Fats or carbs? (Part 1)

People often asked me the same questions: “How do I lose weight”, “Should I be on a high or low protein diet to lose and maintain my weight?” or the classic one: “Why do I put all that weight back on that I lost a year or two ago when I went on a diet”?

For most people, the word “diet” usually implies some type of short-term weight loss-program, but in reality should be considered a lifelong approach to using the correct foods to improve and maintain a healthy life. I am not a big fan of ‘diets’, but believe that a long term sensible and healthy eating approach holds the true key to maintaining the correct weight you desire. I have an interesting weight-loss advertisement from a 1930’s St Louis (USA) newspaper stating: “Are You Too Fat?” Back then there was no pc about your body size; you were simply “FAT”. Most people did not have the weight issues back then as we have today. Those were the days before junk foods and computers. Many worked harder and money was real tight, especially back in the 30’s, but funnily enough – obesity was rare back then, today we rarely even so much as arise an eyebrow because being overweight and obesity are so commonplace. Are you overweight or obese? I was shocked to hear that 7 out of 10 Kiwis are classified as  “FAT” or obese these days.

And now some experts talk about people having “fat genes”, what a cop out. The only fat genes I see are the ones that 70% NZers don’t fit into anymore!

240_f_145452361_gvq6pjkezspad1ksly6qaadj7dturv1xDo you feel too FAT yourself? Don’t be hard on yourself; your self-esteem is in my opinion a key point in turning your weight around. Feel good enough about yourself to make the right decisions regarding your diet and lifestyle – and do it long enough to see the results, a NEW you. OR – feel bad about yourself – and “treat” yourself to a food or drink you know is not the best, especially for your waistline long term. Then you feel guilty and mentally beat yourself up. Only YOU can make that call, not your wife or husband. Not your doctor. Not your weight loss clinic. YOU make that call every day. The small healthy daily habits you create for yourself will carve your body into the shape you desire, just like water over years will carve a landscape. Persistence breaks resistance.


People don’t decide their future, they decide their habits. Their habits decide the future for them. Do you snack on biscuits, peanut butter, snack bars, cheese and crackers, drink wine, eat chocolate bars, take-away, meat pies, fizzy drinks, or any one of a hundred different snacks or “treats”? STOP. Remember, it is those small daily habits which pave the way for your body to take the desired shape. Be strong and say NO. Remember, a habit maintained for two weeks can become ingrained.

What’s making us overweight – the fats, the carbs or the lifestyle?

Yes, fat is better than carbs

240_f_165304722_94shuh7wji8gcwbocmgfqodfqytpa4paThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), published an analysis of multiple studies (one lasting from five to 23 years involving more than 350,000 people) in which the authors made this shocking statement: “there is NO association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease”

But what about all the experts telling us that saturated fat is bad for your heart? “That idea was based on large amounts on extrapolations, which are not supported by the data”, according to Dr Ronald Krauss, director of the atherosclerosis research unit at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and the scientist who oversaw the study recently published in the AJCN. Finally! A scientist willing to go on the record stating that the entire Food Pyramid is based on nothing more than “extrapolations” – no doubt one highly influenced by big “sugar dollars”. A further study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) had very similar results. Researchers placed 32 moderately fat people on one of three different diets: a low-fat, calorie restricted diet that followed the American Heart Association guidelines; a Mediterranean diet, high in fruits and vegetables and low in red meats; and a low carb, eat all the calories you want type of diet.

After two years, the low-carbohydrate group (the ones who ate the most saturated fat) had the healthiest ratio of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL) – AND, as an added bonus – they had lost twice as much weight!

And, a final nail in the “carb coffin”, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that overweight women who consumed the highest glycemic load (bread, alcohol, sweets, etc) versus those who ate the lowest, were 79% more likely to develop coronary artery disease.

Whilst eating fat doesn’t make you fat or necessarily cause heart disease, it can cause problems with your heart and arteries, liver and kidneys over time because the fatty tissue of an animal is where the toxins are shunted to. If you do eat beef fat, or chicken fat – try to eat least aim for home kill or organic produce. Less chance of consuming all those drenches and other harmful chemical concoctions which animals have in their systems today. Whilst it is true that the Eskimo people have eaten a high fat diet, they have been genetically evolved over many hundreds years to eat this type of diet, not us. In general, most people are consuming less fat than they were 10 years ago. People have become very dietary fat conscious, we all cut the fat from our meat, don’t we now? (Apart from that nice pork crackling) Don’t you just love those advertisements on the TV when they say “98% fat free” when these foods are full of sugars?  But if we are eating less fat, then why then as a nation are we getting fatter?

Does this not make sense? After all, carbohydrate foods have a high glycemic index (these are the ones easy to digest and absorb) cause your blood sugar to fluctuate a lot more than protein and fats, and these fluctuating and rising glucose levels stimulate fat production and inflammation in your blood vessels. They increase your caloric load and lower your insulin sensitivity.

Dr. David Ludwig. Director of the Children’s Hospital in Boston, who is in charge of their obesity program said this: “If you reduce a child’s saturated fat intake and replace it with high-glycemic index carbohydrate foods, you do Not get the benefits – you might actually be doing them harm”. Is all this enough to convince you that eating fat is not that bad after all?

