Winning at weight loss, step 4: Eat fat to burn fat

Weight loss just got even easier

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For years, you’ve been told that in order to burn fat you have to avoid fat. So you have sacrificed flavour — because that’s what fat provides — to achieve your weight loss goal. You’ve even convinced yourself that those fat-free options are delicious, despite their disappointing aftertaste.

No gain without pain, right? Wrong — because if you want to burn fat, it is essential that you eat fat. Confused? Of course you are! You’ve long viewed fat as your mortal enemy, as instructed. But where has that got you?

As is so often the case, you have been misinformed. In reality there is no need to fear fat; fat is your friend.

Fat for fuel

Your goal is to burn the surplus fat that sits in your fat stores, collectively known as adipose tissue. Surplus energy is there to be drawn on when necessary. The trick is to make it necessary.

Ideally, you will burn that stored fat as fast and efficiently as humanly possible, without suffering health consequences or making your life a misery.

All that guff you have heard about carbohydrate being the body’s ‘preferred’ fuel is utter nonsense. Your body will always burn carbohydrate first, not because it loves it more than anything else but because circulating glucose is potentially lethal if it is not dealt with immediately. And this is how carbohydrates keep you fat: for as long as you have available carbohydrate, in the form of glucose, circulating in your blood vessels, you will not burn the fat stored in your reservoirs — there’s no need.

As long as you continue to eat carbohydrates, your body will never have to dip into its fat reserves. However, when glucose is not available, your body is only too happy to burn fat. So let’s do that instead.

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Eat the right kind of fat

We need to get more specific at this point because in fat world, there is fat, and then there is fat. The calories in fat were definitely not all created equal.

Let’s start with saturated fat. Saturated fat, found mainly in meat and dairy foods, does not make you fat, and it does not make you ill. Quite the opposite: when a low fat diet was compared to a high fat (and low carbohydrate) diet over a period of twelve weeks, after being consumed by forty subjects considered at risk of cardiovascular disease, not only did the high fat/low carbohydrate group show more favourable results in terms of heart health, they also experienced ten per cent more weight loss, despite a threefold higher intake of saturated fat.”

A raft of other studies have demonstrated similar results, suggesting that, when done right, weight loss is much easier and less stressful than previously thought.

When your diet consists predominantly of protein and fat, with very low carbohydrate, you switch from burning glucose to burning fatty acids and ketones. Fatty acids are the form that fat takes when it is released from adipose tissue into the blood. They are perfectly adequate for most of the body to use for fuel, with the brain being an important exception. In the absence of glucose, the brain will burn ketone bodies, which are made from fat. A low carbohydrate, high fat diet is sometimes referred to as a ketogenic diet.

Recent studies show that, under conditions of carbohydrate restriction, fuel sources shift from glucose and fatty acids to fatty acids and ketones, and that ad libitum–fed carbohydrate-restricted diets lead to appetite reduction, weight loss, and improvement in surrogate markers of cardiovascular disease.

King coconut

Here’s an additional source of saturated fat that can really help speed up fat burning: coconut oil.

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Terribly trendy at the moment, coconut is deserving of its elevated culinary status. Its oil is rich in medium-chain fatty acids, and it is these fatty acids that have been the focus of a considerable amount of research in the weight loss area.

When it comes to testing coconut at the coalface, there are plenty of studies to choose from, but here’s one that’s fairly typical. When forty women were divided into two groups and given either 30mls of soya bean oil or 30mls of coconut oil over a twelve week period, but otherwise followed the same diet and did the same amount of exercise, only the group given coconut oil demonstrated significant weight loss and health benefits by the end of the trial.

“It appears that dietetic supplementation with coconut oil… seems to promote a reduction in abdominal obesity.”

Fat works, when it comes to weight loss, but beware: some fats can take you in the opposite direction, towards unwanted weight gain.

Oh my omega!

Since the 1960s we have been told to consume ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats– margarines and spreads — instead of traditional fats such as butter. Well you can chalk that up as yet more unhelpful misinformation. The truth is that these polyunsaturates are the very fats that can make you fat as well as ill.

This is what you need to know about polyunsaturated fats. Briefly, there are two main families of polyunsaturates — omega-6 and omega-3.

The omega-6 fats are widely found in seeds and their oils, most commonly sunflower, safflower and sesame. Corn and soya oils are also high in omega-6 fatty acids. Perhaps you use these vegetable oils in your cooking. Perhaps you even use those much-hyped spreads instead of butter. Unfortunately, it is these omega-6, polyunsaturated fatty acids, masquerading as healthy options, which can make you fat.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that we evolved on a diet containing equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. However, our highly processed, modern diets have tipped the ratio and we now get a staggering 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3. That’s not good, and is a fast track to weight gain and ill health.

“Recent studies in humans show that in addition to absolute amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid intake, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio plays an important role in increasing the development of obesity”

Omega-6 oils promote fat storage, and the obesity epidemic has coincided with a marked increase in the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, leading scientists to believe that there may be a cause and effect relationship.

A different kettle of fish

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Omega-3 fatty acids are in a different league altogether. Not only will these fats make you super healthy, they will also encourage your body to burn more of your stored fat. This is the oil found in oily fish: salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies.

Both animal and human studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids are an effective weight loss booster. They do this in a number of ways: they encourage fat burning, they suppress appetite and they shift metabolism away from fat storage and towards the building of lean tissue.

When a group of men and women were given either fish oil or safflower oil supplements (a significant source of omega-6) for a period of six weeks, without the participants knowing which supplement they were taking, or changing their diets in any way, only those taking the fish oil experienced a significant reduction in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle.

“A balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio is important for health and in the prevention and management of obesity.”

If you read Step 3 you’ll know that protein is also essential for weight loss. When you combine protein with high amounts of fat, and as little carbohydrate as possible, weight loss is accelerated, and feels effortless.

Now read Step 5, which is all about switching on weight loss while you sleep. It doesn’t get any easier than that!