It is a fact that fat has nine calories per gram, compared to four for carbohydrates and protein, and the lesser-known seven calories per gram for alcohol. This single fact may be one of the reasons that fat is so villified, and consequently why our entire generation has got things the wrong way round as far as carbohydrates versus fat in the diet. It fits so neatly with the calories-in, calories-out, logical approach to weight loss. I’m not going to argue with the latter here, not because I agree that weight loss or gain is simply a matter of doing the math, just because I don’t want to get off topic right now (Me? Digress? Never… but I do want to link to this great discussion
What I would like to explain is why, even if it is true that getting fat is just due to too many calories, cutting down fat is not necessarily the answer. I came up with this analogy because I’m currently packing for a weekend bachelorette trip, and doing my best to keep my luggage to a minimum, mostly because while I hate carrying stuff and I detest having to check bags. So, if I want to reduce the weight in my suitcase, I should start by taking out the heaviest things, right? Just like reducing the densest-calorie macronutrient, fat, is the best way to reduce calories in the diet?
So let’s look at some options: I can take out my laptop or an extra sundress or a book I took to read on the plane home.
Well, the laptop contributes the most total extra weight, so maybe I should take that out? The problem is that I actually need my computer: to get some work done on the trip out; to reply to emails and of course to check Facebook for all the comments on photos I am posting of our trip*.
On the other hand I have packed more outfits than I really need, including three other dresses which cover the full range from sophisticated to slutty, so whatever happens during this bachelorette I have options. That sundress really is an unnecessary extra, even though it doesn’t contribute as much weight as the laptop.
Taking the laptop also means that I can probably manage without the book, which is less heavy but also less essential. I can read books on my Kindle app on the computer, or even watch a downloaded TV show, on the plane home.
Lastly, if I don’t take that particular blue-and-white dress I can probably take out a few other extra accessories I packed to go with it. Those cute blue dangly earrings can go, and maybe even those white flip-flops, as the rest of the dresses will go fine with my other shoes (three pairs – don’t judge!).
So, out come the dress, the earrings, the shoes and the book. Packing light: achieved
In the same way, you can’t look at your diet and just take out the most caloric element without considering how useful it is. You don’t cut out fat, even though it is the most caloric by weight, because it is essential for life: it is a constituent of every cell; of essential hormones; and is a great energy source. No, instead you should cut out the really pointless things like candy, soda and cupcakes because although individually they don’t add up to a huge amount calorie-wise, if you don’t need them don’t eat them – just like not packing that extra sundress.
Then you can cut out things you need less of if you eat sufficient fat, just like I didn’t need the book because I had my laptop. You do not need carbs for energy if you have enough fat to use, and without the carbs you’ll actually have low enough insulin levels to use the fat. You’ll also feel fuller eating plenty of fat without insulin tucking all your energy away in your cells and crashing you blood sugar, so you can cut out those whole grains, the pasta and the rice that you use to create the “filling” part of the meal. Out go the between-meal snacks too – usually more useless carbs. Just like my laptop, having enough fat in your diet replaces a whole range of other things: I don’t need to pack a guidebook to the city either, it’s all there online.
Finally, you can cut out the extra things you don’t need because you’re not eating carbohydrates. You’ll need less vitamin C as it’s absorption won’t be being blocked by glucose busy metabolizing carbs fewer things blocking their absorption all the colors of the rainbow
This is the tricky part to understand for many people: you can eat fewer vegetables and fruits on a high-fat, low-carb diet; you will still be perfectly healthy. They are the equivalent of the accessories that I don’t need because I’m not taking the extra dress. Sure, a pair of earrings that matches that dress doesn’t take up much space or weigh much, in the same way fruit and veggies don’t have that many calories, but if you don’t need them why pack them? That stuff all adds up in the end: it weighs more, takes up space and causes clutter; just get rid of it. Cleaning up your diet can be very minimalist.
*Technically I can do several of those things just on my phone, but not if I need to type at any decent speed and/or have any battery life left at the end of the day!