We caught up with Christine recently and had a wonderful chat about life and the Universe. We are very happy to hear that Christine is travelling to Perth and Adelaide this month to speak about a Low Carb High Fat lifestyle and we understand that has been fraught with controversy. Full details about these events are at the bottom of the page, just click on the links…
So, first things first Christine. Settle an argument…Cronau, is it CroNOW or CronOH, and where does that name originate?
That is a great question. We aren’t 100% sure of the origin (even the pronunciation is unclear, but we go with CroNOW), but my husband’s family are true blue Australians, from Ipswich, near Brisbane. Most Cronau’s seem to have come from the Netherlands originally. I myself was born in the U.S. and my family immigrated here when I was just three. My father had just graduated with his PhD in California, and it was simply bad timing for his job prospects there because they had just passed the new affirmative action laws. The universities had to correct the fact that the faculty was predominantly white males, and unfortunately, my father was a white male. My father was offered a job as a lecturer at the University of Qld, which is how we came to Australia.
Tell us a little about where you grew up and what that was like.
I grew up in the inner-city suburb of Paddington, which now is very expensive and trendy, but at the time, it was the opposite; a very poor neighbourhood. One of the other lecturer’s wives said to my mother, “Don’t say you live in Paddington, say you live in Bardon,” which was a neighbouring suburb.
My parents struggled because they had a large family with just the one income. The sad thing is that even though they struggled to put food on the table, when we were lucky enough to have eggs, we threw away the yolks! This is a great demonstration of the absolute insanity of the low-fat era, which is one of the reasons I speak out about diet and fat.
Was your family the sort to cook a lot from scratch and did you get involved as a child?
Yes, we had to cook everything from scratch as a child. I didn’t even eat at a restaurant until I was an adult. We were lucky enough to have a few meals in the Coles diner in the city (yes, Coles used to have a diner), which was a huge treat.
As part of a big family, the children had to do a lot of the work, so we were heavily involved in cooking and dish-washing.
What are some of your first memories?
Wow, I have never been asked this one before. My first memories are probably later than normal, I distinctly remember my first day of school, but not much before that. The most memorable one would probably be my mother telling me I had another little sister on the way (she was the 6th), I was so excited, I absolutely loved babies, and I said, “I hope she is born on my birthday.” My mother said, “Actually, no, you don’t.” She was born on her parents anniversary and they used to tell her, “we celebrated your birthday last year.” So sad!
So what led you down the path that took you to where you are today?
As you can probably guess from my other answers, we didn’t eat processed or fast food. In fact, the food we did eat was considered very “healthy.” We were not able to eat much protein or fat; our diet was mostly carbohydrate. And those carbohydrates were the “good” kind. Heavy, dark rye bread, brown rice, whole wheat (and I mean the little round balls of wheat, which was turned into porridge, that is how unprocessed it was).
We were also very low fat. I should have been a picture of health, but I wasn’t. I grew up skinny and had quite a few health issues, such as IBS. And, when I turned 18, I also started to gain weight.
I did the regular yo-yo dieting to try to maintain my weight. When I gained, I would cut back, and eat less. I was my heaviest in my early 20s, and decided eventually to go even more low fat and also became vegetarian. I stopped eating butter completely, and my diet was something like this: Vitabrits and soy milk with a banana for breakfast, whole grain bread with cashew paste for a snack, whole grain sandwiches for lunch, some other carby snack for afternoon tea, brown rice and lentils or chickpeas for dinner.
And I did lose weight. I thought I hit the jackpot. But, my health started declining. Not only was my IBS worse, I also was extremely fatigued, I had imbalanced hormones, insulin resistance, high blood sugar, underactive thyroid, and more.
If I was doing everything right, why was I struggling with my health? I knew people who didn’t care about their diet at all who were doing better than I was!
I was lucky enough to one day have a very short conversation with a friend of mine, a doctor, who told me about some research she was doing that indicated we should be eating more fat, particularly saturated fat. I immediately dismissed it thinking that “everyone knows we should eat less fat, not more.” But, something about it struck my interest. I began to look into it myself and was shocked with what I found. I realised that it wasn’t so natural after all to eat whole grain cereal and soy milk!
To make a long story short, I eventually saw a Nutritionist who recommended LCHF (low carb, high fat) and I changed my diet (radically). Initially, I gained weight, which made me doubt the whole thing, but I felt better, so stuck with it. And, I am so glad I did. LCHF completely changed my life. Not only did I heal every single one of my health conditions, but I also haven’t had to think about my weight in 16 years.
Who have been some of your major influences in life and why?
Many of the people who influenced me in this journey are not well known, but the biggest one would have to be Jim, the Nutritionist who inspired me to change my diet. And, that is one of the reasons I speak out today. I want to do for others what he did for me.
Later on in my journey, I was and continue to be inspired by Professor Tim Noakes. He was conventional all the way most of his life. Most people don’t know this, but he was one of the founders of the heart foundation in South Africa, and he was one of the major forces driving the introduction of the low-fat guidelines there (following the new guidelines in the United States). He followed the guidelines religiously for most of his life until he himself became overweight and developed type II diabetes, despite the fact that he had run over 70 marathons and ultra marathons in his life. It was then that he started questioning. And after doing thorough research, he discovered the guidelines were wrong.
