Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book Review: Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats

I was talking to a friend over coffee a few weeks ago and the subject of lowfat and fat-free foods came up. Not naturally lowfat or fat-free foods like celery or tomatoes, but lab creations like fat-free cheese and fat-free salad dressing. She said something I’ve been thinking about for a while but didn’t know how to put into words: our body knows what to do with the real thing. It doesn’t know what to do with those fake foods.

Eat Fat, Lose Fat: The Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats*

Enter a book suggestion from Stephanie of BODA Life: Eat Fat, Lose Fat. She mentioned it in a comment on this post. The title alone sounded to me like a fantasy and I wondered if it was something along the lines of the Atkins Diet. I tried Atkins in my mid-20’s and it worked but was very restrictive; once you go off-plan the weight comes back with a vengeance. Plus there are a lot of concerns about the effect Atkins can have on your health. But I’ve been reading the BODA Life blog and respect what Stephanie has to say, so I ordered it and read it.

The Book
First of all, it is nothing like the Atkins Diet. It promotes a well-rounded diet with foods from every part of the food pyramid and an emphasis on healthy fats. What is different about Eat Fat, Lose Fat is how it defines healthy fats, as it includes saturated fats on that list: animal fats from butter, red meat, etc. It also emphasizes the use of coconut oil for weight loss and maintaining good health, which fascinated me. Isn’t that the stuff that used to be in movie theater popcorn, when there was a big flap about it ten or so years ago? Isn’t it supposed to be bad? Not according to the authors of Eat Fat, Lost Fat, Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.

The book extensively describes research on different kinds of fat and its effect on the body. It’s well organized, describing each concept simply and then going into more detail, so you can get the idea but can start skimming if the information gets too complex for you. As it did for me occasionally. But then I was able to move on to the next idea with a good basic understanding of the previous one.

It also includes three diet plans: one for weight loss, a second one for weight loss if your body is resistant to the first, and one for maintaining good health. Honestly the diets are too complicated for me, but if someone else uses them I'd love to hear about your experience.

My Thoughts
What I got out of this book is that fats like olive oil, coconut oil, butter, and what is found in dairy products like cheese or in a fruit like avocado, are not the enemy. They are a beneficial part of a healthy diet. My impression from Eat Fat, Lose Fat is that the enemy is food created in a lab, like fat-free butter-flavored spray or fat-free blue cheese dressing. These are laboratory recreations of foods that would have naturally contained fats that could have benefited your body. The fat-free lab version replaces the fat with chemicals intended to duplicate flavor or texture. I know what butter is. I don’t know what those chemicals are or how they affect my body.

The book doesn’t call for completely abandoning all well-known good health guidelines for eating. It calls for a redesign of what healthy eating is. It’s not a quick-fix fad diet, it’s a philosophy that promotes good health and informed decision-making.  I recommend you give it a read.

The Outcome
How has it affected me? It reinforced what I was already thinking, that it would be better to make room in my daily diet for real foods that might happen to contain a significant amount of fat, rather than play beat-the-system games with frankenfoods. I am officially announcing my retirement from using fat-free reproductions of foods. Except skim milk, because I like it.

*Link is through my Amazon Associates account.


JourneyBeyondSurvival said...

I totally agree. But, I already thought this way too. I remember thinking, if it's supposed to be fat laden and sugar laden, but suddenly it isn't- then what exactly IS in there.

That string of thoughts led me to avoid it like the plague. Well, that and Michael Pollan helping me on my way. :)

Kelly said...

Sounds like a really good book. I think you are right that it's better to have more "real" food even if it may have slightly more fat in it. I never like to subject my body to weird fake stuff there to take the fat or sugar away...

Anonymous Fat Girl said...

I'm very interested in this book, it sounds like there are some great ideas there.

I agree that real food (aka clean eating) is the best route. :)

Agnes said...

Makes sense to me too.

Cammy said...

Thank you for this book review! Very timely as I just purchased my first jar of coconut oil. :)

Shelby said...

This is very interesting. I've been giving this a lot of thought largely due to economics. Typically the low-fat, no-fat, blahblahblah stuff costs more and I just can't afford it.

Then you get into what replaces that stuff? Extra sugar, sodium or fat depending on what you "free"ing in any given food.

I'm trying to come to terms with eating REAL food without the "free" or "lite" even if it means eating less of it.

I think I need to see if the library has that book.

carriebojo said...

I find I am agreeing more with this too. Another good read that help me rethink my eating was Jillian Michaels new book, Master Your Metabolism. While I think it would be very difficult for me to cut out all processed foods, I can certainly make some big changes after learning from that book.

liz said...

thanks you guys, i totally agree. the simpler the food, the better.

@carriebojo, thanks for visiting my blog! and i actually gave someone that jillian michaels book for christmas; it looked interesting.

carriebojo said...

since i left my last comment, i have cut out the processed foods from my diet. have you read anything about the eat clean diet? VERY good information. i eat on a whole different level now.