Question from a follower:
HI 🙂 I have a question for you. I’d ask on your personal page but I thought your response would be useful to your followers too. I know recently we’ve heard a lot about not fearing saturated fats, etc. and Derek and I are on the bandwagon of rejecting processed stuff and eating full-fat dairy, nuts, lots of meat, veggies, etc. But why is it that we can eat all this fat and lose weight? What is it about sugar that makes your gain weight as opposed to fat? And why were we taught to think otherwise? (I say this because despite eating LOTS of fat these last couple of months, we’ve both lost weight!) Sorry for the rambling question. 🙂
First, it’s important to remember is that our understanding of all of this is still unfolding so while I feel more confident that the “fat is bad” bubble is bursting, I think there’s more to understand. At least we are starting to appreciate that everyone is unique and what might work for you may not be exactly what works for your husband. Maybe he does better on dairy than you or vice versa.
Ironically, lots of this stuff is what I’m including in my book and while I’d say “wait to see it in print”…that’s not very helpful to you or anyone starting out on this new and somewhat scary path. It’s scary because it’s going against the grain. While it’s becoming more commonplace (in some ways), it’s following a path that is the exact opposite of what we were raised on. We were clearly told over and over that FAT is Bad, that low-fat was the only way and that processed foods made your life easier. Period.
I know there are conspiracy theories all over the place about this stuff. But over the past year you can find articles even in the mainstream media. I’m not suggesting that mainstream media makes something true, far from it, but I’m saying that the research and the reporting are coming out from under the rocks. This is a good thing. The more you learn, we all learn, the more you may feel pissed off in away. We were all led astray. Sometimes out of wanting to do good and sometimes out of pure politics.
Here’s an example of how we ended up here. In Denise Minger’s book Death By Food Pyramid, she eloquently tells the story of how the food pyramid actually came to life back in the 1970’s. Boy is it a vision of pure politics. Very little was actually in the interest of the public. As the story goes, a woman named, Louise Light was tapped to become the Director of Dietary Guidance and Nutrition Education Research. As Minger discusses, Light’s recommendations ended up being starkly different from what actually came to fruition! For example, Light promoted five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables, good sources of protein found in meat, fish, nuts and beans. She even suggested having four tablespoons of cold-pressed oils daily on top of the fat that was naturally occurring in foods. Plus she recommended to keep sugar low (less than 10% of your total daily calories) and she banned white-flour products and greatly limited grains. Take a minute to let that sink in and think about what you eat on a regular basis. Okay, ready? I’ll go on. Due to intense lobbying efforts, what came back was almost the exact opposite. The recommended fats were gone (the beginning of fat is bad), the amount of grains was increased fourfold, initially the fruits and vegetables were cut to only 2-3 servings and the restraints on sugar went from a low recommended amount to a vague “moderate consumption” recommendation. What I want you to understand is that these recommendations are not based on what is actually healthy for us but based on industry lobbying efforts. So while many of us believe, and rightfully so, that we are eating well, the basis of what’s healthy is manufactured by interests groups rather than science and research.
So why “fat = bad” in the first place? Back in the fifties a studied was completed by Dr. Ancel Keys. Basically he concluded that people who ate diets higher in fats, especially saturated fats were more likely to die of a heart attack but he relied on correlation not causation. It was known, even back then, that his evidence was weak but the country wanted to have an answer to an increase in heart disease. In a recent WSJ article, Nina Teicholz writes:
“But there was no turning back: Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys’s hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys’s diet for the entire nation, the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? “None can be identified,” he said.”
However what we are faced with now is the result of decades of eliminating fat and replacing it with sugar and additives to make it taste good. Let’s take a minute to appreciate that fat tastes good. When you eliminate it, you need to replace it with something else to make it taste good…sugar. And over-processed sugar at that.
What we saw was the elimination of nutrient dense fats that our body needs to think, move, and sleep properly with something that is churned and burned so quickly that our body needs to replenish more often (in a bad way). In addition, sugar has the potential to create the same cravings that we see when drug users experience times of withdrawal.
On the surface, natural sugar is okay if it is in moderation (not in the high amounts that the FDA says is okay). Best is to consume sugar found in fruits and vegetables that also contain stuff like fiber, which helps slow down the metabolism of the sugar so that your body uses the whole fruit more efficiently. But again sugar burns quickly leaving you feeling unsatisfied and leading to over-eating, weight gain and health problems.
Why is fat good? Fat helps absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K (which between them affect every system in your body). Fat is essential for cell construction, nerve function, digestion, and for the formation of the hormones that regulate everything from metabolism to circulation. Beyond being essential for your mind and body, fat takes longer to break down, thus leaving you feeling satisfied longer. Not all fat is created equal though and quantity still matters. We need to re-balance the Omega 3 and Omega 6 ratio. Right now, we eat drastically more Omega 6 fats than necessary which can lead to weight gain. And while Omega 6 is essential, it’s not healthy in the load we are consuming. The quality of meat is key here. Grass-fed organic meat and wild caught fish contains higher levels of omega-3 which is anti-inflammatory and help to balance the ratio between Omega 3/6. Often, when people are eating the “right” things, meats, fish, veggies, fruits but not losing weight, we can examine the types of fat they are consuming and find that they are eating too much omega 6 producers (nuts, seeds, chicken). By lowering their consumption (not necessarily eliminating) of these fats and rebalancing them with Omega 3, weight loss revs up again. And remember, we’re all different so the exact number of grams of fat vs. protein vs carbs will look different for you than me. But that’s another post.
But YOU ALSO HAVE TO EAT YOUR VEGGIES and A LOT of them. (Yes I’m shouting. Not at you, at all of us, even me). If you don’t get the majority of your nutrients from a wide variety of vegetables you’re not going to help yourself in the long run. And, while I sincerely believe that if you eat a whole foods diet, avoiding what you need to based on your personal health history, you do NOT need to count calories, if you find yourself not losing weight or gaining you need to readjust your portions and identify any foods that may be causing inflammation (bloat). For example, right now and maybe forever, gluten, legumes, and grains of any sort create inflammation for me. In fact I consumed various forms of these things over the past few weeks and put on 10 lbs. No joke. It’s all inflammation. So now I’m in the process of rebalancing my body. I’ve removed them all, I’m drinking a ton of water, trying to manage my stress (way down now that we’ve moved) and get back to a good sleep schedule (with two toddlers).
I know this was long and I’ve included some links to articles below if you’re interested. If something wasn’t clear, please don’t hesitate to post a question!