The high fat diet craze is upon us and even I have become a huge fan! Of course, you shouldn’t just start eating a ton more fat without balancing out your other macros (protein and carbs) or you won’t see many benefits. And more fat needs to be managed so that you’re eating the right types of fat and not just extra pounds of bacon and butter every day.
There are lots of good things about a high fat diet, namely that once your body has switched to a fat-fueled state, you’ll start to see fat loss throughout your body.
But, a high fat diet isn’t for everyone, nor is the same high fat diet the same for everyone. We’re all unique, right?
What’s Good About High Fat
Let’s start with what’s good about eating more fat, shall we?
Weight / Fat Loss
Probably the #1 thing people talk about when it comes to a high fat diet is how much weight they’ll lose. And, yes, this is partly true. Most people will lose fat (maybe not weight, per say, depending on their activity levels). Your body is adept at using the fuel you provide for it, whether that’s carbs or fat. A high fat diet helps you lose weight in two ways.
First, the right fats (think olive oil, ground flaxseeds, avocados, and coconut oil) can reduce overall low-grade inflammation. When your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, you won’t be able to lose weight. That inflammatory response brings resources, like fluids and cells, to the areas that are inflamed, which can make you feel and look puffy.
Second, a high fat diet in conjunction with a low carb diet will prevent insulin spikes and, as a result, fat storage. Insulin is your fat storage hormone so when it’s kept relatively low your body won’t be as likely to store fat.
Your stress hormones and your sex hormones all require cholesterol for their production. So, a high fat diet tends to give you more cholesterol to be used to make these hormones (and takes the stress off your liver to make them).
Less Hunger / Less Food
Once your body has adapted to a high fat diet, you will feel full for much longer AND you’ll eat less food overall. This also means less sugar cravings because the more sugar or carbs you eat, the more sugar you crave (this is due to insulin spikes and dips).
Other Health Improvements
Some other health issues improve when you eat the right high fat diet, too. Gas and bloating disappear, arthritis gets so much better, and your skin, hair and nails tend to look healthier.
Of course, some people may experience a worsening of these health issues when they start a high fat diet. But, with a few tweaks and coaching, most of these things will go away. More on this in a bit.
Many health problems are related to inflammation, so, because a high fat diet helps reduce overall inflammation, a lot of people see improvements in their symptoms.
The Cons of a High Fat Diet
Alright, let’s get this out there – a high fat diet isn’t for everyone. People who already have high cholesterol or a fatty liver need to be very careful with fat. Missing gallbladders can also pose issues (but we have digestive enzymes to help them). And, people with adrenal fatigue need to be especially mindful of how they approach a high fat diet.
Some high fat diets lack nutrients and promote high intakes of nutrient-deficient foods (like white rice). And, eating the same foods over and over again can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
People also start to think of carbs as the enemy, which isn’t true. Sugar is the enemy, not necessarily carbs. Yes, some grains, specifically wheat, cause a lot of inflammation in the body, but fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. You don’t want to avoid those for long periods!
Too Many “Bad” Fats
Strictly eating more fat from any source is not the way to go. You can expose yourself to too much saturated fats, like from butter or bacon. You can also increase inflammation by consuming too much dairy. Plant-based foods are highly nutritious so avoiding those is the wrong approach.
Lack of Fibre
Many high fat diets cut out fibre-rich foods, leading to gut health complications. Gas, bloating and an overgrowth of bad bacteria happen. We don’t want this! Your gut needs fibre and nutrients from plants. Constipation can happen, which can lead to IBD or even cancer down the road.
Worsened Health Symptoms
Here’s where it gets a bit complicated. In some people, a high fat diet can worsen arthritis, acne, constipation, or adrenal fatigue symptoms. You can feel foggy or flu-like, too. A high fat diet isn’t for everyone. Or, at least it needs to be monitored and developed for your unique needs.
High Fat Diet Guidelines
In my own experience, as well as with many of my clients, increasing healthy fats while simultaneously reducing some of the worst carbs has netted some incredible results.
Many women have noticed that afternoon sugar cravings are down and that their energy levels are up. They also feel like they aren’t eating all the time because their meals are keeping them full longer. Sleep is better.
Starting a high fat diet requires some care and planning. If you jump into a very high fat and very low carb diet tomorrow, you’ll feel like sh*t. I guarantee it (this is what happened to me my first try). Your body can’t adapt that quickly, but it can adapt to burning fat as fuel while helping you feel and look healthier.
First Steps to a High Fat Diet
If you’re curious about how a high fat diet might help you, start small. I recommend to my clients that they begin by increasing healthy fats at breakfast and remove grains from both breakfast and lunch. After a week or two, they usually start to notice sugar cravings decrease and less hunger overall.
My second recommendation is to start eliminating all refined sugars from their diet – anything with white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, or the other types of sugar. If a sugar craving hits, eat a piece of fruit or a spoonful of natural almond butter.
Adrenal Fatigue and High Fat Diets
Most women need a specialized high fat diet because of their unique hormonal makeup. This also includes adrenal hormones, and women under chronic stress and dealing with adrenal dysfunction definitely need to watch how they move into a high fat diet.
We can do it, though, we just need to be careful and take things slowly!
Women need more carbs than men, in general, to balance hormones and manage our stress response. So, with women, I recommend that they eat healthy, grain-free starchy carbs every 3-5 days at dinner. Foods like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets or squash are good choices. If you follow a high-fat / low-carb style of eating for a few days and find that you’re suddenly craving pasta, I say go for it, have your pasta (preferably gluten-free) and get right back into your high-fat diet the next day. Your body will tell you what it needs.
What Do You Think?
A high fat diet has made my life so much easier. I am full between breakfast and lunch, and I rarely get those ravenous afternoon cravings anymore. Nor do I seem to deal with binges at night like I used to.
I definitely notice less body fat, but do still have a ways to go. Balancing the high-fat / low-carb diet with how I feel is a challenge – don’t get me wrong! – BUT as I work through it, things are coming together.
And I think you’d be able to figure this out too! The health benefits of more healthy fats in your diet are amazing – if anything, not feeling foggy, having better concentration and energy, and sleeping through the night, just to name a few, will help you realize this is a great lifestyle choice!