Friday, March 7, 2014

High Fat Diets

If you know my story, then you know I once weighed almost 250 lbs and was sort of spiraling out of control from a health perspective. Right after my daughter was born, I hit rock bottom. When I see really obese people, I always wonder what number it will take on the scale before they take action. For me, it was 250 lbs while shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I bought a treadmill and started "running" in my basement. It was all I could do to run 12 min miles for an hour. Not long after, my brother-in-law mentioned to me the Atkins diet and it sparked a decade long research into healthy diets. Of course I dove head first in to try it. And I lost 20 lbs in the first month. I've heard all the criticisms and I've read all the snide remarks from people only capable of thinking in dogmatic ways. (I mean if the government tells us that a diet high in fat is bad, it must be so, right?) The one thing that always stands out to me is that it flat out works. I know more people that have lost and kept of tremendous amounts of weight -- like 50 - 100 lbs -- than any vegan, Jenny Craig, or other calorie restricted diet. I don't live low-carb year round, but it has been a staple of my nutrition choices for more than 10 years now.

I recently came across a great article in the NY Times titled "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?". That title is extremely appropriate in my opinion. You owe it to yourself to read the article and at least understand the other side. If you still aren't convinced that it is at least possible that there is some truth to this, then fine. But at least give it a shot. There are three points I want to emphasize and then I'll let you read the entire article on your own.

Don't Believe Everything the Government Tells You, They Aren't Perfect

In the intervening years, the N.I.H. spent several hundred million dollars trying to demonstrate a connection between eating fat and getting heart disease and, despite what we might think, it failed. Five major studies revealed no such link. A sixth, however, costing well over $100 million alone, concluded that reducing cholesterol by drug therapy could prevent heart disease. The N.I.H. administrators then made a leap of faith. Basil Rifkind, who oversaw the relevant trials for the N.I.H., described their logic this way: they had failed to demonstrate at great expense that eating less fat had any health benefits. But if a cholesterol-lowering drug could prevent heart attacks, then a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet should do the same.
So the government went ahead and decided to give us a low-fat diet even though they cannot prove it. They made the classic mistake of attributing correlation as causation. What's more, they opened the door to drug companies selling us cholesterol drugs that come with their own side effects. And, worse yet, companies that pay millions of dollars lobbying in Washington are making billions of dollars selling us low cost, low fat alternatives to real food.

The Current Paradigm is Broken, Badly

They (high-fat advocates) say that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades. Our cholesterol levels have been declining, and we have been smoking less, and yet the incidence of heart disease has not declined as would be expected.
Americans, being blasted with advice from their doctors and the government, have been trying to do the right things. We are smoking less and eating less fat, and we aren't any healthier. Exercise isn't helping either.
The 1990's data show obesity rates continuing to climb, while exercise activity remained unchanged. This suggests the two have little in common.
It has been my belief for sometime now that diet, not exercise, is the key to weight management and health. If exercise and low-fat diets aren't making us healthier, shouldn't we try something else? Is three decades of data not enough?

Eating Tons of Fat Won't Give You Heart Disease

Atkins also noted that starches and sugar were harmful in any event because they raised triglyceride levels and that this was a greater risk factor for heart disease than cholesterol....
The results of all five of these studies are remarkably consistent. Subjects on some form of the Atkins diet -- whether overweight adolescents on the diet for 12 weeks as at Schneider, or obese adults averaging 295 pounds on the diet for six months lost twice the weight as the subjects on the low-fat, low-calorie diets. In all five studies, cholesterol levels improved similarly with both diets, but triglyceride levels were considerably lower with the Atkins diet. Though researchers are hesitant to agree with this, it does suggest that heart-disease risk could actually be reduced when fat is added back into the diet and starches and refined carbohydrates are removed.

If you are worried about heart disease, take a risk on a diet that works. Bet on the fact that carrying around less weight is more beneficial to your heart, even if scientists don't agree on the causes of heart disease. Sometimes the most obvious thing is right in front of you. 

1 comment:

  1. Not far off in that I hit 235 when I decided to change - about 185 now. While I never went truly low carb in my diet, I've gone to something more balanced instead of high carb. From what I've been reading, watching, and listening to over the past few years I'm coming strongly to the conclusion that the key for diet is eating real food, not processed crap, and find what works best for your own body. I think the reason the low carb has the highest level of success right now is that we're coming from a high carb. Lifestyle and those who react the worst to high carbs also tend to react great to low carb.

    More personal, it's great to hear another success story. I'm not as far into this journey as you, maintaining the weight loss less than 2 years so far. So, I appreciate when you share the things that have worked for you. Your definitely inspirational to keep pushing further (maybe progressing a little slower to have fewer injuries). Hopefully the marathon time can come down, and lead to ultras in the future.