We’ve been lead to believe that we are getting fatter because we eat too much dietary fat and consume too many calories. This is flat out WRONG. In a perfect, laboratory environment, it is, in fact, true that a calorie is a calorie. When no other factors are being considered, caloric energy is the only thing that matters (energy in vs. energy out) But our bodies are not perfect laboratories. They are complex physiological, biochemical and hormonal beings and the reality of our excess fat state is just as complex.
What's really going on?
Our fat cells have no idea how many calories we’ve eaten that day. Actually, they don’t how many calories we’ve burned, either. Fat cells only know what they are told and that is to 1) Open up and get ready to receive excess calories to be stored or 2) Open up and release stored fat to be used as energy.
So this begs the question, what controls this switch? There are several factors that influence our fat storage state but the primary one is the hormone Insulin.
Most have heard of insulin in the context of diabetes and understand that when blood sugar gets too high, insulin is released to get it out of our system before too much damage is done. What people may not be as familiar with are the other roles insulin plays in our bodies.
Among other things, Insulin is a fat storage hormone. The medical community within the U.S. has known this since the 1960’s. One of insulin’s jobs is to signal fat cells to open up and receive excess calories to be stored. This happens when there is a high amount of insulin circulating. If you are storing fat, you are not burning fat. It is a “law” within the body. Also, the excess calories being stored are non-descript. In other words, they can be from fat, protein or carbs. If they were not needed by the body, then they will be stored as fat but only if insulin levels are high! Get the picture?
While it may seem obvious, now that we know that high insulin levels drive our cells to store excess calories, I should also call out that low insulin levels allow our cells to release fat to be used as energy (fat burning). I think most people will agree that consuming high glycemic index carbohydrates causes spikes in insulin. Because we now know that insulin makes us store fat, well, it goes to reason (although there is plenty of direct evidence too) that consuming high glycemic carbohydrates makes us store fat.
The bottom line is, we get fat because we eat too many carbs.
Dr. Jason Fung and Megan Ramos of the Intensive Dietary Management program explain it best in their pilot episode of The Obesity Code podcast.
The death of low fat diets!
Another driving myth of the last half century has been that because dietary fat causes obesity, we should limit our consumption of it. Didn’t we just show, above, that excess calories stored come from all macronutrient types and that the trigger for fat storage is, in fact, the hormone insulin?
Without getting too deep into the politics of it, I will say that the direction we were given to limit fat consumption was based on, at best, VERY BAD science and at worst, was financially motivated.
Let’s simply talk about why low fat diets fail.
- They typically go hand in hand with reducing calories. In a calorie restricted state, our bodies, primarily fueled by sugar, will think it is starving. This results in lowering base metabolic rate. So while few calories are eaten, fewer are needed. The net result is not that great.
- The body won’t let go of excess fat if it thinks it is starving.
- Low fat diets typically go hand in hand with high carb intake. Didn’t we just prove that is bad?
- They produce results slowly but are hard to stick with because you are always hungry.
- Low fat diets starve the brain of much needed fatty acids resulting in brain fog and poor memory, to say the least.
- We NEED fat and it is important to understand that eating dietary fat DOES NOT translate to fat on our bodies (see the above section on insulin)
If low fat diets worked why are we fatter than ever? People are tired of being given bad advice from healthcare professionals! Time to take matters in our own hands!
Enter the science-based ketogenic diet
What is a ketogenic diet anyway? In short, it is a diet that is high in fat, low in carbs and moderate in protein. The exact ratio of each is dependent on the individual but suffice it to say that the ‘right’ ratio will cause a shift in your metabolism to burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. A typical starting ratio might look something like 70% fat, 20% protein & 10% carbohydrate. Again, the right distribution will vary from person to person. I do well at this particular macro ratio.
For more self-help information on adopting a ketogenic diet, read my article, A Guide to Ketogenic Diet Basics.
Ketogenic diet advantages are plenty, including:
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved thyroid function
- Lower blood sugar
- Improves symptoms of anxiety, depression & ADHD
- Effectively treats adrenal fatigue
- Greatly improves mental clarity
- Balances hormones
- Can improve fertility
- Treats Candida
- Lowers cholesterol
- Improves blood pressure
- And, and, and...
One advantage that we have, today, over the Akins days is lots and lots of evidence. It’s really starting to stack up! There are just a few references, below, for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
There is a real shift happening in how people eat and it is not simply a fad. People are tired of being sick. Tired of taking medications with all of their side effects. People just want to be healthy and happy. Why wait? Well, you don’t have to anymore.
Even if you don’t completely subscribe to this line of thinking (yet:-), I think we can all agree that processed food and added sugar is the devil and real food is where it is at! Let’s face it, this is how we evolved to eat. There were no fast food restaurants or cheetos available 10,000 or even 200 years ago. What does that say about how we should be eating?
If you want to become a healthier, happier YOU and need help making the shift to a ketogenic lifestyle, I can only recommend the best program out there. It’s call Fat Fueled and it’s getting a ton of hype for good reason. It is unbelievably comprehensive. What I like most about it is that it doesn’t just focus on weight loss. It covers the gamut in how to leverage eating a low carb, high fat diet to achieve ALL the benefits. What’s your health worth?
I hope you’ve found value in this content! I am happy to hear your article suggestions. Just drop me a line!
Take care and, as always, stay healthy!
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*Remember to check with a healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, including the introduction of supplements.
**These claims have not be evaluated by the Food and Drug Association.