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Eat Fat & You Will Be Fat?

by (168)
Updated about 12 hours ago
Created February 15, 2012 at 11:48 PM

This was the mantra behind the '6 Week Body Make-Over' that I attempted; lost a ton of weight on; but just didn't have the energy to keep up. When I tell people about Paleo, I usually hear, "Oh, just like Atkins." Then I cringe. I thought Atkins was the most unhealthy diet I'd ever heard of.

So, I am new to this (day 6) and have already asked a ton of questions (graciously and amazingly answered by many of you ((thank you!))). I can't seem to find a clear answer - or one that my pea brain can understand - as to how/why fat is considered good for you.

I know, read a biology book, right? Google it...and believe me, I have. I guess I would appreciate links to some tried and true information from real people (no robots, please) who have made this go from a diet to a lifestyle.

Thank you VERY much. :)

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288 · February 25, 2012 at 2:40 AM

This clip helped me visualize what's happening during the process of insulin resistance, thanks!

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24538 · February 18, 2012 at 1:49 AM

The animation in that clip warms the cockles of my heart.

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827 · February 18, 2012 at 1:18 AM

What doesn't taste better with butter on it?

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78422 · February 17, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Megan, eating the kind of fats that paleo people eat is not bad for sedentary people.

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2797 · February 17, 2012 at 7:41 PM

In what way is it similar to atkins other than being low carb? Are you putting away buckets of soybean, corn, canola oil etc? Peanut butter? Low carb energy bars to keep you full? All those things are perfectly fine with atkins which doesnt care about food quality so long as you keep the carbs low. If you're doing that, I question the wisdom. And although you're obviously free to eat whatever you want, it's not paleo.

Medium avatar
10184 · February 17, 2012 at 6:31 PM

@phazo look at it long term. What's the difference between Col. Sanders and Dr. A? Both ate a lot of fat, and they looked about the same as they aged. Beyond that the Sanders diet includes mashed potatoes and gravy, and the Col. outlived the Dr. by 20 years. Advantage Sanders.

Medium avatar
10184 · February 17, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Do like the French and butter your cheese.

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701 · February 17, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Megan, your brain is certainly not pea-sized. Realize you're not just learning something new -- you're replacing a lifetime of "conventional" (read: convenient) wisdom with the actual wisdom of science and experience. It can be a process.

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701 · February 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Actually, satfat IS good for you, and too much polyunsaturated omega-[x] in any proportion... isn't.

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605 · February 17, 2012 at 5:57 PM

I agree. I put butter on everything. If there's nothing to put the butter on, then I just eat the butter.

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24271 · February 17, 2012 at 5:39 PM

I think perhaps you don't know much of Atkins then. I started with Atkins many years ago and transitioned to paleo but my diet is still very much Atkins. MANY of us choose a low carb way of eating and many of our diets looks very much like Atkins...and we aren't unhealthy at all.

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24271 · February 17, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Actually my paleo is almost exactly like Atkins. Paleo is carbohydrate agnostic but many of us make it low carb and it works very well for us so for many of us it's very similar to Atkins and there's nothing wrong with that.

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2873 · February 17, 2012 at 5:12 PM

I've been 90% paleoish for the last few months and a little voice in the back of my head still says all this fat is no good for me. I can't help but fear a heart attack in my future!

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860 · February 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM

Yeah, information overload is nearly impossible to avoid. Unfortunately, you can't read everything. I've tended to follow the philosophy that it's easier to categorize foods that should be avoided than the opposite. Dr. Harris's viewpoints are very convincing to me, namely that because humans have evolved across so many biomes, it's unlikely there is a single food that's absolutely necessary for health. However, we all evolved *without* processed foods and vegetables oils, so excluding those wholesale sounds more reasonable. Worry about the big things; don't sweat the small stuff.

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168 · February 16, 2012 at 4:25 PM

so the "heart attack fat" is due to the bad fats...trans fats, etc? I don't know why it's so difficult for me to use and understand that a 200 calorie meal of FAT could ever be good for you, but your post does make sense. If a person eats all that fat and lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle, that would be bad, right?

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168 · February 16, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Silverspeed, thank you for the great post and information. I tend to want to learn/know everything about everything all at once and worry about everything too. The internet is great, but there is SO MUCH out there and it's difficult to know what to believe. It can get overwhelming. I appreciate your help!

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5043 · February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

nice summary silverspeed and +1 for the Kurt Harris shoutout. I think he makes a lot of sense and isn't dogmatic and rigid.

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5043 · February 16, 2012 at 6:27 AM

I'd add that paleo also doesn't encourage the use of artificial sweeteners like you find so much in atkins and other low-carb diets.

