupied with making sure what I was eating was low in fat and therefore, low in calories. In the past, I used those non-fat “creamers” in my coffee, I sautéed my vegetables in butter-flavored PAM (gross, right?!) and I used that not butter spray on my food. These were all advertised as healthier options based on bad science and a poor reputation of fat that is in serious need of a makeover.
2. You talk about being overweight as a child and for most of your adult life until early last year. How did you find and come to embrace the Paleo lifestyle?
To be completely honest, I initially only tried it out as a way to lose weight. At the time, I thought weight loss would equal health, and now I know it’s actually the other way around. I was backpacking through Thailand in 2012 with friends when I saw that one of them was reading Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint. He ended up losing it while we were there (very typical of him haha…), but based on the few things he had to say about it, I was immediately interested. In fact, 3 of us came home and purchased it right away. I was overweight most of my life and had some temporary success in my early 20s, but it never lasted because the methods I used to obtain those results were too impractical to sustain. That’s what made Paleo different. It’s a simple way of life based on eating food in its most natural form possible. My body loves it and the food is too delicious to ever want to stop, which is why the weight is leaving for good this time. Though, I also like to share that it wasn’t a smooth transition and there were definitely challenges. I was correcting over 25 years of bad habits, but it gets better everyday. 3. In your blog, you mention the non-weight related benefits of Paleo. What sort of benefits did you see in yourself?
The non-weight benefits that I saw were the ones I wasn’t expecting to see a change from in the first place. I use to break out in acne with every monthly cycle like clockwork. I used to develop gas and acid reflux after I ate. I would have trouble waking up with the sun and getting sleepy at night. I needed coffee to get me through the day and sleep aids to wind me down for bed. All these ailments are too often accepted as normal simply because they are common. But they are far from normal and they all went away when I changed the food I chose to fuel my body with.
4. You mention you are gluten intolerant and working with some GI issues. How has the Paleo diet helped you in that area?
I’ve recently been working with a naturopathic doctor to help work through some terrible GI issues I’ve been having with a recent diagnosis of leaky gut. As it turns out, gluten actually isn’t one of my food sensitivities. But several other Paleo friendly foods were, such as coconut milk, almonds, bananas and broccoli, just to name a few. Paleo helped bring an awareness to my body that I didn’t have before. Now, for every food I eat, I pay attention for a reaction from my body. That kind of mentality helped me realize that Paleo alone wasn’t enough to heal the leaky gut I had acquired from years of abuse. I am currently on an even more restricted diet than basic Paleo calls for, but my doc and I are anticipating being able to reintroduce some foods back into my diet after my digestive tract has some time to heal.
5. Having worked for 10 years as a 911 emergency medical responder, you obviously love helping and making a difference. Do you feel your new knowledge of food, the body and health will help you in your profession moving forward?
I feel like this passion for food, the body and health is actually pulling me away from my role as a paramedic. I absolutely love my position that I hold, I enjoy serving others and I’ll always be a medic. But I can’t help people in that setting the way I can as a lifestyle coach or food educator. People don’t call me when they want advice on how to prevent heart disease and diabetes. They call when they can’t breathe, their heart is about to stop or their blood sugar is out of control. It’s very reactive and in many ways too late. People often ask, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?” They might be surprised to hear that my answer isn’t some horrific traumatic injury, but rather, it’s seeing people who are trapped in their own bodies, victims of their own diets.
Yes, that’s the plan and I am very excited to take this next step! I’ve worked with friends and family leading up till now, but I’m looking forward to opening up this service to anyone. It’s incredibly fulfilling to know that you can help someone change their life. I want to be there to support and encourage people through their challenges, as well as their achievements. The best part about working with others as a weight loss consultant is that I’ve been there. I either know the struggles first hand or can closely relate to what my clients are going through. I’m looking forward to making this transition easier for someone who can learn from my experiences.
7. Like me, you don’t believe in being 100% Paleo 100% of the time. What is your philosophy on being “Paleo-ish”?
I like to think of myself as 100% Paleo, 80% of the time. I think unless we are all hunting our own animals on foot, with nothing more than a spear in our bare hands, it’s perfectly acceptable to make adjustments that fit your body’s needs. I love dairy, but my body doesn’t, so I don’t eat it. I’ll admit, I love a good craft beer, gluten and all! And while my body tolerates it just fine, I know the gluten most likely played a role in my leaky gut, so I only have it on rare occasions now. I think Paleo is a great foundation to start with, but then you have to find out what your body can and cannot tolerate. I’ve recently had to give up several fruits and veggies that are completely Paleo, but that I can’t digest right now. I’ve also started including white potatoes, which aren’t traditionally considered Paleo, but it’s what works for me at the moment. I think it’s important to share imperfections, adjustments and struggles very openly. Some may criticize, but my hope is that more will be able to relate and see themselves capable of making this lifestyle change too.
8. You have some great tips on your website. What are some of your best Paleo tips on how to eat out?
Plan ahead. Eating out has continued to be a challenge for me, especially with the amount of food intolerances I currently have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ve even called ahead before deciding where we were going to eat. You can also never be too nice to your waiter. Be patient when explaining your limitations because it might be the first time they have heard the term ‘gluten’ or ‘lactose’. I have found that I can never trust sauces and I’m not above bringing my own! Most restaurants would much rather you do that than have an allergic reaction while dining at their place of business.
9. So, beyond your exciting news about becoming a health coach, what are some other plans for the rest of 2014?
Well, for starters I recently flew out to Austin for Paleo FX. I was really excited to be among other real foodies and learn something new from all the speakers presenting this year. Also, I am definitely looking forward to writing more for High On Fat and I just launched another blog/website! This one is called Firehouse Paleo and it is a joint effort between my boyfriend Shawn (who is a paramedic/firefighter) and myself. There is an alarming statistic that motivated us to start this educational/recipe blog; nearly half of all job-related deaths of firefighters are due to heart attacks, not fires. Our interest is to bring education on the Paleo lifestyle to the fire service, and consequently, the community that looks up to them.
10. The final question I love to ask: Is there anything else you’d like to say or add Alexandra?
I’ve known for quite some time that I wanted to get on the preventative side of medicine instead of the reactive. It’s incredible what kind of amazing things begin to unfold once you’ve made the decision to leap into a new field like this. I am beyond excited for what’s to come and I really appreciate you reaching out to me for this interview! It is such a compliment and it’s a great way to start off my blogging and lifestyle coaching endeavors.
Thank you very much for your time, Alexandra. It has been MY pleasure to make your interview available to others.
Please visit www.HighonFat.com and reap the benefits of Alexandra’s research and how well she has put this invaluable and helpful information together to be understood and applied.
*Alex has since been concentrating on her job as a Firewoman and paramedic, devoting less time to her website FirehousePaleo.com until further notice.
If you have any questions or suggestions just email me at Tina (at) Paleomazing.com.