This is a post about why a fat-free diet blows. And I’m really very serious. But it’s more than that. It’s also a discussion on removing macronutrients. And it’s especially important you read this if you are:
A) Thinking about dieting
B) Considering this insane 6-Week WTF Fitness-Food Challenge I signed up for
Many of you know I decided to embark on this new way of eating for a little while. Well, I was sort of tricked into it because I didn’t actually know what it entailed before I agreed to do this thing. But that’s okay. We learn. We learn.
My 6-Week WTF Fitness-Food Challenge meal plan included:
PROTEIN: skinless chicken breast, fat-free cottage cheese, fat-free greek yogurt, egg white, canned tuna, whitefish, crazy-lean ground beef or turkey, bison burger, pork tenderloin, protein isolate (sounds like a lot of options — IT’S NOT)
(Example of a single day’s worth = 6 ounces chicken breast x 3 meals a day = 18 ounces chicken breast)
(Example of day’s worth = I hate my life)
CARBS: very limited amounts of potato, sweet potato, berries, fruit, rice, oats)
(Example of entire day’s worth = 1 piece of fruit or 1 cup sweet potato or 2/3 cup oats)
VEGGIES: anything except peas, carrots, beets, corn, eggplant
(Example of day’s worth = fist size of any x 3)
PROTEIN ISOLATE POWDER: minimum 2x a day
(Example of day’s worth = 45 grams x 2 = 90 grams a day)
That’s a LOT of protein. A lot. And a limited amount of starchy or fruity carbs. I guess it includes a reasonable amount of veggies, but I would typically eat way more than that — however, we are limited to a fist-size (except in emergencies we allowed to snack on green veggies haha — oh wow, yum!). It includes no fat except what is found in tiny quantities of the stuff I’ve listed (so trace amounts).
I got a lot of “Are you crazy?” to “Oh awesome, I can’t wait for the blog posts filled with F-Bombs!” haha. Fair enough! I’m sure I confused my people. “Why is she doing this?”
To learn more about the challenge, why I did it, why I stopped, and its food rules, READ THIS FIRST.
Fat Fat We Love Fat
So why is fat so important?
You NEED healthy fat for a plethora of reasons. It is a great source of fuel and energy and important for a healthy metabolism. We need it to form healthy hormones and a healthy brain. We need it to properly absorb the minerals and fat-soluble vitamins from foods. We need it for amazing poops. Everyone loves good skin, nails, hair — so we need it for that. And your nervous system needs fat, too. We need it for building good cholesterol and a healthy gut. And to be honest, it takes an important role in my good moods, too. (My boyfriend can attest to that since last week.) I’m talking about the “good” fats obviously. The bad ones are ALWAYS better to remove from the diet entirely. (Saturated fat is NOT a bad fat, necessarily, by the way.)
Removing fat comes at a cost. A HUGE cost. This satiating micronutrient has been given a bad rap for far too long. Yes, a fat calorie is more loaded than a carb calorie. So in “theory” you’ll lose fat by not eating it. But this myth has been debunked again and again. If you replace this fat with carbohydrates, you’re going to eat a lot of carbohydrates instead — and guess what that stores as???? You’re gonna be hungry, too — because fat is incredibly satiating, and is important for balancing blood sugar and controlling insulin release. Often the problem with low-fat diets is the addition of MORE carbs, particularly REFINED carbs.
So this 6-week plan reduces carbs SIGNIFICANTLY and removes many options, as well, including sugar and most fruit. Shouldn’t that solve the problem? You won’t store fat if you’re hardly eating carbs and you’re barely eating fat, right? You’re just eating lots of green veggies?
Trade Fat-Free for Carb-Free? Wrong!
Of course removing this (yes, essential) macronutrient has some benefits in a fat-loss plan. It’ll help you lose fat FAST. However!!!!
What is the problem with reducing or removing carbs? Hmmmm. Weeeeeellllll….
Your brain loves sugar. It is its number one food source. And when I say sugar I’m not referring to refined sugar in any form. I just mean carbohydrates in general. Your brain needs carbohydrates to function.
It is also your body’s preferred source of fuel. When it can’t get what it needs from what you’ve eaten, it heads to your glycogen stores, and uses that. And when that’s done, it uses fat. That doesn’t mean you should skip the carbs to get straight to the stores and the fat. As long as you’re not hogging out on simple carbs, and eating of fibre-rich foods, you’ll obtain the steady fuel you need. (Especially in combination with fat and protein. You know… that weird concept? A BALANCED DIET? Imagine that. Argh.)
Removing carbs also leads to intense cravings. And cravings can quickly turn into unhealthy cravings. And then you’re willing to trade in your 12-year-old tween daughter (who is driving you mental with her weird youtube and slime obsessions) for a butter tart, instead of munching on raspberries like you could have been all along. Sticking with green vegetables alone (which many carb-fearing folk do) is not going to provide you with the gorgeous rainbow array of nutrients you need from the other colours — and may also make you begin craving crazy things — especially because green veg are mostly VERY low in sugar. Arguably too low to eat alone.
Speaking of fibre… you also need that. And guess where it comes from. Yep! Carbs. Fibre increases that feeling of fullness we all desire. That feeling that takes the hunger away, and make our poops awesome.
Protein Is Your Friend — But Not For Every Bite
Yes, protein helps make you feel that fullness. But it doesn’t provide you with energy. Yes, it helps you build muscle, but how can you work out if you’ve got nothing to burn? And besides, lean-lean meat has WAAAAAY less nutrients, takes more to make you feel full, and is simply less delicious. And the other lean protein sources (0% fat cottage cheese, 0% yogurt, egg white) you can say the same things for.
I’ve also never eaten so much animal protein at once, and it’s making me want to barf. I don’t typically REQUIRE much animal protein. Just little bits, for their nutrients and flavour, every so often. If you exceed your daily protein needs, and do it everyday, you put strain on your kidneys and liver. (Remember: more more more is often a sign that it’s too much.)
And I have always been fussy about where my animal protein sources are from. But I will tell you this… Suddenly having to buy massive amounts of those high-quality, sustainably sourced white fish and tuna options… add up $$$. And the cottage cheese I usually buy that’s dry and organic doesn’t come with a fat-free option (because it shouldn’t). And chicken breast is already typically expensive — especially the organic, free-range stuff. I try and buy my chickens whole and use ALL the parts. Suddenly I’m supposed to eat three organic chicken breasts a day instead? Oh… and my pastured eggs. Six egg whites for breakfast? But what do i do with all that gorgeous yolk? (It doesn’t really freeze well.)
So suddenly I’m buying and making cheaper quality meat and not using the whole animal. Which makes my heart want to burst into pieces.
Don’t even get me started on the plant-based soy substitute options.
So you see… I was glum when I began the challenge. Then I perked up and went full-hog into it, even though it felt wrong about forty times a day or so. Then I found peace at the idea of no longer following it — even if it hadn’t been long.
And now you know why.
Diets suck anyway. Let’s get real.