Ever wonder why no matter what you do you can’t seem to lose the weight? You ‘burn’ more calories than you take in, choose the low-fat products over the full fat ones, eat lean meats, avoid butter and wear yourself out exercising to burn fat. This is such a common experience for most of us women. We could be trying to lose that last 15 pounds or we could be trying to lose 100 pounds. Either way at some point our weight loss hits a plateau and we are stuck, no matter how hard we work that scale does not move.
I grew up, as I’m sure most of you did, at the peak of the ‘low-fat’ movement where skim milk, imitation butter spread and sprays, low fat yogurt and cheeses, lean meats and other low fat products were viewed as the ‘healthy option’. Even candy companies used this as a marketing tool to trick us into thinking their candy was a healthier choice. I remember as a teenager feeling justified every time I opened a package of Swedish Fish because it was a ‘fat free food’. So why despite the fact that we consumed so little fat could we not seem to keep it off our bodies?
We are missing the prime macro nutrient most efficient at weight loss–FAT. I’m not talking about the highly processed trans fats that we find in pizzas, packaged cookies biscuits, chips, crisps, fast foods, crackers, ready meals, jarred sauces, or most processed foods. I’m talking about healthy fats that come from natural sources–nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, eggs, olives, coconut oil and other animal products that come from pastured raised and fed animals (full fat dairy, butter, animal fats like tallow, lard and duck fat, meats, etc). It’s this fat that will help us finally achieve significant and sustainable weight loss.
I stumbled onto this secret accidentally after years of pregnancies consistently piling on 20 pounds here and 20 pounds there until I weighed about 60 pounds or so more than my pre-baby self. My youngest had some food intolerances that meant I had to avoid dairy, soy and sugar. This took basically all processed foods off the table because of the sugar they contain and when I was visiting the states every processed food (even the health foods) have soy in them.
As I started this diet I really struggled to deal with my sugar cravings and hunger. I began eating more meats, getting into bone broths and using the fat rendered from the bones and marrow to cook with, ate tons of guacamole, nuts, fish and tons of coconut and nut butters. My fat intake increased significantly and without any major effort the fat began to fall off of me. I ended up losing over 60 pounds in about 6 months bringing me down to 120 pounds (my lightest weight ever). Now I do have to attribute this also to removing sugar from my diet, but I am a sugar addict who has failed many times at avoiding sugar. It was the high fat diet that allowed me to stay off the sugar and keep the cravings at bay.
Here are a few reasons why FAT is such an essential key to losing weight and keeping it off:
Healthy fats help regulate our blood sugar levels. When we include a diet high in good fats our blood sugar remains steady for longer periods of time which help to decrease sugar cravings and low energy levels. It is these sugar cravings and low energy levels that often lead us to overeat sugary or other unhealthy foods that contribute to weight gain.
Healthy fat is the most satiating of all macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates). When we eat this kind of fat our body stays fuller for longer which helps us avoid excessive snacking or binge eating in the evenings. I have found since increasing my fat intake that I am just not that hungry throughout the day. Its much easier to eat healthy when you aren’t constantly hungry and fighting cravings all day long. You plan healthy meals and snacks and its so much easier to stick to them. If you are able to stick to your healthy eating plan long-term you will see weight loss that actually stays off.
Eating healthy fat stabilizes your brain function and normalizes your moods. Omega-3 fatty acids can boost serotonin levels in the brain which can contribute to a better mood and higher motivation to stick to your healthy plan. Also if our moods are normalized and our brain is functioning at full capacity, we can better deal with the emotional struggles of everyday life that often lead us to emotionally eat in the first place. Emotional eating is a huge contributing factor to weight gain. I mean who hasn’t found themselves with a tub of ice cream after a big fight or breakup. Omega-3 fat deficiencies have been found to make you more prone to anxiety and depression and increasing your intake of these healthy fats (especially found in fatty fish like sardines, salmon and mackerel) can help decrease many of the symptoms.
Foods higher in fat taste better. Scientists have discovered that just like our taste buds have receptors for sweet, salty, bitter and sour; it also has some for fat. When we eat fatty foods, we enjoy it and get more satisfaction from eating it because it tastes so good. It is a flavour that our body craves. If we don’t feed it good healthy fat to satisfy that need, our body in form of cravings continues to tell us to eat it until we do. Usually when ruled by cravings we go for convenience foods and these will be the unhealthy processed fats found in store-bought baked goodies, fast foods, etc. These are the fats that will cause significant weight gain, but if we can avoid having those cravings and weight gain by feeding our body the good stuff in the first place.
High fat foods are low in sugar. Sugar is one of the main culprits for weight gain. The problem with all those low-fat foods we were advised for so long to eat is that they were more often than not high in sugar. Food without fat is tasteless and not very appetizing, food companies knew this but still wanted to capitalize on the low fat movement so they began loading their ‘health’ foods with sugar instead. Take a look at the sugar level on the back of a non fat or low-fat yogurt. There is so much sugar. Also, during the low-fat movement we were advised to eat less fat and more grains. They needed to fill us up somehow. The problem with eating too many grains is that the energy from carbs are used up quickly (even whole grains) when compared to fat. Not only does this leaves us hungry again shortly and craving more food, but carbohydrates turn to sugar in our system which are then stored as fat if they aren’t used up by the body. Nina Gedgaudas said in her book Primal Fat Burner that “to maintain a fat burning metabolism, you need to greatly minimize starches and sugars, every day.”
Finally, our bodies need fat to burn fat. One gram of fat contains twice as much energy as protein or carbohydrates. Without enough fat in our bodies, we don’t have enough energy to burn the fat that we already have. In order to burn the old fat that we store on our hips, waists, legs, etc; we need to introduce new healthy fat into our bodies as fuel. These healthy dietary fats help activate fat burning pathways within the liver and boosts our metabolic health. Gedgaudas also said that “if our body could choose its fuel, it would choose fat.”
Here are a few easy ways to incorporate healthy fats into your diet:
- use butter, coconut/olive oil or animal fats to saute veggies
- eat salmon, sardines or mackerel a few times a week
- substitute canned salmon for canned tuna as it contain much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids
- enjoy avocados topped on your salad, tossed in an egg scramble or as guacamole
- eat a handful of nuts, seeds or olives for a snack if you are hungry
- add a spoonful of coconut oil into your morning smoothies
- opt for the fatty cuts of meat rather than the lean (this saves money as well)
- eat full fat milk, yogurt and cheeses rather than the low-fat options
- eat a few eggs for breakfast or a hardboiled egg as a snack
I hope this post gave you some motivation to incorporate more healthy fats into your diet. Not only are they really important in weight loss, but they are so essential to our overall health and wellness.