I believed for years that there was some standard template that everyone was supposed to follow. After a while, I discovered the different body types, but still, I thought there was some restrictive percentage that everyone was supposed to follow. Then I discovered keto, and it flipped everything I knew in its head. Here is a diet that pushes sometimes upwards of 90% fat. It went against everything I had learned in health class. At first, I dismissed it as just another fad diet, a bit like Atkins when it came out, but after trying it, and continuing to live it, I realized it is so much more. Which begs the question with such a high dietary requirement of fat on the keto diet, what really makes you fat, and is fat really bad for you?
Disclosure: This content uses referral links. I will only recommend products I currently use and trust. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Dispelling the Fat Myths
A review of all the research on saturated fat published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found there was no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. And a recent editorial in the British Journal of Medicinehammers home the same point and shatters the myth that fat causes obesity and heart disease.
When people eat less fat, they tend to eat more starch or sugar instead, and this actually increases their levels of dangerous cholesterol, the small, dense cholesterol that causes heart attacks. In fact, studies show that 75% of people who end up in the emergency room with a heart attack have normal overall cholesterol levels.
But how did we get here? This way of thinking has been ingrained in us for years and is still quite prevalent in the dieting industry. Want to cut weight, eat less fat, sure to lose weight that way. The problem with this way of thinking is that when people cut fat they may actually lose weight and point to its evidence, but just the fact they are now consuming less never enters into the equation. The other thing that never enters into it is that when the diet fails, as it usually does, the rebound is so much worse.
What is Fat and Why You Should Consume It
First of all, fat is an essential nutrient. An “essential nutrient” is something necessary to life, and even the USDA admits that some amount of saturated fat is necessary to live. Saturated fat helps to form cell membranes all over your body, it’s necessary for good immune function, it’s a basic building block for hormones, and it provides energy (calories are a nutrient, too – they’re necessary to live just like magnesium or Vitamin C!). So claiming that solid fats contain “few essential nutrients” is silly.
Previously I wrote an article that I covered the idea of healthy fats here:
It is important to understand that when I discuss fat there is a huge difference between whole food and fast food. Not just in the calorie count but in the nutritional count. Definitely, check out the article to get a better idea of which fats are healthy for you.
Fats, known as triglycerides and fatty acids, are one of the three macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, proteins). Fat is vital for body processes such as digestion, transport, conversion, and energy extraction. It’s our body’s primary source for stored energy, and by weight, it contains three times the amount of energy provided by glucose which must be provided to the brain in a continuous supply throughout the day. We can’t survive without fat.
Saturated fat has been demonized mainly because most sources are also high in cholesterol. Cholesterol is one of the most important constituents of life. Your body produces it and can regulate its levels whether it’s synthesizing its own cholesterol or cholesterol from dietary sources. Every cell needs it, the brain contains large amounts and cholesterol is the precursor to many of the most important hormones. In fact, a high saturated fat intake has been shown to reduce what we call the bad cholesterol, small particle LDL, and raise what’s called the good cholesterol, HDL.
What Really Makes You Fat
If I could point to two things above all things that make you fat it is misinformation and sugar.
Misinformation has spread like a disease through the health industry, and by the time it has leaked down into the general population people don’t know what is good and what isn’t. You can always read blogs like this one, but being honest how do you know where my information comes from. Big food companies have for years spent millions and millions of dollars on marketing, all to get you to buy their food. Their budget and their reach are massive. That is why we continue to buy fruit juices thinking that they are healthy. Ever sit down and eat 10 oranges at once? Then why do you drink orange juice? The problem is food companies are very good at what they do. They fund documentaries, they fund studies and slant results. They are on the radio, the tv, even in podcasts. Their business relies on your business.
The main source of nutritional failure these days is sugar. Let me repeat that, diets fail because of sugar. It is the nutritional demon of most diets.
10 Reasons Sugar is bad for you (1)
- Added Sugar Contains No Essential Nutrients and is Bad For Your Teeth: Sugar contains a lot of calories, with no essential nutrients. It also causes tooth decay by feeding the harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- Added Sugar is High in Fructose, Which Can Overload Your Liver: For people who are inactive and eat a Western diet, large amounts of fructose from added sugars get turned into fat in the liver.
- Overloading The Liver With Fructose Can Cause Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: Excess fructose gets turned into fat, which can lodge in the liver and cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Sugar Can Cause Insulin Resistance, a Stepping Stone Towards Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes: When people eat a lot of sugar, it can cause resistance to the hormone insulin, which can contribute to many diseases.
- The Insulin Resistance Can Progress to Type II Diabetes: Because of the harmful effects of sugar on the function of insulin, it is a leading driver of type II diabetes.
