What About the Fat?
Many times I see patients and talk about changing their lifestyle with LCHF eating, and I will feel like I've done a pretty good job getting them started with handouts, internet links, books, and access to me through Facebook and this website. However, when many people return they will tell me they cut out the carbs, but when I ask about their fat they will admit they still eat low fat...that they are still scared to eat fat.
Fat was unjustly vilified, starting in the early 1950s. At about that time doctors started recognizing and diagnosing heart disease and heart attacks. Then in 1955 President Dwight Eisenhower had his first heart attack, while in office. Because of some flawed research and what seems in large part to politics, fat, especially saturated, started to get a bad name. Add in that Crisco and Margarine were much cheaper than lard and butter and that several doctors who recommended eating these vegetable oils were sponsored by the oil companies - we all started decreasing our natural fat intake, and started increasing our intake of unnatural vegetable oils (see The Big Fat Surprise for full timeline and history).
This was all done despite not a single study showing a link between saturated fat and heart disease, and many studies showing increased risk of dying and disease when diets decreased in fat (and increase in vegetable oils of any kind).
More terrible politics occurred (remember, it is not WHAT you know, but WHO you know) and the first Dietary Guidelines were created in 1980 with the first food pyramid and the recommendations to cut fat and cholesterol out of our diets.
And you know what happened? We did it! We followed the guidelines quite well! And after that? We all became fatter and sicker - more heart disease, more diabetes, more dementia, more inflammation, more fatty liver, more sleep apnea, more cancer. Why? Mostly because we increased our intake of vegetable oils (polyunsaturated fatty acids that are easily oxidized and increase inflammation in our bodies) and increased our carbohydrates and sugars! (If you take the fat out of food it tastes terrible unless you add more sugar or other carbohydrates).
Highly processed easy foods also played a part as they became very convenient in our busy lives. Prepackaged snacks are easier to give to kids. We all became completely obsessed about calorie counting and increasing exercise that we downed diet soft drinks, ate 100-calorie no fat snacks, dry toast and cereal with skim milk, plain rice cakes with no toppings, dry chicken breasts with potatoes (no butter - remember low fat butter powder?), pasta (never alfredo sauce), vegetables (steamed with no butter) and diet desserts that were non-fat (low fat frozen yogurt). We starved ourselves, exercised hard and rarely succeeded in losing weight and then keeping it off.
How many of you have done this? How many are still trying to do this? It doesn't work and there are many reasons why. The first being that when you decrease your calories significantly, your body fairly quickly decreases it's expenditure of calories (by up to 40%) in order to match what comes in. This decrease in metabolism makes us feel tired and actually keeps us from being successful. The second reason is that your body hormones work against you to make you have difficulty with keeping weight off - you decrease your food and your Ghrelin (hunger hormone) goes up. You lose weight and decrease fat and Leptin (feel full hormone produced by fat) goes down. Most people who try to lose weight plateau significantly at month 6 and then it starts coming back on. Not to mention that exercising significantly increases your appetite and doesn't actually help with weight loss (see What About Exercise?)
Is it hopeless? Can we lose weight? YES!!
The key is to get fat back in our diets, and get the unnatural carbs and sugar out! There have been many studies that show that eating fat or even fasting (see fasting) do not decrease metabolism. Fat makes us feel full, and if we increase fat and decrease carbs we can actually enjoy the benefit of using our fat as energy instead of feeling hungry and eating more. Our blood sugars stabilize, our belly fat goes away, our energy goes up, our weight goes down...and even if we never lose a pound our health improves with decreased risks of diabetes, and all of the diseases that are caused by insulin resistance. Your HDLs will go up, your triglycerides will go down, and your fatty liver will decrease - all predictors for heart disease. (Fatty Liver No Innocent Bystander)
So, what should we do? Eat a diet of whole, real foods that are not low-fat. You can do this as a meat eater (see Getting Started on LCHF or get started with Diet doctor low carb challenge) or even as a vegetarian (How to eat low carb as a Vegetarian/Vegan). Avoid highly processed foods (try to eat as many one-ingredient low starch foods that you can) and cook your own meals. Eat butter, olive oil and coconut oil, and throw away the seed/grain oils and margarine. If you follow these few guidelines and avoid "food-like substances" you will get back on the path to Optimum Health.