Body fat, eating fat, and exercise
If I eat more fat, I’ll get fat.
Saturated fat is especially bad.
If I rest more, exercise less, I’ll get fat.
If I do both- rest more and eat more fat- the world may end.
This is what I believed for years.
How about you?
What do your actions and choices say? Do you avoid fats? Perhaps you are OK with certain fats, but not others. Maybe olive oil or salmon is OK, but butter or steak is a huge no-no.
What about exercise? Has r.e.s.t become a naughty 4-letter word? Do you beat yourself up when you don’t exercise as much as you think you should?
I sure did.
If you’re like me, this is your reality. This is what you know to be true.
What if you have it completely wrong?
In my decade as a personal trainer I developed a sneaking suspicion that following the clean-eating guidelines and the classic exercise protocol was not the best idea.
I witnessed countless clients and trainers eat “healthy diets”(consisting of a base of complex carbs, veggies and fruits, followed by lean protein and low fat dairy, topped with plant based fats like avocado, nuts, and olive oil, and peppered with the occasional well planned treat) while exercising a LOT (4-5 days a week of cardio, 2-3 days a week of strength training, along with a stressful work-life, maybe even training for a marathon), yet still not achieving the body they were after. Many also described a viscous cycle of exhaustion covered up with large amounts of caffeine, rigid eating, and guilt for not sticking to “the plan” perfectly.
Some even had HIGH cholesterol.
How could this be possible? Were they cheating and eating more than they thought? Did they have unfortunate genetics?
To make matters even more confusing, I also witnessed many people who practiced the opposite of the classic healthy lifestyle and appeared to be more healthy and fit than the exercise/diet fanatics. They barely exercised, ate whatever and whenever their body told them to, and were lean and energetic.
Despite my suspicions, I continued to be a part of the “health diet and exercise” team, where I busted my butt to stay lean and wondered to myself, will I always have to work this hard to stay lean? It’s exhausting and soul-sucking. This does not make me happy.
But I was too deeply committed to the beliefs of a low fat diet and more exercise to consider doing anything differently.
I had become a rat on a wheel, literally going nowhere. http://bit.ly/1Dlojw6
I moved to Vienna, Austria. I traveled all over Europe. Country after country I was floored by the overwhelming observations of seemingly everyone eating high saturated fat meals (creamy pasta, buttery white breads, cheese, custards, fatty meats, rich desserts…), doing very little purposeful exercise (aside from walking to a destination, biking to a market, or taking the stairs) and looking fit and trim. Everyone moved at a slower pace, even in the big cities. They took vacati0ns and weekends seriously, practicing hard-core downtime as steadfastly as Americans practice hard-core overworking. They lingered over meals at cafes and regularly enjoyed mid-day snacks at cafes to get through the 2-4pm siesta time.
In the past I had heard about this paradox- something about why French women are thin- but I didn’t believe it. Now, being immersed in this new reality, I couldn’t deny the facts any longer.
I began to seriously question my old beliefs about eating fat and exercising more. And I began to question my own sanity.
This questioning led me deeeeeep down the rabbit hole of interesting research, opinions, and ideas. What I learned blew my mind.
Below I share what I found to be the most compelling arguments for eating more fat and doing less exercise in order to have a fabulous body and robust health.
While I do not fully embrace any diet or exercise plan, I do find the ideas presented by all of the people below very compelling. I invite you to check out the information provided here with a skeptical eye. My point in sharing this information is not to persuade you to adopt yet another diet or to subscribe to yet another form of nutritional dogma.
Rather, I hope you feel inspired to question the status quo and to begin making up your own set of rules.
Beware that questioning long standing and culturally fixed beliefs is treacherous. Mark Twain said it well:
“When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself.”
Are you ready?
Let’s get to the meaty bits!
Now, this really cracked me up. Back in March 2011 Dr. Oz had Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat and Good and Bad Calories, on his show. In clip one and clip two you can watch Dr. Oz steadfastly uphold his belief in a low-fat, higher complex carb diet. It’s rather funny to see Dr. Oz get so worked up on TV.
Then, in 2014, Dr. Oz does another episode titled The Truth about Saturated Fat: Is the Government out to Undermine Your Health? In this episode Dr. Oz discusses the “groundbreaking new evidence” that saturated fat may actually be good for us.
This is only one small example of how quickly and dramatically science and “the truth” changes.
Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth. Einstein http://bit.ly/1Dlojw6
If you’re interested in digging deep into this topic, check out the book The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz. And here is a video from August 2014 where she discusses her research.
You may also enjoy Ending the War on Fat by Time Magazine, “For decades, it has been the most vilified nutrient in the American diet. But new science reveals fat isn’t what’s hurting our health.”
Regarding excessive exercise, I find that Mark Sisson, from Mark’s Daily Apple, sums it up beautifully in his 2-part essay which you can either read or listen to via podcast.
Be sure to listen to part 2!
Chris Kresser has a great article about Chronic Cardio where he states that
“when a goal of exercise is to lose weight or improve energy, overtraining can clearly be a major barrier to achieving those goals.”
This one is a little bit out there, which is why I love it. Daniel Vitalis is a major player in the re-wild movement. In this interview he talks about various compelling ideas which will definitely leave you thinking outside the box. For instance, he talks about why tribal people never work out, but look like Olympic athletes.
Just this month, National Geographic came out with the article The Future of Food: Could eating like our ancestors make us healthier? It appears that more and more attention is being given to re-thinking our current food system. I wonder what will come of it?
By now you’re likely feeling disoriented from this wave of information.
Take a breath. Take 10.
Is your mind poised to slam shut and run away from the fear of the unknown?
Or do you notice the urge to LEAP into action and make radical changes?
Stay in the gray zone, if you can. Rather than reacting quickly by resisting or diving in deep to learn more, pause. There is no rush. Let this information whet your appetite for learning more. Get curious.
Most importantly, look inside yourself and see how this information sits with you. What fears come up? What excites you?
Tool for taking the next step- Discovering your truth
Once you’re ready, below, I provide links to excellent books to get you started on tuning into your personal-intuitive guidance system, so you can make choices that truly benefit you. These tools can provide a strong platform to allow you to make informed and mindful choices with any information you encounter.
Jon Kabat Zinn is a well-known expert in the area of mindfulness. His site is loaded with great tools and I highly recommend his book Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life.
This book maps out a simple path for cultivating mindfulness in one’s own life. It speaks both to those coming to meditation for the first time, and to longtime practitioners, anyone who cares deeply about reclaiming the richness of his or her moments. Brief, humorful chapters full of stories and poetry, convey the heart and the spirit of mindfulness practice and encourage you to find your own ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life.
The Slow Down Diet by Marc David, specializing in eating psychology, gives practical steps to take to make changes in your relationship with food, now.
This is the book that takes on all other diet books. Not only is it easy to read and full of engaging narratives, but it also offers a profoundly new way to look at how you eat. This book can change lives. If you’re prepared to have a deeper look into the science and soul of your eating psychology, then this might be just the thing to help transform your metabolism forever.
My goal in writing Eating Mindfully was to present simple, straightforward techniques for anyone who has struggled with chronic dieting, weight control, and psychological stress due to mindless eating. My hope is that it will help these readers.
What should we have for dinner? The question has confronted us since man discovered fire, but according to Michael Pollan, how we answer it today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, may well determine our very survival as a species. The omnivore’s dilemma has returned with a vengeance, as the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous food landscape. What’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.
Geneen Roth has written extensively about food and emotions. Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment will give you a lot to think about regarding your eating behaviors and what you truly hunger for.
Roth speaks of issues that, chauvinism aside, only women can truly understand and identify with. In the past, her books were about food, weight, dieting, and the almost universal obsession that women have with their bodies and self-esteem. Now her canvas of introspection and discussion has expanded: eight chapters examine the nature of women’s friendships, the craving to be famous, the longing for safety, and the search for a parallel life (or the perfect fantasy), among other topics. Based on intensely personal experiences, written with intensely emotional and intellectually probing prose, Roth’s book pushes far beyond the issue of weight to ask what will make women happy. Her not-so-easy answers, divined from decades of therapy, of experiential beingness, of Buddhist practice, will speak to many.
Linda Bacon wrote an excellent book called Healthy at Every Size: the Surprising Truth About Your Weight.
And, of course I encourage you to check out my free Quick Start Guide to learn about your unique personality type and how you can leverage your strengths to overcome exercise addiction.
Did you love this post? Share it, like it, and retweet it! Be part of the moment to help others find happiness in the way they care for their bodies. Comment below and tell me your thoughts. Do you have other resources to share?
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. André Gide http://bit.ly/1Dlojw6