- Sugar Can Give You Cancer: There is considerable evidence that sugar, due to its harmful effects on metabolism, can contribute to cancer
- Due to its Effects on Hormones and the Brain, Sugar has Unique Fat-Promoting Effects: Fructose doesn’t cause satiety in the brain or lower the hunger hormone ghrelin nearly as much as glucose.
- Because it Causes Massive Dopamine Release in The Brain, Sugar is Highly Addictive: Because sugar causes a large release of dopamine in the brain, it can cause addiction in a lot of people.
- Sugar is a Leading Contributor to Obesity in Both Children and Adults: Because of the effects of sugar on hormones and the brain, sugar dramatically increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese.
- It Ain’t The Fat… It’s Sugar That Raises Your Cholesterol and Gives You Heart Disease
The Reason Most Diets Fail
Our bodies have a very sophisticated calorie counting mechanism built right into it. Yet many of us, even the healthiest among us, try to outsmart this mechanism with calorie counting websites, diet apps, or food logs. We weren’t designed to need calorie counters to regulate our food intake; we have our own! This very sophisticated system occurs naturally within our bodies all on its own.
Don’t get me wrong there is a place for tracking your intake, but it is meant to be a tool, not a replacement for healthy whole food choices.
The biggest reason most diets fail is that so many were designed from the start based around one simple tracking mechanism, the calorie. This simple idea is plastered everywhere. Go to a McDonalds and you can actually see the calorie count of a Big Mac. Same with every other fast food restaurant. And like so many other labels on products this is actually meant to help you. Yet amazingly this idea hinders you if you don’t know how to use it properly.
Each of us has a set baseline of the required amount of energy(calories) per day. This number varies from person to person based on a bunch of different factors, being age, sex, weight, and many others. This baseline is known as our BMR(Basal Metabolic Rate).
The other big reason I see all the time with diets failing is not consuming enough. Our bodies are a sophisticated system of hormones constantly regulating to create balance. Eat too little and you get hungry, eat too much and you become full. We understand the feelings, but perhaps not the underlying hormones that govern them. Previously we talked about the BMR and how it relates to the baseline of what you should be consuming. What I find time and time again is people on diets drop far below this baseline on their diet, then binge on cardio in the gym, and can’t seem to understand why the weight doesn’t come off.
Starvation while a useful tool(there is that word again) in the battle for obesity is essentially what happens when you drop below your BMR. If you eat less than that amount (which is what most diets mandate), your body instantly perceives danger and turns on the alarm system that protects you from starvation, slowing your metabolism. As a consequence, your body goes into starvation mode and triggers the signal to eat. So you start eating and eating, and inevitably, you stop the diet — it’s the classic rebound weight gain scenario.
The diet usually fails, and when it does, the weight that is regained is fat. If you have been through a number of diets that have failed, your body has been through this process a number of times. In short, dieting can make you fat.
You want to get away from the diet mentality. What you are undertaking is a way of eating, not a diet.
The reason diets backfire almost all the time is because people restrict too much. List almost any diet out and the first question that gets asked is what can’t you eat. Even the best diets that I have tried over the years start with the premise of what foods you can consume and which you should avoid. Mentally we are doomed right from the start. Unless you are incredibly devoted to a healthy lifestyle and healthy eating you are setting yourself up for failure. I am not saying it is impossible, just very difficult for many among us.
Tell me if this sounds like you. New years is around the corner, you make yourself the new years resolution that this year I am going to start going to the gym, I am going to eat right, and I am going to pay more attention to my health. This is actually a common new years goal. I see it every year as people flood the gym for about the first month. Initially, you start off okay, you get yourself a gym membership, or you renew the one you never used, and you make yourself a plan to go 3 days a week. Committed you also find yourself a couple good meal plans online and you start trying to eat healthily. How long you last usually depends on your commitment to the process. Usually, I tend to see failure within a few weeks. But what happened. You started strong, just like last year, you told yourself that you were going to stick to it. But perhaps at some point on the weekend, you told yourself you had been good so you decided to cheat a little. After all cheat days are great(I personally insert one just for a mental break). But like any person starting back in cheat days can be disastrous because they remind you of the glory and the pure bliss of sugar, unhealthy fat, gut destroying carbohydrates.
I can’t just blame cheat days though. As a tool in your belt, they can actually be beneficial from time to time. I try to avoid them though because I don’t like reminders of what I am cutting. What cheat days are actually telling us, besides our addiction to unhealthy eating, is that we are cutting too much. Diets built around the idea of what you can’t eat are much more difficult to follow because you will constantly find yourself craving those things which you aren’ allowed to have. It is a mental shift that is one of the hardest parts of a diet.