One of the big problems a lot of people have when they first wean themselves off of processed and high-caloric foods and transition to foods that are low calorie but nutritionally dense is understanding exactly how much food you have to be eating. It certainly was a shocker for me. But let’s not kid ourselves – it’s a lot of food. Removing those calorie dense foods from our diet leaves us at a calorie deficit that we have to rectify. And the easiest way to do that is to bring on the fats.
Healthy fats can remove bulk of the caloric deficit from your shoulders. Described by the USDA as “empty calories”, they supply much needed blocks of energy the body can use to power itself. A lot of people and conventional wisdom (CW) will tell you “The body doesn’t run on fat, it runs on glucose!” While true the body converts fat into glucose in order to power itself when at a caloric deficit, it is important to note that the body doesn’t store energy as glucose, but rather as fat. What is more telling is how tightly regulated glucose in the blood and body are regulated in a healthy human. 5g in the bloodstream of a healthy adult male @ 165# (75kg) and 45g throughout the body total. This means the amount of glucose in the body is 15,000 times smaller than the mass of the body. By comparison, a lean man of the same weight with 10% body fat would have 7500g of body fat, and can fluctuate quite a ways while remaining in a healthy range (in men that range would be about 6%-13% or 4500g – 10500g of fat).
So we have to eat more, and we have to eat ‘good’ fats. What are good fats, and how does one qualify ‘good’ versus ‘bad’? Well, that’s a complicated topic that has been looked at all over the paleosphere, so I don’t want to get into it here. Sufficed to say that when I am talking about good fats, I am talking about saturated fats such as ghee (or butter) from grass fed cows, fats rendered from pasture raised animals (tallow or lard), and coconut oil. To those oils, we will add olive oil, avocados, and some nuts (in particular the macadamia). We will NOT be including any seed or plant oils (other than the olive/avocado). This means soybean, rapeseed, grapeseed, etc) are not considered good fats, as there are several studies out that indicate these oils break down in the body and are more readily pressed into the adipose (fat) tissues of the body during the blood sugar regulation process.
Okay – so we eat more and include fats. How is that so difficult? Well for starters, we’ve been led to believe that fat is the enemy and thateating too much is just as bad as eating fatty stuff. So it’s a mental paradigm shift that every one of us has to overcome in order to truly embrace this new way of eating. This was a particular challenge for me, and I’ve heard lots of other people state their complaints and concerns about “always being hungry”. Here it is, plain, simple, and straightforward: If you are constantly hungry, you are not eating enough. But, you rationalize to yourself, I’m trying to lose weight. How can I possibly do that by eating more food than I was before? I must be eating too much and just need to cut down to something less high, and that’s how I lose weight. Nice try, but wrong. When you don’t eat enough food, your body goes into conservation mode, where it assumes you’re starving. So when you cut your calories and kick up your exercise, you’re really doing your body a massive disservice by making the caloric deficit so large that it thinks you’re starving (because in reality, you are, though it’s self induced). So the body starts conserving fat and shedding muscle. And everything’s great because you’re losing weight, but the severe caloric restriction is not sustainable and you soon peter out and now have less active furnaces (muscles) burning the calories you take in and you begin to… gain fat, which was the exact opposite of what you wanted to do in the first place.
My recommendation is to just go for it. Eat like Robb Wolf, or Dallas and Mellissa Hartwig @ whole9life – (they even have a 30 day challenge!), or Mark Sisson, or Chris Kresser, or Kurt Harris recommends. Give it a month. If it doesn’t work, you’re only out a month and you got to eat some delicious food. A month without bread won’t kill you. But another month with it might.