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24538 · February 16, 2012 at 6:23 AM

...if they are scared that there isn't going to be any food they will gorge themselves silly. But if provided with good food on a regular basis they eventually learn to only take what they need.

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24538 · February 16, 2012 at 6:21 AM

The reason the 6 Week Body Makeover literature says what it does is not because fat is bad for you, but because by restricting calories they are trying to make you feed yourself with the fat stores already in your body, moving what you've got in your belly or butt to your brain. The problem is, it doesn't work long term to address the underlying hormonal issues that put the extra fat on you in the first place, and can scare your hormones into going into fat storage overload when you are done with the 6 weeks because you've just survived a perceived famine. Fat cells are like feral cats...

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18635 · February 16, 2012 at 2:29 AM

Could check out the forums or the "success story" pages while your there for your real live people fix....

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860 · February 16, 2012 at 1:14 AM

Certain saturated fats are much better than others. For instance, lauric acid (in coconuts) is excellent at raising HDL. I don't know if you read my whole post, but the point was to say that, because you can praise or denigrate any nutrient depending on context, Megan should read some more thorough resources on the topic. The subset of information anyone can provide here will be inferior to a medical journal or complete book/blog.

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360 · February 16, 2012 at 1:00 AM

Ok, saturated fat isn't good for you, but when it comes with omega 3, 6, and 9 in grass fed proportions, it is DEFINITELY NOT BAD FOR YOU!!!

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360 · February 16, 2012 at 12:31 AM

I just realized that my answer does not really answer your question at all....

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11 Answers

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24538 · February 16, 2012 at 12:59 AM

It is one of the most important dietary building blocks for our bodies. Every cell in your body depends on saturated fat to some extent. Eating saturated fat even creates a positive feedback loop in bile production that makes you more able to digest it in subsequent meals.

It is possible to use seed oils to build our cells, but they will experience more inflammation, become disregulated at a greater rate, and as a whole organism we will be more likely to malfunction.

In the dietary experiment of replacing saturated fat with seed oil fats over the last 90 or so years we have managed to shrink our brains, develop heart disease at an astounding rate, cause our galbladders to malfunction, destroy our immune systems, and increase our chances of developing dementia.

In an attempt to not malfunction prematurely I find it to be a preferential food choice.

On the personal front, The right kind of saturated fat is the best tool I've found for losing weight. In my N=1 fat from grassfed ruminants, coconuts, and sea critters does not increase fat on the body. My cholesterol numbers also improve significantly on a higher fat diet.

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24538 · February 16, 2012 at 6:21 AM

The reason the 6 Week Body Makeover literature says what it does is not because fat is bad for you, but because by restricting calories they are trying to make you feed yourself with the fat stores already in your body, moving what you've got in your belly or butt to your brain. The problem is, it doesn't work long term to address the underlying hormonal issues that put the extra fat on you in the first place, and can scare your hormones into going into fat storage overload when you are done with the 6 weeks because you've just survived a perceived famine. Fat cells are like feral cats...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b
24538 · February 16, 2012 at 6:23 AM

...if they are scared that there isn't going to be any food they will gorge themselves silly. But if provided with good food on a regular basis they eventually learn to only take what they need.

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360 · February 16, 2012 at 12:25 AM

Mark's Daily Apple, this link gives you the info on why saturated fat is actually extremely healthy and vital to our organs.

Looking at your question a second time, i realize this doesn't answer your question. Basically, fat does not cause an insulin spike like carbohydrates, so you tend to not binge on fat. Fat also stays in your intestines for a longer period of time than carbs. Let's demonstrate a scenario. If I eat 2000 calories of carbohydrates in one meal, simple or complex carbohydrates, the carbohydrates will stay in my gut for a short period of time, so I will not have enough time to use all of the calories before they leave my intestines. This causes an excess of calories, which will most likely become stored fat (I will become overweight). Now, if I eat a meal purely consisting of 2000 calories of fat, the fat will slowly pass through my intestines, giving me at least a full day to use all of the calories. In my case, I burn around 2000 calories per day, so, I will have absolutely 0 excess calories, resulting in no weight gain! Also, since the fat goes through the gut slowly, you will not have a sudden feeling of hunger, you will have a slow hunger that builds up to the starving stage.

I hope I cleared things up! :D

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360 · February 16, 2012 at 12:31 AM

I just realized that my answer does not really answer your question at all....

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168 · February 16, 2012 at 4:25 PM

so the "heart attack fat" is due to the bad fats...trans fats, etc? I don't know why it's so difficult for me to use and understand that a 200 calorie meal of FAT could ever be good for you, but your post does make sense. If a person eats all that fat and lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle, that would be bad, right?

