How many of us have attempted to lose weight or improve our health by following a low fat diet? I would imagine pretty much EVERYONE who has ever been looking to drop a few pounds has tried this ‘trusty’ method of weight loss, myself very much included. As a professional performer in my younger, more flexible days I was the QUEEN of low fat. I truly believed it was the only way to keep my svelt dancers body in shape…oh how WRONG I was!!!
I want to debunk the myths for you about the dieting industry and show you why eating fat WILL NOT MAKE YOU FAT, OR GIVE YOU HEART DISEASE! Yes you heard me right!
So what made this whole fat phobia become such a global phenomenon?
It all came about in the 1950s when Dr Ancel Keys hypothesised through a study that there was a link between coronary heart disease and dietary fats. What keys failed to do was compare the data from all 22 countries in the study. He cherry picked only 7 countries and excluded those that did not fit with his hypothesis. Since then there have been many more flawed and biased studies produced turning fat into the demon we all believed it to be.
This whole hypothesis was music to the food industries ears…what better way to make a killing than to produce ‘low fat’ ‘heart healthy’ spreads, margarines, cakes, biscuits and everything else! Long gone were the days of real butter, lard and in came the margarines, harmful trans fats and sugar, sugar and more sugar. Isn’t it interesting to see that heart disease and obesity have actually increased since we adopted the low fat diet myth…go figure?! We have become fatter and sicker.
Your body needs saturated fat and cholesterol
Fortunately more and more people are starting to cotton on to this. Saturated fats from animal and plant sources are vital for a healthy body. We need them for a healthy heart, liver, lungs, immune system, hormone production, genetic regulation, strong bones…the list goes on!! Not only that, eating fat can actually help with weight loss as it regulates hormones which fuel our metabolism.
If ONLY I had known this in my 20s! I can honestly say I screwed up my own health for a good 10 years by adopting a low fat diet. Just think about it…what do we do when we remove the fat from our diet? We try and get that source of fuel from elsewhere…mainly carbohydrates. Fat is also the flavoursome part of food so when the fat is removed there has to be sugar and flavours added in to make it tasty. I had believed I was healthy but I was a complete carbivore, every meal was based around those ‘healthy’ wholegrains and low fat snacks were on the menu. Little did I know I was causing a blood sugar rollercoaster in my own body which led to hormone imbalances, energy peaks and troughs, dry grey skin, rubbish nails and brittle hair. Attractive!
So what happens when we eat fat and carbohydrates?
Think of your body like a fire. It needs something to fuel it.
Carbohydrates (by this I don’t just mean your sugary snacks, I mean any carbohydrate in excess as they all turn to sugar in your body) are like putting twigs on a fire. They burn pretty quickly. This is why when you eat a carb heavy meal you are hungry again a few hours later. You need to refuel the fire. Think about the last time you had a boozy night on the town…did you want to eat your own arm when you got home? Probably!. All that excess sugar floating around in your blood stream does damage. It causes inflammation, which is the basis of all disease, it cross links with collagen in your skin causing wrinkles and it makes you produce more insulin – the body is a VERY clever machine, so it products more insulin to get that excess, damaging sugar out of the blood through producing insulin which is our main fat storage hormone. That means we get a massive crash in blood sugar which leads to the munchies and the food rage if we can’t get hold of food to refuel with in an instant. Put all that together and what do you get…..fat, wrinkly and sick…not really what we were looking for!
Fat on the other hand is a primary source of fuel. It is like putting a log on a fire…it burns for a long long time meaning you have sustained energy with no crash and burn as it does not increase blood sugar. The reason fat gets a bad wrap in the weight management stakes is because gram for gram fat has more calories than protein and carbohydrates. My best advice is to STOP the calorie counting if you want a healthy, lean body. It is not as simple as ‘calories in, calories out’ This theory is a dramatic over simplification. Of course if you consume WAY more than you need you will gain weight but certain nutrients will fire up the metabolism and help to regulate hormones like insulin.
I wish, wish, WISH we could change the name of dietary fat to something like ‘awesome energy’! We all need to stop associating fat in our foods to the fat on our bodies. Thinking fat makes you fat is like thinking you will turn into a pig if you eat bacon!
There are some fats that we do need to be wary of – trans fats, vegetable oils (most certainly not the health food it was touted to be) and partially hydrogenated oil – all cause inflammation and damage to the body.
If you have a spare 20 mins take the time to watch this:
So lets chew on the fat and get our health back!