Choose Your Villain

20th Century Weight Loss Myth: Fat makes Fat

This idea was sparked in large part due to the calorie model which stated that we needed to burn more calories than we consumed in order to effectively lose weight.  Because fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories in carb/protein, fat was thought to be the easiest thing to remove from the diet.

This false, yet widespread belief created a “Fat Phobia,” where the health conscious looked to avoid fat at all costs.  Where fat was chosen, it was often the cheap, inferior vegetable oils rather than the rich, nutritious animal and plant fats.

Result:  The low fat diet craze focused on a heavy carbohydrate based diet.  These carbohydrates all broke down into sugar and triggered certain hormonal reactions in our body that turned us into sugar burning, fat storing machines.

In addition, this reduction in healthy fat consumption created severe fatty acid deficiencies, and massive hormonal, cognitive, and mood altering problems (since the brain and hormones are primarily made up of fat).

In response, the pharmaceutical demand for synthetic hormones, hormone replacements, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety medications went through the roof.  In addition, people did not effectively lose weight, in fact, they often got even heavier.

~Dr. David Jockers (<– Hyperlink to more of above.)

There are so many diets out there, which one should I choose? First, we need to define our goals. What is it we want from a change in diet? What do we hope to gain by changing our personal nutrition standards? You can probably come up with just as many questions, maybe more, but as long as we’re thinking along this path, we’re more likely to make more informed choices as to what kinds of foods we consume and when.

I like the above snippet of information because A) it’s very true for many of us, and B) it creates a new problem. Yes, problems can be good. Acknowledging the problem can be better. Aggressively confronting the problem is the best. The problem that I see in this is that we abandon fat as the evil villain in our diets and exchange it for carbohydrates as our new villain. Now that we’ve acknowledged it, we need to confront it.

Carbohydrates, like Facebook postings, aren’t inherently bad. It’s what you do with them, and for how long, that is bad. A popular craze that has replaced the no-fat/low-fat diet is the no-carb/low-carb diet. There are some very qualified scientists who can go into tremendous detail to explain the science behind carbohydrates and what our bodies do with them, but simply put, what we need to know is that carbohydrates are what our bodies use for energy. As soon as we start breaking this out, even in my overly simplistic terms, we can see where no-carb/low-carb diets are going to get us into trouble.

The number one reason people adopt new diets is to lose weight, or to put more bluntly, to lose fat . . . Stop right there. Our bodies do not lose fat, our bodies either burn fat or store fat. Again, very qualified scientists live elsewhere, but what we need to know is that in order to burn fat, we need a fuel source (carbohydrates), but if we do not use that fuel, those carbohydrates go through a complicated process and achieve a simple result– they convert to body fat and are stored.

In my ever-continuing studies, I’ve read elaborate details of how many carbs our muscles need during high levels of physical exertion, and how many can be safely stored by our livers when sedentary, and while the information is dazzling in scholarly reports, it isn’t very useful for everyday use.

Consider the following bullets as a quick & easy reference for how to handle carbohydrate intake:

  • If your day is full of physical activity, or even populated with bursts of intense physical activity, you can afford to eat potatoes, bread, drink sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, whatever), pasta, rice, etc.
  • If you sit around or lay around, or in any way indulge in what is known as a sedentary lifestyle, avoid all of the above as much as possible
  • Sugar is a last resort carbohydrate, which means that if you’re 50 miles into an intense bicycle ride, or run, and didn’t adequately plan your food allowance, you can probably afford to scarf down a candy bar to get you back in the saddle
  • If you are not on such an excursion, avoid sugar in any processed form (sucralose, HFCS, aspartame, etc.)

Now that we’ve cleared the air, let’s move back to fat. I’m talking animal fat, fats that provide much needed protein, lean fats, healthy fats . . . no matter how attractive the logic seems, these animal fats do not convert to human fat, and are not stored in your belly or your rump. Again, and for the last time, there are scientists who study and write about this stuff, and can provide greater detail, if you so desire, but in very simple terms, the fat you eat isn’t necessarily bad, and carbohydrates do serve a purpose, as long as you put them to work and don’t let them move in and take over your house like a bunch of no-good, lazy free-loaders.

Yes, the body needs rest, and lots of it, but sometimes we abuse that tidbit of information and allow ourselves to become sedentary creatures. In fitness and in health, the biggest villain is inactivity. A lot of people are willing to villainize different food groups in order to make a quick buck, but as long as we stay active in understanding what foods our bodies need, and stay physically active throughout the waking day, we don’t have to be victims of trends, schemes or fad diets.

Be fit, live strong. CraseFit.

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