But the amazing thing about Prof Noakes is that he admitted he was wrong. If you have seen the movie Cereal Killers, then you have seen him ripping pages out of his own bestselling books! He has since dedicated his life to sharing the information that has the potential to reverse the obesity and type II diabetes epidemics, despite the huge level of criticism and prosecution.
Speaking with the wonderful cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra must have been a blast? What did you learn from him?
It was a blast, he is an inspiration and great fun to be around. I was particularly inspired by his reaction to critics and bullies. He always has a laugh because he got under their skin. The other amazing thing about Dr Malhotra is how much he is influencing change in the U.K. He was with us for two and a half weeks, and during that time, he received numerous calls from journalists who had were reporting on poorly designed scientific papers, and in every case, he systematically killed the story. The great part is that he is so respected in the UK that these journalists listened.
Things are changing in nutrition and the way in which people are now questioning established beliefs. How do you see that evolving?
It is a slow process, and we have a long way to go, but things are definitely moving. When I first started over 16 years ago, you could practically be lynched for saying saturated fat was good for you. I learned very quickly to keep it to myself. But it is a lot more common to hear it now and certainly a lot more accepted. I was speaking to an Epidemiologist at the University of Qld the other week and she said that the evidence now is undeniable.
So there are mixed feelings about dairy with Paleo followers and followers of a LCHF lifestyle. What’s your take on dairy?
That is a great question. Many people can’t tolerate dairy, particularly because a lot of us damaged our gut lining with grains and other irritating foods. Once the gut is damaged, one of the first things we can become allergic to is dairy. And for good health, and weight loss, we should avoid anything that is irritating or hard on our digestion. The gut lining can be repaired over time with the right diet and supplements (I will discuss this more in my talks).
And, many people have difficulty digesting milk especially (our production of lactase (the enzyme needed to digest lactose) reduces after the age of 4, and milk is a lot higher in lactose). Cultured dairy like cheese and yoghurt is much easier to digest.
However, in my personal opinion, if dairy doesn’t cause any digestive issues, I think it is a healthy food and very nutrient dense. Particularly butter. And, in fact, most people who cannot tolerate dairy can tolerate butter because it has virtually no lactose or casein.
What’s your best tip on how to ‘stay on the wagon’ with this way of life?
For me it is easy. I simply don’t want to eat anything that doesn’t make me feel great. I know how I feel eating other foods. Also, fat is flavour, I am always satisfied, never deprived, and everything tastes delicious. And, I love making alternative “junk” food that is healthy, so we don’t miss out anyway. For me it is so much easier to never have that discussion with myself, “Will I…won’t I…just a little won’t hurt.” I just don’t. Of course, everyone is different, but that is what works for me.
So what plans have you got for the future?
I am currently completing my Master of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Qld so that I can use my knowledge to continue educating the public and also conduct new research. While the criticism is difficult, what keeps me going are the thousands of absolutely incredible, life-changing success stories. I am always overwhelmed when I come to my events, because I generally have many people approach me and tell me how much LCHF has changed their life. And, if you do come to the events, please come and say hello, I do make time for everyone!
Why do you think we got it so wrong with nutrition and what can we do to change that for our children’s children?
Our diet has changed drastically over the last 100 years or so. In the 1800s, Australians based their diets on protein and fat. And with the change in diet came an epidemic of modern, chronic disease. Heart disease, for example, is a relatively new disease. The first documented case of a heart attack was 1926. And even then when heart disease was studied and documented, doctors ignored the research because it wasn’t an issue they were seeing in their clinics. But fast forward to the 1950s, it had become a huge problem. So, of course, scientists were desperately trying to find the cause.
There were a few theories. One was saturated fat, one was sugar. We now know that the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to shift the blame from sugar to fat. And they did that very successfully.
To cut a long story short, there never was any evidence linking saturated fat to heart disease or any other health condition. And when fat was demonised, we started eating more of the very foods that were causing the issue in the first place; sugar and carbohydrate.
How do you feel about exercise and what do you do?
Like Dr Aseem Malhotra says, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” Study after study shows that while exercise has many benefits, weight loss is not one of them. Often, when people start LCHF they are fatigued and run down; when we are tired, often the worst thing we can do is to exercise. When we start to heal and recover, then exercise is very beneficial to health. And, at that point we feel like doing it because we feel good!
I personally like to lift weights at the gym once a week, and I am generally fairly active (gardening etc), but I look after myself, I don’t like to flog myself in the gym. And, when I started LCHF and was fatigued, I did no exercise. If we only have a little energy, it is best to conserve it and use it wisely.
What would your advice be to someone who is lost and wants to embark on this way of life but doesn’t know where to start?
The easiest place to start is breakfast. Swap convenience food like cereal with a cooked breakfast. It may seem too time intensive, but it literally takes 5 minutes to fry eggs in butter. It doesn’t need to be complicated.
We ask everyone this question Christine….if you had to choose would it be West Coast or Fremantle?
Ha ha. Since I know nothing of football, this is from my husband. “West Coast.”
Thanks Christine, we can’t wait to catch-up again and put all those doubting Thomas’ to shame! We love what you are about and what you are doing to help people regain their own health.