For the last 20 years or so, society has developed a skewed belief that eating fat makes one fat. However, that is not altogether true.
As you probably have heard, there is a growing population of proponents of the paleo or primal eating plans, which are very high in fat. With that said, let’s first look at and distinguish between the various types of fat.
- Trans or hydrogenated fats – these fats are created fats that are pro-inflammatory in all aspects. They were originally created as healthy fat substitutes, but are now generally considered damaging to our health.
- Polyunsaturated fats – these are relatively easily oxidized by heat and should certainly be limited. Examples include canola oil, safflower oil, and sunflower oil.
- Monounsaturated fats – these are recognized as anti-inflammatory and generally good for you. Examples include avacado, olive oil, and nuts.
- Saturated fats – these are normally found in animal fats. We get a lot of these by the ingestion of meats. The most controversy exists in the area of saturated fats. Are they or aren’t they good to ingest?
To answer that question, we must first establish that healthy cell membranes are mostly comprised of fats (essential fatty acids). Therefore, we do need to eat some.
Saturated fats are also considered a source of fuel (one gram equates to 9 calories). Once we affirm that we do need to eat some, the question can become how much?
How much fat should I eat?
Here is where the real confusion comes in. If you are one (as are Dr. Michele and I) who promotes the paleo or primal eating plans as a viable template for nearly everyone to follow, you must understand how to safely transition to this type of eating.
I have seen countless make the mistake of realizing they need more fat and immediately begin consuming more fat. All the while, however, they have NOT altered their current high glycemic, pro-inflammatory eating plan (e.g. they are still eating processed foods, sugars, and grains).
When one begins to consume more fats without changing their current state of high insulin production eating, they will actually increase storage of more fat.
This tends to bring a bit of confusion to the statement “eating fat will not make one fat.” Indeed it CAN under these conditions.
Though we do prescribe this type of eating, you cannot have ‘your cake and eat it too.’ One must change to make paleo or primal work.
How to Effectively Transition to Paleo Eating
The change in which I am referring is the severe limitation/avoidance of sugars, processed foods, and grains.
We commonly recommend taking at least 3 weeks to do this before going all-out paleo or primal. By that time, there has been time to effectively transition out of the high insulin production, high glycemic and pro-inflammatory plan into a more balanced and stable bodily and metabolic state.
Make no mistake, these 3 weeks will be hard and you may suffer withdrawal symptoms (aches, fatigue, irritability). In many cases, people are still working on this initial stage of transition over several months.
Much encouragement and self-forgiveness is required. The transition, however, will be well worth it.
At that point, feel free to add some fats and move into a paleo or primal eating plan (saturated and monounsaturated fats – avoiding trans and polyunsaturated fats).
What is Paleo/Primal eating?
Just in case you don’t know, a primal or paleo eating plan consists of the following: meats, fish, nuts, vegetables, fruits. More modern paleo plans add beans and legumes to the mix. Hopefully this alleviates any confusion on the subject of fat.
Any change is difficult, especially in the way of lifestyle. To really master lifestyle and make this transition much easier, we have outlined a true lifestyle change template in our book, The Quest for Wellness.