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52
18635 · February 16, 2012 at 2:29 AM

Could check out the forums or the "success story" pages while your there for your real live people fix....

Medium avatar
10184 · February 17, 2012 at 6:31 PM

@phazo look at it long term. What's the difference between Col. Sanders and Dr. A? Both ate a lot of fat, and they looked about the same as they aged. Beyond that the Sanders diet includes mashed potatoes and gravy, and the Col. outlived the Dr. by 20 years. Advantage Sanders.

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78422 · February 17, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Megan, eating the kind of fats that paleo people eat is not bad for sedentary people.

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2873 · February 17, 2012 at 5:12 PM

I've been 90% paleoish for the last few months and a little voice in the back of my head still says all this fat is no good for me. I can't help but fear a heart attack in my future!

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11254 · February 17, 2012 at 5:53 PM

I've lost over 100lbs and kept it off for over two years. Embrace saturated fat. Avoid Omega-6 plant based oils. Within the parameters of paleo, eat fat and you will be thin.

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605 · February 17, 2012 at 5:57 PM

I agree. I put butter on everything. If there's nothing to put the butter on, then I just eat the butter.

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827 · February 18, 2012 at 1:18 AM

What doesn't taste better with butter on it?

Medium avatar
10184 · February 17, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Do like the French and butter your cheese.

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860 · February 16, 2012 at 12:56 AM

It's not so much that fat is good for you but rather that some fats are less bad for you than some other things (e.g. processed carbs, veggie oils). Sadly, it's not just black and white; food can't be examined as good vs. bad. All food is technically bad for you because it must be metabolized. Our metabolism is what causes us to age, damages DNA, and ultimately kills us. Of course, not eating will kill you faster than eating because we can only slow our metabolisms so far. However, you can extend the lives of fruit flies many-fold by putting them in the refrigerator because it slows their metabolism (they're cold-blooded).

Literal interpretation aside, higher fat diets improve blood cholesterol profiles. Higher HDL, lower triglycerides, better LDL pattern (pattern A). Higher fat diets lower fasting glucose levels (in the presence of low carb intake). Fat is a necessary component for the absorption of nutrients A, D, E, and K. Those are just some examples.

You will always be able to find research that supports almost any dietary viewpoint. Sugar is good for you if you're running a marathon and need to replenish glycogen. Fact. Fructose is good because it doesn't raise insulin, and chronically high insulin is bad. Fact. All of the former statements are missing evidence which points to the contrary, but the point is that you can praise or vilify any food in a vacuum. I believe paleo makes the most sense intuitively and so follow it due to that. But there's research for and against it. Some people feel better on higher carb diets; some on higher fat.

I know I didn't really answer your question, but until we have a much better understanding of the human body, you're going to have to read (a lot) and come to your own conclusions. I didn't have any health or weight problems prior to trying this diet and truthfully have noticed no real changes other than in blood lipid panels.

I would recommend getting some books if you want to understand the paleo diet more fully - they're generally more cohesive resources than web pages. However, Kurt Harris's blog (Archevore) is excellent and covers a wide variety of paleo-related topics. His Paleo 2.0 post is a great starting point; this post describes his idea of an optimal diet. For books, Good cals, bad cals is an excellent book that goes into great detail about how fat can be seen as superior to carbohydrates.

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360 · February 16, 2012 at 1:00 AM

Ok, saturated fat isn't good for you, but when it comes with omega 3, 6, and 9 in grass fed proportions, it is DEFINITELY NOT BAD FOR YOU!!!

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5043 · February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

nice summary silverspeed and +1 for the Kurt Harris shoutout. I think he makes a lot of sense and isn't dogmatic and rigid.

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860 · February 16, 2012 at 1:14 AM

Certain saturated fats are much better than others. For instance, lauric acid (in coconuts) is excellent at raising HDL. I don't know if you read my whole post, but the point was to say that, because you can praise or denigrate any nutrient depending on context, Megan should read some more thorough resources on the topic. The subset of information anyone can provide here will be inferior to a medical journal or complete book/blog.

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168 · February 16, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Silverspeed, thank you for the great post and information. I tend to want to learn/know everything about everything all at once and worry about everything too. The internet is great, but there is SO MUCH out there and it's difficult to know what to believe. It can get overwhelming. I appreciate your help!

