One of the biggest controversies in weight loss and wellness is the faulty belief that dietary fat intake is one of the main culprits to obesity and metabolic disease. We need to pump the brakes on this idea.
Now it should be obvious that if you consume excess amounts of dietary fat (regardless of the source), meaning more total energy in calories than your body needs, then well yeah, it’s going to result in body fat increases and negatively impact your health.
However, when you really start examining the evidence, saturated fats from natural sources don’t come out being the evil villain many have labeled it as being over the past forty plus years. And the advocates for this idea weren’t fringe loonies but many of our so called “experts” in government and mainstream medicine.
This shouldn’t come at a surprise to anyone who isn’t sleepwalking, but the low-fat dietary recommendations that started back in the 80’s which led to insanely unhealthy products like margarine and trans-fats, haven’t stood the test of time under actual analysis and on-going research. We have years of aggregate data now. You know that thing they call “science,” which I guess only needs to be verifiable when a possible result or outcome doesn’t have a shared monetary interest.
But I digress, let’s not go down that rabbit hole right now. Let’s talk about this idea that was pitched on us that eating a low-fat diet was supposedly the key to reducing cardiovascular health risks, metabolic dysfunction, and obesity.
You know that food pyramid thing that we started seeing everywhere in the early 80’s. I was a kid at the time, about 8 or 10 and I distinctly remember it. It’s had some modifications and changes over the years, but for the most part its promoted carbohydrates like grains, bread, cereals, and the like to be staples in the diet.
Hum? I wonder if there could possibly be financial interests if people didn’t get healthier by following these guidelines, but low and behold needed MORE pharmaceutical drugs and medical treatments? Yeah, I know that’s crazy talk, that could never happen. Right?
Well, you know what’s not crazy talk!?
The undeniable and undisputable fact that the numbers on individuals in this country with diabetes, metabolic dysfunction, obesity, heart disease, and the other related diseases has skyrocketed.
The switch to chastising and cutting out natural fats in lieu of unnatural fat (trans fats) has played a huge role. We have an outright epidemic with obesity and metabolic diseases in this country and shockingly there hasn’t been a whisper of changing course.
Have you ever stopped for a second to ponder why most folks in our grandparent’s generation weren’t all suffering from cardiovascular disease and obesity? I mean if you’re familiar with country life, you know about the old days when folks used to cook with lard instead of canola oil, churned real butter not frankenspread, and ate ham from the smokehouse not chicken nuggets. Why didn’t everyone have clogged arteries and 48” waistlines?
We don’t even need to go that far back. Take a look at pictures from the 1960’s.
Recently when travelling, I saw a picture in the Pittsburgh airport that was from the late sixties (not the one from above), but just like this photo it was glaringly obvious the majority of people were trimmer, certainly compared to today’s standards.
I looked around at all the people walking by me in the terminal after seeing the picture and thought to myself “what in the heck happened?” The first thing that came to mind was the difference in exercise and activity levels, but there’s got to be more to it.
Sure, people in the “old days” did a lot more manual labor and burned more calories through physical activity expenditure, but by the sixties we were well into the industrial revolution and there were plenty of people who didn’t work in farms or factories.
There were a lot of men from these eras who then far more likely to hit happy hour after work then hit the gym for a workout before heading home. Let’s be real. There’s obviously something, or more likely a combination of things that are getting overlooked with why obesity has skyrocketed.
And my hunch is it ain’t natural fats in the diet!
I believe a simple explanation to a complex problem is we have a mega issue in western society today with inflammation. That’s one of the key underlying problems with a whole heaping bunch of issues contributing to it.
In short, when it comes to dietary fat intake, it’s not that saturated fat in and of itself is a huge problem, it’s the combination of inflammation and elevated blood lipid levels that lead to arteriosclerosis and heart disease. Instead of zeroing in on natural fats, the target should have been and should still be on inflammation.
Think the key to health and wellness it to just stay away from animal fats and other saturated fat sources? You’ll want to be discerning here. Ever wonder why vegetarians also suffer from metabolic diseases, heart issues, and obesity? I mean if saturated fats were really the sole culprit, then you'd think cardiovascular and metabolic issues would be isolated with the "meat eaters."
Look, I’m not telling you what type of diet to follow and that’s not the purpose of this post. What I want to convey is that you shouldn’t be hyper-focused on fats while overlooking the hidden causes of inflammation and insulin resistance.
From a dietary perspective, trans-fats from processed foods, and higher amounts of refined carbohydrates will significantly increase inflammation and raise your risks for heart disease.
A good rule of thumb to remember is when dietary fat is increased, carbohydrate intake should be reduced and vice-versa. This is regardless of the fat source being saturated or unsaturated.
Higher Fats = Lower Carbs
Higher Carbs = Lower Fats
In terms of the source of fats, natural always trumps man-made and unsaturated is better than saturated. This doesn’t mean you need to stop eating eggs, beef, butter, and dark meat to name a few. It just means you should look to get more of your fat intake from unsaturated sources like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, cold water fishes, etc.
Can you get dietary fat intake from both sources and still be healthy?
I believe the answer is a resounding yes. And this isn’t just my subjective opinion, but rather the data backs this up. Not to mention the fact if we take a sober and common sense observation of populations across the globe, populations mind you that who have vastly different diets, and yet many have good health and longevity.
The common denominator in populations that are healthier is they’re eating more natural foods and less processed foods.
In other words, they’re not being poisoned from every angle in the food chain.
I don’t know who said it, but this saying has always stuck with me as its hard to argue with.
“If God made it, eat it, if He didn’t leave it alone.”
Could it really be that simple? My gut tells me that man has made things way more complicated than it should be and messed things up more than made things better when it comes to diet.
Whatever diet you choose to follow, it would be wise to stick with primarily whole foods and ditch the processed and refined products that promote inflammation.
And enough with the egg white omelets and such. Eat the darn yolk, there’s good stuff in there, it’ll be ok.
Well, that’s my rant for the day. On a related note, it can without question be challenging when trying to move from a traditional western diet into a routine that can help you get leaner and healthier. That’s where the assistance of a coach can really help make a difference. After all, it can be crazy confusing about what diet routine to follow. The simple answer is there is no one answer.
The best diet routine for an individual is the best one for them at that moment in time. There are non-negotiables, but they revolve around not compromising your organs and digestive system, not declaring one macronutrient to be king.
A sound diet is one that promotes health, not an outcome at the expense of health.
Read that sentence above and let it sink it.
If we could be of assistance at any time with diet, nutrition, or fitness please don’t hesitate to reach out. My team of fitness professionals have a passion to serve and not just instruct. We don’t promote any one particular diet, but rather work with individuals to find the one that will help them the best. Have a blessed day.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He has over 24 years' experience with fitness coaching and consulting and specializes in training programs for middle age and mature adults. If you live in the Charleston, SC area you can schedule a no-obligations consultation.
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