Why should I choose a low carb high fat (LCHF) Banting style diet?
Why not a low calorie diet or a low fat diet or just a primal/paleo diet? Obviously it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat less calories than you burn, right?
1. The first problem with this advice is that it ignores one major thing: HUNGER
Most people don’t like to eat less and be hungry for weeks on end while trying to lose weight, which is what a typical low calorie, high carb, low fat diet will do to you. Sooner or later the average person following one of these diets will simply just give in and over-eat because of hunger, and the weight will return, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”. A low calorie diet is simply unsustainable. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and dietetics, Eating the LCHF way ensures that you are never hungry no matter how little or how much you choose to eat and that’s one of the reasons we love eating this way.
After a few days on a LCHF diet, your hunger will vanish and you’ll feel energized. How does this happen? Eating LCHF turns your body into an efficient fat burning machine rather than a sugar burning, fat storing machine. When eating LCHF, your body’s primary source of fuel becomes its own own body fat and dietary fat (instead of glucose which is your fuel on a low fat high carb diet) and so you automatically avoid the blood sugar dips which trigger intense hunger which, in turn, prompt you to over-eat and store more body fat.
In addition to the intense hunger they cause, starchy and sugary foods are just plain addictive and therefore, many people find it hard to moderate their intake of these foods. Our ‘addiction’ to sweet and starchy foods is in large part a survival mechanism. Humans (and many animals) are wired to crave and seek out sugar and starches and eat them wherever possible so that they can store body fat. That’s right – they eat them to GET FAT! You see, back in the paleolithic cave days, when sweet fruit was only available once a year, honey was a rare find and there were no endless loaves of bread, pasta, candy, cookies or even potatoes year round, eating sweets and starches was a positive thing. When early humans found a tree bearing fruit or a bee hive containing honey, they gorged themselves on these things (in the same way a bear will gorge on fruit before it hibernates) in order to store body fat as insurance against possible future times of famine and the long cold winters ahead. Those early humans whose bodies were better at storing body fat when they ate sweets and starches, put on body fat more easily and were thus better able to survive in times of famine than their friends with leaner genes whose bodies didn’t store fat so well.
These days, our supermarket shelves are packed with food high in sugar and starches – and, in most sections of the western world, fortunately, there is no famine. What we have now is humans with ideal genes for fat storage, ie those humans who survived in times of famine and went on to breed and propagate their genes (ie modern humans). Manufacturers of junk food, know very well this human craving for sugar and pack it into as many foods as possible. How do we stand a chance? The human body was simply not designed to consume endless amounts of sugar and starch and store endless amounts of body fat in the absence of famine. Hence the epidemics of overweight, diabetes and heart disease we see today.
Btw – It’s well known that if you want to fatten up a cow or pig for market, you feed them grain, right? Well, it’s the same with humans – especially humans in midlife. Most people will easily lose five pounds in a month simply by eliminating products made from grains, especially wheat!
There are now numerous studies examining the addictive / dependence-producing properties of sugar and wheat in humans – especially modern wheat and forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). To get a little scientifically technical, sugar dampens the suppression of the body hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger to the brain. It also interferes with the normal transport and signalling of the hormone leptin, which helps to produce the feeling of satiety. And it reduces dopamine signalling in the brain’s reward centre, thereby decreasing the pleasure derived from food and compelling the individual to consume more, and more.
Over time, over consuming starchy and sugary foods can lead to a condition known as insulin resistance, which means that your body cells don’t function as well and become resistant to insulin which is the hormone that transports glucose into your body cells for energy. Starved of glucose, your body cells cry out for more and more food…you crave more sugar and the weight gain cycle continues. Here you can read more about insulin resistance and its causes. As we age we become more insulin resistant. That is why a LCHF diet is the most effective way to keep our weight down.
As experienced low-carbers will tell you, eating a LCHF diet stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you happy and sated for longer periods with fewer cravings or desire to eat refined carbs. Sometimes we find that lunch time flies by and we’ve forgotten to eat because we’re just not hungry. AND, when we do start to feel hungry we don’t experience that shaky, out of control, ravenous feeling that prompts one to over-eat unhealthy refined carbs Our cravings for refined carbs are completely gone! That’s the beauty of eating LCHF for weight loss and weight maintenance – you are no longer ruled by your cravings.
