When we think of fat, we tend to think of the muffin top that exists around our midsection, or of the other jiggly bits that come about from too many donuts. Rarely do we think of the unbelievable energy source which, in the correct form and balance, is a necessary and beneficial part of a healthy diet.
Less than a year ago, I held the misconception that dietary fat meant body fat, so I would always choose low-fat options at the supermarket. In reality, it was the highly processed nature of my diet that was pushing me closer to 200 pounds. As I evaluated my diet at a turning point, I recognized that over 50% was highly processed carbs, which was supplemented with only about 15-20% fat.
Part of my re-education led me to the understanding that dietary fat doesn't necessarily equal body fat, and that the right balance of fats can actually work in your favor. So here are some of the actions I took to balance my diet and drop the excess poundage.
1. I increased my consumption of “healthy” fats to 30-40% of my diet.
Studies have shown that up to 40% of caloric intake can come from dietary fat with little or no effect on body fat. According to Phil Maffetone, author of The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, a person who is getting less than 20% fats from their diet likely isn’t getting the full health benefit or balance of necessary fat.
2. I separated the “good” from the “bad.”
We've all heard of the distinction between “good fats” and “bad fats,” and it's easily overcomplicated. Simply put, good fats tend to come from natural sources (almonds, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and eggs, for example), while bad fats come from highly processed sources. It's best to balance fat intake by eating a variety of natural fat sources every day.
3. I cut out the highly processed carbs and refined sugars.
Excess processed and “bad” carbohydrate intake can be a primary culprit when it comes to increasing body fat. As with fats, I make sure most, if not all, of my carbohydrate intake is from natural sources, such as fruits, veggies and other plants.
4. I supplemented my higher fat diet with highly aerobic activity.
When I say aerobic, I mean fat burning. This required me to strap on a heart rate monitor and slow it down! Yes, you heard me right: eating more fat and slowing down your exercise may actually help you to get lean. The reason for this is simple. When we push ourselves hard in a workout, typically we’re in an anaerobic, or primarily carb-burning zone. Thus we're not utilizing our stored fat for fuel as effectively. When we slow down into an aerobic zone, we burn more fat, and thus operate more efficiently. As we develop our fat-burning engine and eat more healthy fats, our bodies become conditioned to burn fat more effectively. See ya later, spare tire!
There are many websites devoted to finding your aerobic heart rate zone, but Maffetone, who helped train Mark Allen to six straight Ironman wins, keeps it simple. Simply subtract your age from 180 and adjust for your current level of fitness. The result is your maximum aerobic heart rate.
I've seen some amazing benefits from taking these simple steps, not the least of which was a 30-pound weight loss. Additionally, I have more energy, more motivation, and a better attitude about health and fitness.