3bad4b0b105bf44d7650e7fdfbe15cbd
860 · February 16, 2012 at 9:12 PM

Yeah, information overload is nearly impossible to avoid. Unfortunately, you can't read everything. I've tended to follow the philosophy that it's easier to categorize foods that should be avoided than the opposite. Dr. Harris's viewpoints are very convincing to me, namely that because humans have evolved across so many biomes, it's unlikely there is a single food that's absolutely necessary for health. However, we all evolved *without* processed foods and vegetables oils, so excluding those wholesale sounds more reasonable. Worry about the big things; don't sweat the small stuff.

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701 · February 17, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Actually, satfat IS good for you, and too much polyunsaturated omega-[x] in any proportion... isn't.

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2797 · February 16, 2012 at 12:54 AM

Also, paleo is NOTHING like atkins because it does not demand you be low carb. Instead it focuses on food quality rather than any sort of magic food or macronutrient ratio.

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5043 · February 16, 2012 at 6:27 AM

I'd add that paleo also doesn't encourage the use of artificial sweeteners like you find so much in atkins and other low-carb diets.

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24271 · February 17, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Actually my paleo is almost exactly like Atkins. Paleo is carbohydrate agnostic but many of us make it low carb and it works very well for us so for many of us it's very similar to Atkins and there's nothing wrong with that.

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2797 · February 17, 2012 at 7:41 PM

In what way is it similar to atkins other than being low carb? Are you putting away buckets of soybean, corn, canola oil etc? Peanut butter? Low carb energy bars to keep you full? All those things are perfectly fine with atkins which doesnt care about food quality so long as you keep the carbs low. If you're doing that, I question the wisdom. And although you're obviously free to eat whatever you want, it's not paleo.

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78422 · February 18, 2012 at 3:46 PM

The video clip from Fat Head is good, but here is the same guy, Tom Noughton, doing a lecture on how we got into this pervasive saturated fat hyper-indoctrination in the first place. It's a 5-part expos?? of the BS (bad science) that made a nation fat (about a dozen minutes, each but well worth he time... and funny... and eye-opening). At the end of these videos, you will have been magically transformed into one of us as a permanent skeptic of the SAD world and better understand the politics and marketing that made you what you think (thought) today.

Part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exi7O1li_wA

Part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmwNpUJUjPg

Part 3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuxDuLKz39c

Part 4 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9mQ-QZkZpk

Part 5 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEayi6IBjZw

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75 · February 16, 2012 at 12:10 AM

I am quite new to this myself. And the whole Atkins thing is something that comes up a lot as well. Someone on here pointed me towards Mark's Daily Apple the other day, and it seems like a really good site. There are tonnes of resources on their, and you get some free and pretty informative ebooks for signing up over there. The success stories section is pretty cool. Though this isn't directly an answer to your question, I guess it is a finger pointing somewhere you could read up and check some things out. -Jono

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4625 · February 18, 2012 at 3:14 AM

Atkins saved my life two years - no problem if you read the diet and follow the plan. Low carb needs HIGH fat or it doesn't work. South Beach doesn't work because low carb and low fat doesn't gel. One point is to replace the processed meats which were NOT as bad when Dr Atkins worked on his diet as it is today with grass fed meat.

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1608 · February 18, 2012 at 1:45 AM

This video clip (from Fat Head) helped me understand more about why we get fat. Right after I watched this, I decided to start the Paleo diet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNYlIcXynwE

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24538 · February 18, 2012 at 1:49 AM

The animation in that clip warms the cockles of my heart.

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288 · February 25, 2012 at 2:40 AM

This clip helped me visualize what's happening during the process of insulin resistance, thanks!

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94 · February 18, 2012 at 1:38 AM

Omega-6 bad, Omega-3 good. Saturated fat good so long as it isn't loaded with Omega-6.

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78422 · February 23, 2012 at 5:52 PM

We can determine the optimal diet by having an understanding about the cellular processes for fuel selection. Without doubt, all animal cells prefer to burn fat and the enzymatic and genetic mechanisms are all primed to optimize fat burning for fuel needs and to convert and sequester carbohydrates into storage as saturated (animal) fat.

Theses pathways can be manipulated but, nonetheless, this biochemical “picture”, I believe, dictates the ultimate diet of man as one that should be extremely high in animal products. I also argue that since we convert carbohydrate into saturated human fat, that this type of fat, in fact, is the healthiest fat for humans, the one that our evolution dictated, for whatever reason, to be manufactured in our bodies. Therefore, I concentrate my selection of foods towards those possessing the most saturated fat.

Obviously, every day when I “consume” the fat that’s in my body for fuel I’m “consuming” a highly saturated animal fat. When anyone loses weight, that’s what he consumes. Scientists will be hard – pressed to convince me to give up my beliefs and dietary habits and hand the power of decision – making over to some arrogant human, wholly ignorant of an understanding of the power and Laws of Nature.

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