Is it the carbs?

Much more likely – remember what we said about i=the insulin sensitivity and inflammation. But, carbs are not the main reason you get fat, they are a large part of the equation. It’s the snacking, the boredom, the less activity through computers and the fast food culture we have created to a big degree too.

240_f_68691181_sugcfdx4zpklgaspqbnsmw2f9viulp03Carbs are guilty, no doubt, but not enough in my opinion to place people on a “low to no” carb diet. I remember growing up in the 60’s when carb wasn’t a four letter word. I came from a poor family that lived on white bread and plenty of jam when I was a kid. Supermarkets were just starting to appear and you still bought real bread from the bread man, vegetables and fruit from the guy who would come around once a week with his truck, and dairy products from the milkman, remember those days? Supermarkets were hardly “super”, they sold a few tinned foods, a few packaged goods and chewing gum even had real sugar in it, none of that “artificial” rubbish that many of the foods you buy today contains. And then the lady would pack the lot up in a large brown paper bag too. Fly buys and reward points were unheard of, no incentives, no Eftpos, zero “convenience” – just food and you pay cash.   I’ll bet your grandparents probably ate double the carbs and fat than you do today, yet they certainly didn’t live in a society that had to accommodate persons with bigger seats in airplanes and larger hospital beds that can take up to 500 kgs or more.

The problem with supermarkets today is that they can potentially “supersize” your waistline by enticing you to buy everything in the one spot. Look at your trolley carefully, do you buy what you came to buy, or do you leave with that packet of iced pinky buns or that slab of choc of bottle of fizzy because it was only 99 cents?  Maybe you are the “a quick treat” at the checkout type of person?  That is not to say that the modern supermarket today does not offer you a healthy choice, the one I shop in has probably a better selection of health foods than your local health food shop. That fault is NOT with the supermarket, it is how we buy and what we buy. Treats are fine occasionally, but that is what they are…… treats!

Carb foods are often the quick to eat snack foods for many folk. That generally smell or look good and satisfy the inner child, don’t you think? Back in the 60’s food was just about eating, and today many of the carb treats you now consume were cleverly thought out by food psychologists who know (and get paid BIG money) to entice your inner child all the way to the till. Don’t fall for it any more than those “60 months interest-free” deals. I still buy my meat at the butcher, my fruit and vegies and the growers and the rest at the supermarket.

Is it the lifestyle?

It is not the fat or carbs; it is what we eat, how we eat it and how our lifestyle is based around our eating habits that is the real problem. The problem is this: we are consuming additional calories from more refined flours, processed foods as well as a lot more sugar over the past 10 years. The reason for the rise in obesity is no mystery: many are still eating a high-calorie, refined carb and high-fat diet. More people today than ever before rely on “quick feeds”, the take-away or convenience foods. You’d be surprised to see how many different types of sugars are available today, and how much food you eat that really does contain sugar in one form or another. People perceive table sugar as sugar, but what about pasta, sugar and even potatoes? Yes – they all contain sugars.

Lifestyle convenience: Additionally, we all love our labour saving devices; we now do less activity than we did even 5 years ago. So we don’t even burn up all those additional calories anymore. Remember the old days, when your car had windows which you wound down manually and your toothbrush had no vibrating buttons to push? Way back people didn’t have to push buttons; they pushed play and didn’t need TV advertising to tell them. The more you move your body, the more you stimulate your metabolism, its as simple as that.

I want you to think WHY you want to lose weight. Is it to look good? Is it not to feel embarrassed when summer comes around? Many people focus on the look aspect, some on the feel aspect, but unfortunately not many focus on the health aspect. Here are five of the best reasons.

Some of the BEST reasons for you to lose body fat are:

Looking good means feeling great. Excess body fat can really affect your self-esteem. Meeting a challenge, improving your health and looking better can improve your sense of accomplishment, self-esteem and health in countless ways. And – less guilt about the fact that you are overweight too.You can do it!

Improved energy levels. We have found that when you lose weight, your energy will have a tendency to go right up. Overweight and obese people have much less energy than people who have a healthy body weight. More energy means more vitality, happier life, more fun and enjoyment for you.

Reduced risk of developing many chronic and degenerative diseases. Being overweight dramatically increases your risk of developing a number of chronic diseases. Losing weight and keeping it off improves your long term health!

Healthy ageing. Obesity is related to unhealthy, premature ageing. Consider fat loss a type of ‘life insurance’. It is not a great idea to get older and continue to have unresolved issues such as being overweight or obese. Your risk increases considerably of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer if you don’t maintain your body weight.

You can empower yourself.
Losing body fat is an incredibly powerful experience. The “pay-off” emotionally is tremendous! You are actualising something that only you have the power to do and only you will truly experience the personal reward.

What diet should I follow?

There comes that four letter word again! Do you lose weight according to Barry Sears by eliminating most of the fat and filling up on plant-based carbs in your diet, or do you listen to Dr. Atkins and shed those pounds by eliminating the carbs and filling up on protein along with the saturated fat that comes with it?


By Eric Bakker ND

Find out more as Eric examines the Atkins and Zone diets in Part Two!