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Diet and Fats

The diet wars don’t show any sign of going away any time soon. There is much conflicting advice around.

I think this has the unfortunate consequence of people not trusting their own taste and judgement and relying on experts. All this seems to be underpinned by the assumption that people are inclined to behave like naughty children who should follow the advice of those who know best. This is very unfortunate – with all the complexity involved in our diet (budget, location, preferences and allergies, and culture to name only a few variables) it is very unlikely that we will ever find someone else’s diet that will suit us perfectly. My answer is to start paying attention to what you do eat and how it affects you (the best way I have found to do this is to keep a food diary).

The following two links are to articles that question the bad attitude to fats that is so prevalent in some dietary advice at the moment.

The first is a link to a transcript of a radio broadcast. The show, the Health Report, is on Australian ABC radio (the equivalent of the British BBC, the Canadian CBC and the US Public Radio). It is about the type of fat we eat rather than a low fat diet. It was broadcast ten years ago but is still very valuable.

The second is to an article from the New York Times about the controversy surrounding the Atkins Diet. It is called What If It Has All Been A Big Fat Lie? The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate rather than low-fat diet. It is also fairly old but still very relevant.

It looks like a diet high in particular kinds of fats (ie. olive oil for instance) can be quite healthy.

Your comments on these articles and your experience with diets and dieting are very welcome.

If you like this post you might also like:
The Health Benefits of Olive Oil
A Healthy Waist
Obesity, Fat and Sugar

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Marie 2009/07/10, 3:43 am

    LOL — About ten years ago, I followed the government recommend low-fat diet to the letter for four weeks — and gained about four pounds (1 pound per week). That was my first clue that something was amiss . . .

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  • Evan 2009/07/10, 9:11 am

    Hi Marie, Like you I haven’t found the low-fat diet to be very good for weight-loss (or food enjoyment either!). Thanks for your comment.

  • Nacie Carson 2009/07/11, 5:09 am

    I’ve been doing Weight Watchers for about 9 months now, although I must confess that the last 4 months I’ve been not paying very close attention to the “points” system. The problem is that it just isn’t something you can sustain forever – I mean, I’m grateful for the 30 ibs I lost on the program but now am trying to forge a healthy relationship with food (fats included!) that keeps me satisfied, keeps me slim, and is natural to me.

    Recently, I’ve started listening to Paul McKenna’s “I can Make You Thin” Hypnotic Download once a day, and I feel like it is really helping to give me that feeling of freedom with food. He uses four “golden rules,” which are really common sense, but I think most of us forget about them due to restrictive diet overload:

    1. When You Are Hungry, Eat

    2. Eat What You Want, Not What You Think You Should

    3. Eat Consciously And Enjoy Every Mouthful

    4. When You Think You Are Full, Stop Eating

    Like I said, these are so simple, but to be honest I think we all are totally brainwashed from all the crazy diets out there and what they tell us our relationship with food should be.

    Anyways, sorry for the long comment, but I’m totally in the middle of working this issue out myself. Great article, Evan!

  • Evan 2009/07/11, 8:22 am

    Hi Nacie, the long comment is most welcome. As long as the person (like you) is adding value then the comment can be as long as needed on my blog.
    Have you heard of Geneen Roth?: she did some books about dieting with roughly this approach (her writing can be a bit over the top, which I find annoying, but I do think she has a great approach to ‘dieting’).

    My partner grew up eating macrobiotic and is now somewhat re-evaluating this. She is grateful that she grew up eating so healthily and so now has a good sense of what health feels like. We have recently read and talked lots about Michael Pollan’s In Defence of Food.

    Finally (to end this also long comment), an invitation. If you would like to slightly expand this comment I’d be happy to publish it as a guest post. (I understand if you don’t have the time). Thanks for your comment.

  • Vin - NaturalBias 2009/07/12, 11:33 pm

    Hi Evan,

    There’s a lot of evidence indicating that saturated fat does not increase cholesterol, does not cause heart disease, and that dietary fat is not the primary problem for obesity.

    We evolved for millions of years on red meat. Granted, grain fed meat is not what we evolved on and we should be eating pasture raised meat instead, but how could it be that a food we evolved on is suddenly so bad for us? I think nature is smarter than that.

    I’m not an advocate of Atkins or any other “low carb” diet, but rather eating the natural whole foods that we evolved on … meat, fish, fruit, and vegetables. This type of natural diet just so happens to be low in carbohydrates. Much lower than what most people are eating.

    There are a lot of flaws and questionable influences in the research that suggests saturated fat is bad. For example, the research by Ancel Keys that started it all was selectively manipulated to leave out data points that contradicted the conclusion that saturated fat causes heart disease.

    Realizing that we do need fat in our diet, many “experts” suggest replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated vegetable oils which are processed, high in omega-6, and easily oxidized. Ironically, these fats are becoming more widely accepted as a major cause of heart disease.

    Omega-6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory and inflammation is a significant factor in heart disease. With the common recommendations to eat polyunsaturated vegetable oils and grains (i.e. USDA Food Pyramid) and all the other processed foods many people eat, many are consuming much more omega-6 than omega-3. We should be getting roughly equivalent amounts and many of us are getting up to 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3.

    For more information, I suggest checking out the Weston A Price Foundation and the following two articles:

    Busting the Cholesterol Myths

    Hey Fat Head, You’ve Been Fed a Load of Bologna

  • Patrick 2009/07/13, 6:58 am

    Every couple of months I do a simple 3 day juice fast.

    You would be amazed at how this transforms your relationship with food.

  • Evan 2009/07/13, 7:19 am

    Thanks Vin, welcome. I too like the approach of eating whole foods. I didn’t know that Keys had manipulated the data, thanks for that. I like the Weston A Price Foundation too. Many thanks for your comment.

  • Evan 2009/07/13, 7:20 am

    Thanks for your comment Patrick. I haven’t really investigated fasting, but perhaps I should.

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