In addition, most people find that they simply can eat more calories on a LCHF weight loss diet than on a diet high in carbs and low in fat. That’s a big reason to rejoice! Many recent studies show that people on a low carb diet burn up to 300 more calories a day – while resting! Why would anyone choose a low fat, high carb, low calorie diet where they’re hungry all the time in order to lose weight when they could choose a LCHF diet, eat more and never be hungry?!
Unfortunately, the scientific data has been generally ignored, perhaps because they challenge the entrenched cultural attitudes of “you just have to have more willpower” and “you have to eat less”. The popular emphasis on calorie balance in our society reinforces the belief that we have conscious control over our weight, and that obesity represents a personal failure because of ignorance or inadequate willpower. To add to this, the food industry, which makes enormous profits from highly processed products derived from corn, wheat and rice that contain HFCS invokes calorie balance as its first line of defense. If all calories are the same, then there are no bad foods, and sugary beverages, junk foods and the like are fine in moderation. It’s simply a question of portion control. We now know that it’s not! The types of food you eat matters – alot. Don’t let the food industry, and the government organizations funded by the food industry, deceive you. Take back your health!
2. The second reason why the above advice doesn’t work is that THE WEIGHT LOSS RULES CHANGE IN MIDLIFE.
This is a biggie. As if our human tendency to consume sugar where ever we find it making us hungrier and fatter isn’t bad enough, as we approach midlife, for many reasons, we become increasingly insulin resistant which, as we’ve learnt in 1. above, means that our cells become insensitive or ‘resistant’ to the effects of insulin. Since one of the “jobs” of insulin is to “open the gates” of our cells so that they can take in glucose for energy (so that it can be used as fuel or converted to fat for storage) and remove glucose from the blood, in midlife our blood glucose levels tend to stay higher than is healthy, UNLESS the body releases more insulin to store away the glucose, creating a condition called hyperinsulinemia (“too much insulin in the blood”). Hyperinsulinemia means that our bodies produce more and more insulin in an attempt to convert a meal containing carbs into glucose fuel for our body cells to use. Those increased levels of insulin are not a good thing when you’re trying to lose weight and stay slim, as insulin 1) sends signals to the body to make it store more fat and 2) makes it more difficult for the body to break down its own fat deposits for energy (large amounts of insulin actually inhibit an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) which is activated when the body needs to mobilize its energy stores). Insulin keeps fat tightly locked up in your fat cells! Insulin resistance essentially means increased difficulty losing weight and increased fat storage.
This is the reason why low calorie/high carb diets stop working in midlife. The body can no longer deal with us eating the large amounts of sugary and starchy foods. In a desperate effort to remove dangerously high levels of glucose from your blood stream the body over-produces insulin which whips away that glucose and stores it out of harms way – as body fat! You can see why simply cutting back on calories and exercising more like you used to do in your 20’s and 30’s in order to lose weight just won’t work as well anymore.
In midlife, for many reasons including hormonal, sleep problems, stress, and due to other biological changes, our bodies get better at storing body fat and become resistant to giving up their fat reserves. Even worse, many studies show that this process of getting fatter, and storing more and more body fat, particularly in the abdominal region, in itself makes our bodies become even more insulin resistant ……which in turn makes it even easier for us to store fat! Unfair , I know.
We have found that midlife insulin resistance, and insulin resistance in general, responds best to a low carb high fat (LCHF) eating style. It stops the weight gain cycle and allows your body to return to a healthier weight. Foods that trigger insulin and are to be avoided are those that are high in carbs such as starches, grains (remember how cattle are fed grains to fatten them up?) and all forms of sugar, especially high fructose corn sugar (HFCS) aswell as sugar found in fruit and fruit juices (fructose). What’s wrong with fruit you say? Ah, another myth that eating lots of fruit will help you lose weight is now finally being dispelled. You see, fructose, the sugar found in fruit, unlike other forms of sugar like glucose, is stored directly in your liver and is converted more easily into fat. Not a great thing when added to midlife insulin resistance. Read more about weight gain and HFCS in this article based on a study conducted at Princeton University.
