Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Myth Of The Low-Fat Diet

Many many years ago I bought into the whole diet industries message of: "You must eat low-fat to lose weight." I get why many people still buy into this message as it is still so big globally. Yet around 10 years ago, I started to ask the question: "Why, if low-fat is the way to lose weight, are there so many low-fat diets still on the market?" And then it dawned on me. The diet industry is a multi-million dollar industry, they make money from the books they sell, the classes, the add-ons (specific labelled foods for example : Weight Watchers).

The diet industry thrives because they have created an industry that relies on people never obtaining their ideal weight, and more so, never finding a sustainable, enjoyable way of losing it and keeping it off. Many diets are aimed at losing weight, not on transforming your overall health. Their taglines are:  "Lose weight in 1 week", "Lose weight in 2 weeks", "Lose weight in a month". But most of the time it's not sustainable weight loss.

If you truly want to lose weight you need to change your lifestyle and attitude to food. See it as a life-enhancing change, not as a way to lose weight. Not only will you naturally lose weight but you will also be giving yourself a good balance of nutrition and vitamins and minerals in your diet.

So why is low-fat a myth?

Well, firstly there are many good fats, absolutely essential fats we need in our diet. A friend of mine told me of a diet she did when she was younger, I think it was a Rosemary Connolly diet. She said it completely eliminated fat altogether. It was not a health giving diet, lacked all the good fat that actually leaves you fuller for longer, instead of the way many diets leave you in 'starvation mode', a mode that actually makes you gain weight. Yes, often diets encourage weight increase because the body thinks it is starving, so it switches to the slowest metabolism rate possible, to conserve energy. Any spare energy is stored as fat, so that  the body can get through the starvation period. This is why crash diets never work also.

When you lose weight first of all you lose water, then fat, and then some muscle. When you put the weight back on, it's water and fat, mainly fat. When you reduce weight again, you lose fat, and a bit more muscle. So every time you lose weight you lose some muscle. Every time you gain weight you just gain fat. So on Yo-Yo diets, you lose muscle. Your body becomes less and less healthy as you replace muscle with fat.

And secondly, many of the low-fat 'diet' foods on the market today cut out the saturated fats, yet to bulk the food out and give it that tasty mouthfeel experience we all love when eating, they fill it with sugar. Refined sugar. The kind of sugar that promotes cravings for more food, the sugar that actually puts weight on you. Food contains protein, fat and carbohydrates. So, if they reduce the fat they have got to increase one of the others, but protein is expensive. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are cheap. Now if you stuck to the meagre-sized portions you get on the low-fat calorie controlled diet, you may lose some weight, but, it's not sustainable unless you calorie count for life, and there is no fun in that, is there?

When we eat, we need to feel full and satisfied. Low-fat does not do this. If you transform your eating habits, cut back on your high carbohydrates like sugar-filled foods, bread made from  white refined flour, all those excessive starches, like chips and potatoes, you can not only lose weight (often by a side effect not by trying) but you also feel more satisfied, fuller for longer and you will have more energy and vitality to live and thrive in your life.

One of the things about low-fat dieting is that you don't feel full of energy, so the motivation to continue does not last. The sugar-full products encourage more eating. The starving yourself of what your body needs encourages more eating. The tiredness and low energy encourages you to eat foods that will give you a quick hit of energy but then you will have a slump of energy not long after and need coffee or more carb-rich foods to get your energy back again. Your blood-sugar takes a spike and then it drops, leading to all kinds of health issues in later life. It's a viscous circle.

So what can you do if you want to lose weight?

Well... I know it is hard but cut back your sugar intake, release those cravings. Cut out bread and cakes and all those 'naughties' for a while. Yes, it may be a shock to the system but it takes 21 days to build a new habit and if you can do this, your new life change will continue. Once you take a break from overly sugary foods, breads and starches, your tastebuds do change and you can enjoy foods in a whole new way. But yes, it takes a commitment.

You can increase your protein in your diet: meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nut butters.
You can have a lot of vegetables.
If you crave really badly enjoy sumptious fruit.

BUT.. do not buy fruit juices like apple juice, orange juice, for example. All the fibre is taken out in the process of creating it and it makes your blood sugar hike up and down as much as refined sugar does.

I Need A Plan

If I was to advise any plan, if you really need a method of diet to follow, steer clear of the low-fat calorie-controlled diets. Look out for diets like the GI diet or GL diet. These all encourage eating foods that keep your blood sugar balanced so you have no energy highs followed by slumps. They keep you fuller for longer and even conventional Doctors encourage a low GI diet. Other diets (which can be quite costly) include the Paleo diet. This involves eating like our ancestors used to, eating like paleolithic man. Lots of protein, little sweetness (as honey was a rare thing to come by and an occasional treat), and lots of lovely vegetables.

The key with any plan is balance. Make sure you're getting a balance of everything your body needs.


One thing I have discovered is I have lost weight by eating more. This goes against everything I was trained to believe by the low-fat diet industry. So long as your snacks are not cake, chocolate, burgers in white bread buns or excessive amounts of potatoes you can snack. I was told that eating little and often is key so I can eat every 3 hours and still feel balanced and have plently of energy. This wakes up your metabolism so it burns off fat more quickly too. A much healthier way to lose weight than starvation diet plans.

My snacks include:

Banana Cocoa Cakes

Sliced apple with peanut butter.

Sliced chicken or turkey in the fridge.
Boiled eggs.
Ryvitas with a little butter.
Apples sliced with peanut butter spread over the slices.
Sugar-free banana oat cakes from this recipe here >>> Banana Cocoa Cakes
Two ingredient biscuits here >>> 2 Ingredient Cookies
Warm milk (normal whole milk or almond).
My future treat I am going to make for my birthday >>>Raw food candy with no added sugar or sweeteners

I have also discovered delicious NAKD raw fruit bars. For those tasty treats when you just really need something sweet. I had my first Cocoa Orange bar last night and it was heavenly. And these have no added sugar, are gluten, wheat and dairy free. I am looking forward to trying more.

So it can be done. With Easter just around the corner, lots of people indulging in chocolate Easter eggs packed full of refined sugar, I am baking biscuits and may make some cakes. If you have tried diet after diet and are just frustrated that it either does not work or you cannot stick at it, consider a life change and change your eating habits but not your enjoyment of eating.

Any questions, do ask, I am not a nutritionist or a diet expert. I only know what has not worked for me and what does. I am interested in your tips and what are your low carb snacks of choice? What gets you through those craving periods?

If you have enjoyed reading the above these may interest you too.

*Top 4 photos taken from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net


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