A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, the modern western world endeavoured to follow a low fat diet.
It wasn’t so bad. They switched to skim milk and bought low fat ice cream. They happily munched away on low fat crackers and found that even some lollies were 99% fat free! Winning!
They ate lots of low fat products. Sauces, dressings, mayonnaise… with little regard for what else they were eating. They felt good about themselves. Healthy eating meant cutting out fat and although it was sad, they switched from butter to margarine, took the bacon out of breakfast and the avocado out of salad. All in the name of weight loss.
Then, in the early 90s, after a 20-year hiatus, the Atkins low carb high fat diet re-emerged. It turned modern weight loss approaches on their heads when it started talking about creamy sauces at dinner and nuts for afternoon tea. We could eat all the fat we wanted, we just couldn’t eat carbohydrates. No bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, even fruit was out. But bacon. We could eat bacon.
Our current popular culture would see dietary recommendations go full circle in the opposite extreme.
Headlines flood our newsfeed warning of the perils of sugar (carbohydrate) and that “fat is back”. We’re told we can eat the whole avocado and now apparently every single low fat food is an evil sorcerer just waiting to screw with our metabolism. We fear skim milk, fruit and potatoes. Rice is out of the equation, unless it’s brown and in a tiny portion and god forbid you ever eat bread. Oh the food shaming that goes on if you eat bread.
To this day, the low carb high fat approach is still one of the most popular dietary methods for weight loss. And now, the low carb proclaimers are making more claims. From treating type 2 diabetes to improving mental health and overall wellbeing it seems the low carb approach is the answer we’ve all been looking for. The solution to the obesity problem.
Did you fall victim to the fat scaremongering of the 80s and 90s?
And now, amongst the low carb mania, are you confused about how you should eat? Which is bad? Fat or Carbohydrate? If you like fat, does that mean you’re not on carbohydrates team? And if you think carbs are ok, does that mean fat is out? It’s like standing at some cross-roads guarded by an ugly troll. YOU MUST CHOOSE!
Oh the stress of it all!
The current debate between the old school recommendation of high carb/low fat and the new thinking of low carb/high fat is one of the hottest topics in nutrition right now. My opinion is that why does one approach have to be wrong and one be right? Isn’t there perhaps a range of eating patterns, between the two extremes that could benefit most people if they took the time to figure that out?
The problem is, everyone’s an expert, even when they probably don’t even understand the concept properly.
The reason I know this is because I’ve had many clients come to me wanting to lose weight.
They said their personal trainer (or random person or Google) told them to cut out carbs. So for every meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, they don’t include a carbohydrate rich food at all. Not one. Then they wonder why they feel so awful. Tired, lethargic, grumpy. Struggling with their exercise. And those times when a packet of tim tams is left unattended in the pantry? The packet is ravaged.
The problem is, the personal trainer (or random person or Google) doesn’t understand biochemistry and nutrition, and because of that, gave poor advice. A low carbohydrate diet, if you’re doing it properly, actually does include carbohydrate. You don’t completely cut it out. You reduce it.
The other problem is. Nutrition is highly individualized.
A low carb diet might be popular and it might work, but is it right for you? Can you follow it consistently enough to get results? You might stick to a low carb pattern for 4-5 days but then binge periodically on high carb, high sugar foods. You will not get results this way and you’ll feel frustrated, guilty and foster a poor relationship with food, constantly feeling like it’s your enemy.
You’ve got to find an approach that you can follow long term. This might be low carb or it might be high carb. Heck! It might be somewhere in between! If you got results and achieved your goals, would you care if it was following a high carb diet?
Once I help an individual work out their carbohydrate needs (based on weight, activity levels, gender, goals and health status), the person can achieve their weight loss goals and actually get what they want – results! Results come from consistency.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to decipher the right approach we lose our ability to become consistent.
We become paralysed. So confused we fail to act. Yet failing to act is still choosing to not move forward and make healthy changes.
I know nutrition is confusing and conflicting. That’s because you have millions of individuals with slightly different needs all trying to fit into cookie cutter advice.
To help you fully understand the low carb high fat debate, I’ve put together a comprehensive, academic presentation that looks critically at the scientific evidence for and against low carb diets. I outline the conflicts and help you piece together the information for a take home message that you can apply to your life!