For many complex hormonal reasons, for women in particular, menopause and peri-menopause, the 5-10 year period preceding menopause, results in even more insulin resistance, and weight gain. Recent research indicates that it is the decreasing levels of estrogen and progesterone in our bodies which lead to insulin resistance, impaired carbohydrate tolerance and weight gain at this time of life. It’s difficult to ignore your pants getting tighter even if you’re not weighing yourself regularly. Our body starts working against us by storing more fat. You see, fat cells can produce the estrogen we are lacking. Our bodies cling to our body fat in an attempt to provide us with the estrogen we are sorely missing. That’s why its important for women to see a gynecologist or doctor that specializes in bio-identical hormone therapy to get their hormones in balance. What many women in midlife are less aware of (unless they’re testing with a glucometer) are the elevated blood sugar levels after eating. If you want to win the weight war, sign up for my free 8 day “Quick Start to Weight Loss” guide and receive my free tips.
While the aging process is inevitable, and to some extent dependent on your genes, there are ways to make the transition easier in terms of weight management, loss of muscle mass, and blood sugar control. Our advice is to cut back on carbs to a level that allows you to achieve a healthy weight and optimal blood sugar control. A few people in midlife may be able to continue the same moderate-high carb diet they’ve always eaten without any issues, however, after looking into the research and hearing many anecdotal accounts from my clients, we know that most would benefit from revising what they’re eating. It saddens us to hear about people in their mid-40s to mid-50s eating low-fat, low calorie diets, performing lost of cardio and continuing to struggle with food cravings and weight when so many would benefit from the hunger-reducing, hormone-altering, blood-sugar-stabilizing effects of a LCHF diet.
Another problem for women approaching menopause is hot flashes, along with sensitivity to temperature changes. Neurosurgeon Dr. Larry Mc Cleary writes in his excellent book, The Brain Trust Program, that the decline in estrogen during this period reduces the action of glucose transporters that deliver glucose to the brain, resulting in release of norepinephrine from the adrenal glands in an attempt to increase blood sugar and provide the brain with energy. He states this process is similar to what children with epilepsy and other seizure disorders experience, although on a much smaller scale. Dr. Mc Cleary recommends a low carb diet in order to provide the brain with ketones as an alternative source of fuel, thereby eliminating or greatly reducing hot flashes.
3. The third key reason to eat LCHF is to enjoy the numerous health benefits.
It is now acknowledged that large amounts of sugar and starches in the diet raise triglyceride, cholesterol levels and blood pressure and result in lower HDL levels, even in individuals who don’t gain weight. It is estimated that 30 percent of the US population is now insulin resistant. Apart from making it difficult to lose weight, insulin resistance is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes and one of a cluster of symptoms known as metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance is also a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
We grew up being told that it was dietary fat that made you fat and raised your cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Thankfully, apart from still being upheld by a few traditional associations such as pharmaceutical companies in the business of selling drugs to make money by treating rather than preventing or curing disease, the sugar and grain industries (who make money from our weakness for sweet and starchy foods) and certain old-school physicians, the notion that fat is bad for you has now officially been laid to rest. Amen! Infact, scientific evidence shows that eating a LCHF diet will raise your good HDL cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure, decrease the percentage of small, dense LDL particles, and decrease bodily inflammation. People who eat a LCHF diet get sick less often, have more energy, fewer mood swings, better mental concentration and memory, fewer food allergies, less heart burn, better dental health, better GI health, less gout and fewer joint problems. A LCHF diet is also highly recommended by physicians and dietitians in the management of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a very common form of hormone disorder in women (between 5 and 10% of women in the US have this condition, and many do not know it) which results in weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Here is a good summary of 23 scientific studies which dispel the ‘fat is bad for you’ myth.
