As part of my more focused weight loss attempts, part of my process so far this year has involved cutting out oil as much as possible from my diet. I started the year reading the Starch Solution by Dr. John MacDougall, and although I still haven’t finished it I have generally understood the points he makes (and will more than likely do a longer blog post specifically on that, once I have finished reading it!).
One of his (controversial perhaps?) claims is that “The fat you eat is the fat you wear”. I only use the word controversial as at the moment I see people touting high fat diets everywhere.
What Dr MacDougall says in his book The Mcdougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss is that 93% of fat you eat goes into storage in your tissues, around your body and around your internal organs, waiting for use when your energy needs are not being met by carbohydrates. 93%! He says 4% is used for essential requirements, 3% for transfer to tissues and 93% to storage. One thing I can certainly attest to is that I have a hell of a lot of fat on (and likely viscerally in) my body. I purchased some new scales which give an average fat percentage, mine returned the horrifying number of 41%. That is after losing almost 5 stone already! Pre-vegan/weight loss days I think it is safe to say I ate a high fat diet most of the time, it’s certainly obvious from the outside.
I follow calorie counting and fasting approach to weight loss and fats really are the loser when it comes to calories, especially when it comes to oil. One single tablespoon of olive oil has on average 120 calories, with very little nutrients. Olive oil (and all liquid oils) are the highly processed output of whole vegetables, with the goodness of fibre removed. I know it does have some vitamins in there, and certainly isn’t all bad, but for me, trying to lose weight, with the huge amount of calories I would rather just go straight to the source, olives themselves, and get the rest of the nutrition along with it. For those trying to gain weight added oil may be an option, although surely eating more of other more nutritious foods would be a preferred choice?
Oil seems a total waste of calories and nutrients, and sure, some people think it makes food taste better, but there are more things to what you eat than purely how it tastes. You could make the same argument for eating meat, it tastes good…again, there are more important issues out there than taste. Food is meant to nourish us through our life, making food such a big focus in my life is part of the reason I ended up so fat in the first place. Anyway, after months now of cutting back on oil, I don’t even think it does make food taste better. It just tastes oily, makes me need a drink to clear my mouth.
All of this seems straightforward, and makes sense to me. So why would I consider this controversial? As mentioned above, high fat diets have been all the rage recently on the internet, and seem to frequently pop up into my life in discussions. There are multiple versions of high fat, there are the high fat low carbers, the atkins, and the ketosis club. The general reasoning behind them (as summarised by a completely non-professional me is) eat less carbs, then your body uses fat to burn from. At this point I think it is best that I cover what happens when you eat the food you eat.
I am certainly no expert when it comes to nutrition, nor do I claim to be, however I have read into nutrition from many sources over the years, and listened (and relistened) to podcasts which feature some of the leading lights in the nutrition field. My understanding as far as food goes is this. There are three main macronutrient groups, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. These are broken into many micronutrients but these three groups act differently within the body when consumed. Carbohydrates are turned to glucose, this is your ongoing source of immediate energy within the body. Protein is digested and turned into Amino Acids which are used for many purposes within the body, Fat (as previously mentioned) mostly turns into fat either in your adipose (under skin) or visceral (organ) tissues. High carb low fat advocates that most of your calories come from carbohydrates, as this is what you mostly use for energy. Keep the fat out of your diet, and therefore off your body. My fasting ties in here, all of your carbohydrate stores inside your cells and liver are usually used up within 12-14 hours of eating, therefore for energy use after this time your body is forced into resorting to using fat stores. I fast for betwen 16 – 20 hours most days, giving me a window of 2 – 8 hours where I burn fat by default.
High fat low carb suggests to train your body to consume fat/protein for energy, along a similar logic to fasting. Your body will burn the fat in/and on your body by default as you starve yourself long term of carbohydrates.
My thoughts….why have the fat there in the first place? Why not do what your body expects, eat carbohydrates, burn accordingly, and fill your diet with fibre and vitamins/nutrients in plant foods? Eating low carb/high fat really makes you lose out on the huge benefits of eating fibre, the cleaning out of your insides, the fullness, the increased vitamin abosrption. The high fat diets don’t really consider longevity either. You can lose weight through any eating regimen if you stick to it enough, and I do not dispute that those who eat high fat/low carb can lose weight. But what is this doing to them internally? There are many studies (here, here and longevity related information on nutritionfacts.org here) out there which show that plant based vegans tend to live longer, with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many other big killers.
When it comes to the practicalities of cutting out oil, this mainly is realised in cooking. Instead of oils I use water/or stock for vegetables, I aim to eat unprocessed whole foods which I can control the oil content of. There are of course some fats in my diet, but these are natural plant based sources. Nearly every day I have a serving of grould flaxseeds in a smoothie to ensure I am getting omega 3’s and 6’s, and I occasionally have nuts and seeds but I really mostly try to avoid these unless it’s a small amount.
So, to bring this all together, why am I cutting out oil?
- Unecessary calories
- Limited nutrients
- No sense of fullness after eating
- Tastes bad
- And probably most importantly, for me, the fat I eat ends up being the fat I wear, and I’m fed up wearing it so visibly.