Get excited, there’s good things around the corner! After two highly successful campaigns in 2013 aimed at helping loyal KX followers shed the excess weight, I am super excited to announce that we will be running the KX 12 Week Weightloss Challenge again in 2013. Without giving too much away, look forward to nutritional consultations, fool proof eating plans and exercise accountability. With this looming on the horizon I thought I could help you get in the healthy eating mindset and spend the next few weeks examining some of the biggest myths and fallacies in diet and weightloss world.

To kick things off this week we’ll start with one of the most misunderstood topics in diet and nutrition and a question I get all too often: “Is fat bad for you?” We’re going to dig deep into this one and see what we can uncover, but before we do, introductions are in order. I’d like to give you a brief background of myself so you know where I’m coming from with all this and hopefully build some credibility!

As regular clients of the Malvern studio might know I like to study (geek alert). First it started with a Bachelor in Exercise Science, followed soon after by a Masters in Exercise Physiology. Five years sound like a lot of time? You’re right, but that didn’t stop me and I recently completed an Accredited Certificate in Nutrition. So do all those courses (and many post-nominals tacked onto my signature) make me a credible source of exercise and nutrition information? I think not. It sure helps, but what really separates the good, the average and the great? In my mind: experience.

Experience – I’ve always been a big believer of practicing what you preach. For example, you can be sure that any of those ungodly torture-like Pilates moves I make you do in class (I’m talking to you KX3 clients) have been tested by myself personally. Likewise my diet has seen all manner of variations including Atkins and Paleo, vegetarian and vegan, fasting and carb loading, all in an effort to understand and help those who come see me. At the end of the day I can say I’ve been there, I’ve tasted it, eaten it and proved it to be so. This is the position from which I write, this is where I claim to be credible.

With that behind us, let’s move on to the topic at hand… FAT, juicy, juicy fat! For those that have read my previous post, Embrace the fat, you probably already know where I stand on this, I’ll use this article to explore some of the reasons and perhaps cover the ‘how to’s’. I want to tackle this one in a Q & A format and hopefully as we go we should strip back the tenderest, juiciest details in all their deliciousness.

Q. Will eating fat make me fat?

A. The answer…Yes and no… well, more no than yes. So excess calories are stored as fat. If you eat too much and the body doesn’t need the energy immediately it will deposit it in your fat stores – hips, bum and thighs (sorry ladies)! This happens whether those excess calories came from fat, protein or carbohydrate in the diet. So based on this logic you may well ask “if I’ve been cutting back on my calories and exercising like a Biggest Loser Contestant then why is this process not reversing itself, why am I not losing weight?” The answer lies in the details. When we eat fat in the presence of a large insulin spike (the higher the carbs, the higher the resultant insulin spike, sugar and wheat being worst of all) the body will shuttle the dietary fat once again to those fat stores. Interestingly this happens regardless of how much we eat. On the other hand, if we keep the carbs down (reducing the insulin spike), instead of storing fat we tend to burn it for energy. Not only do we burn off what we just ate, we also start to burn off the fat accumulating in our not so desirable places (remember those hard to loose love handles?). So to put this as simply as possible; eating fat DOES NOT EQUAL storing fat, however, eating fat PLUS lots of carbs DOES EQUAL storing fat. Capiche?

Q. Is eating fat bad for my health? Will it increase my risk of heart disease?

Another curly one that probably deserves an entire essay, however let me try and crudely package this into the following 100 word time slot…

A. Most GP’s, dieticians, nutritionists and the like who have any basic understanding of biochemistry will concede that low carb/high fat diets (think Atkins) are the best means to weight loss. However they’ll admit this with the caveat that these same diets are clogging your arteries and fast tracking you to an extended hospital stay. What these professionals don’t understand is that the science behind this ‘dietary fat = heart disease’ hypothesis is botched and has been since the 50’s. In fact modern research struggles to find any correlation between total dietary fat intake and heart disease (or death rates for that matter). Without further boring you with the excruciatingly messy details, let me just say that no, fat intake is NOT killing you (for the geeks out there you can simply Google “is fat bad for me” and make your own decisions). I apologise for going over my 100 word allotment… I did try!

Q. But I must be going to hell if I eat saturated fat right?

A. Funny you should ask, I was just getting to that! The answer… drumroll please… NO, you’re not going to hell for eating saturated fat; you’re not even going to keel over and die. Shock horror! The science on this one is just as dicey. It’s true that saturated fat can increase LDL-cholesterol levels (‘bad cholesterol) however it tends to shape those LDL-cholesterol into a larger fluffier version called LDL-A (think clouds) while carbs and constant insulin spikes make LDL-cholesterol into a smaller denser version called LDL-B (think lumps of coal). The cloud-like LDL particles float innocently through the bloodstream whilst it’s not so identical coal-like twin is the actual culprit for wreaking havoc in our blood vessels. The take home message: high LDL-cholesterol is not necessarily ‘bad’ for you, lots of densely laden LDL-cholesterol however becomes a real problem. Again you may have noticed that fat is not the problem and that controlling the amount of insulin-spiking carbs we eat is a much better approach to health and longevity.

Q. So now that animal fat and butter is back on the menu, what do I tell the Doc when he assures me I’m slowly killing myself through gluttony?

A. The proof is in the pudding. Have him test and retest the following measures, some of the best indicators of heart disease risk and overall health: Waist to Hip Ratio, LDL Particle Size (remember the clouds and the coal?), HDL Cholesterol, Triglycerides, Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) and C-reactive Protein. If these measures remain constant or better yet improve following the reintroduction of fat and saturated fat into your diet you’ll be onto a winner. Be very tactful in doing this however, as most professionals (myself included) don’t like a know-it-all telling them how to do their job!

Q. Fantastic, I’m hooked! So how do I get started?

A. I thought you’d never ask! Eat lots of… wait for it… FAT! Between 30-50 % of your total calories, the rest coming from protein and carbs. Animal meats (fat left on), butter, cheeses, nuts, avocados and coconut oil are all great options. A well rounded meal will also include a decent amount of veggies to wash things down. Limit sugar, grains, processed foods and vegetable oils (more on these poor excuses for food another day!). Lastly, one of the few exceptions to the rule – be careful not to burn or cook your fats at exceedingly high temperatures as this leads to oxidisation. So unfortunately The Colonel’s deep fried chicken and his delicious herbs and spices are still a no no L

So there you have it, the quickest summary ever written on why fats are actually OK. In a future post we’ll try and cover the benefits of eating fat: weight loss, enhanced brain function, appetite suppression and restoring healthy metabolism. For now however, give it a go and let me know what you think. As always, if you’ve got questions please leave a comment below. Or better yet, get on board with the upcoming Weightloss Challenge and see what intelligent eating can do for you. Next week we’ll tackle one of the biggest dietary misconceptions, the fallacy of ‘healthy wholegrains’.

– Until then, happy eating.

Chris