Its interesting to note that throughout most of our history sugar and starches have been rightfully identified as the culprits behind weight gain. It was only in the 1970s until quite recently, infact a very short period of time in our history (about 20-30 years, that the finger was pointed at fat as being the cause of weight gain and disease. Most of us grew up during this period of anti-fat indoctrination and we struggle to accept the scientific evidence about fat being good for us. Not convinced? Click hereto watch this entertaining video based on the recent cover story in TIME magazine in favor of fat consumption. Sweden has recently released a official statement to its people rejecting the low fat dogma and announcing that the low carb high fat diet is the healthiest way for their citizens to eat and to lose weight. When eating LCHF primal the only kind of fats you need to avoid are man-made trans fats and processed, high omega-6, inflammatory, vegetable oils such as margarine, man-made oils (hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated oils), corn oil, soybean oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil. See here for an excellent primer on fat. View a full list of good and bad fats here.
If you need further convincing about eating LCHF, consider that in addition to being high in carbs, food such as bread, grains, and even so called “healthy” starchy beans and legumes contain phytates and lectins that block the absorption of necessary macro and micro-nutrients and increase bodily inflammation. Who wants to miss out on nutrients? – especially when you’re lowering your food intake to lose weight. As any good nutrition text will inform you, there are much better sources for the nutrients found in grains such as meats, fish and veges. Do we hear you say “Well how will I get my fiber? Trust us, vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, salad greens and avocado will provide you with all the fiber you need. If constipation is a problem for you, we’ve found that magnesium supplements are heart healthy and will help keep you regular too.
4. Isn’t eating LCHF enough? Why is a primal/paleo, unprocessed diet necessary?
Simple. LCHF goes hand in hand with a primal diet. Eating primal or paleo (the two diets are quite similar) nutritionally up-grades your diet, by automatically eliminating processed, empty calorie, high starch, foods that cause inflammation like grains, sugar, processed vegetable oils high in omega-6 such as soybean, sunflower, grape seed, corn, and peanut oils aswell as trans-fats. Choosing high quality, nutrient dense, non-processed, natural, foods such as organic, grass-fed, pastured and wild meats high in CLA and low in omega-6 oils, fish, coconut products, and and cooking with pastured butter and coconut oil allows your body to thrive and perform optimally and safeguards your future. I certainly do not want to incur Alzheimer’s Disease, which btw is no being called Type-3 Diabetes. Notice the connection? You can read more information about the primal diet. Its not surprising to find that by switching to a primal/paleo diet many people automatically lose weight as a primal/ paleo diet is much lower in carbs than the Standard American Diet (SAD). Be aware though, that going ‘primal’ or ‘paleo’ in itself does not necessarily mean eating a LCHF diet as many primal people regularly eat starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, which while not unhealthy in themselves, are not an optimal choice to eat when you’re trying to lean out and are facing the hormonal upheaval of midlife.
The two approaches (primal and LCHF) in our experience, really go hand in hand. You want to lose weight, maintain your weight loss and be healthy – now and in the future. Eating a primal LCHF is the ideal way to eat to get slim and healthy and to stay slim and healthy when faced with the increased insulin resistance in midlife. Do you want to know how to lose weight by following a LCHF diet? Sign up for our free “quick start LCHF weight loss email course” here.
5. In summary, adopting a paleo, LCHF diet will:
- increase weight loss
- decrease cravings for refined carbs
- allow you to eat a greater amount of food and calories
- avert hunger pangs
- prevent binge eating
- improve and reverse leptin resistance
- lower blood pressure
- prevent insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and gout
- improve and reverse weight gain and other symptoms associated with Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- raise good HDL levels
- lower triglycerides
- lower high density LDL particles
- prevent fatty liver disease
- decrease brain fog, and improve concentration and memory
- eliminate blood sugar swings and mood swings and enable optimal blood sugar control
- prevent muscle loss
- improve dental health
- reduce bodily inflammation
- prevent heartburn and other GI problems
- may prevent and improve neurological diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s
Do you want to know how to lose weight by following a LCHF diet? Want to safeguard your future health? Sign up for our FREE 8 day email weight loss course and join the conversation on our LCHF Nation FaceBook page.