For nearly 8 years I have been trying to educate people about the importance of good fats in their diet.
- I have criticised the “low fat” health foods sold in super markets.
- I have criticised the slimming programs that endorse them.
- And yet I have never tried them…
Last month I decided that I would investigate what a highly processed “low fat” diet really felt like.
0% fat yoghurts, Weight watchers soups, 2% fat Breakfast Cereals – were to be the main stays of my diet for 21 days.
This blog post reveals what I THOUGHT was going to happen, what DID happen and what I LEARNT from it all.
What I ate…
Below is my intended meal planner. I didn’t stick to this 100% (tbh more like 50%!) but it gives you an idea of the types of food I was eating.
What I thought would happen
I thought that I would not be able to stop eating!
I had read that “Fat” is regarded as very satiating and in the past, if I was hungry, I would always turn to a high fat snack such as nuts or humous. My prediction was that on a “No Fat” diet I would be eating permentantly and never feel full.
I thought that my mood and energy would be very up and down.
I had read numerous studies on the influences wheat could have on mood and on the affects that a high carb diet would have on blood sugar, and consequently energy.
My prediction was that I would feel incredibly anxious, and be extremely lethargic.
I thought I would gain weight…
I was convinced that I would put in weight and body fat. Regardless of calories consumed, see Sam Feltham’s Experiments on Calorie Counting, I thought that I would put on body fat, purely due to the elevated blood sugar and greater need to store this excess energy.
What Actually Happened…
I lost my appetite
I monitored my calorie intake for the first three days and it was a solid 2700 calories. This is pretty much the same as I would normally eat.
However, each day it would become harder and harder to reach this figure. I seemed to be getting fuller on less food. Whether it was the higher fibre content of the food or simply the fact that a gram of fat is 9 calories and a gram of carbohydrate is 4 calls, my appetite was reducing rather than increasing.
It may also have been due to the fact that this diet was devoid of pleasure for me. Bread without butter, no chocolate (too fatty) and soups without cream. It was all becoming pretty dull after a few days. I wasn’t interested in food.
My mood wasn’t too bad!
I guess the best person to ask about my mood during this 21 day experiment was my wife. Here are her thoughts…
“Very occasionally John will have an afternoon tea with the full works of scones and cream! His mood and energy fluctuations have to be seen to be believed! When unleashed on a bounty of bread and sugar, 9 times out of 10 he will reach euphoric “post dough” highs followed by a massive crash of mood and energy. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about 21 days of this yo-yoing.”
“The first few days were like this but I am pleased to say both mood and energy seemed to be pretty constant by the second week. There was also a change in John’s sleep; from sleeping like the dead, he was tossing and turning and was up even earlier than normal. However, this too seemed to even out after a couple of weeks. All in all, a good three weeks from my perspective (but that may be due to the addition of Rice Krispies to our kitchen! – Which I love!)”
I did lose weight, and body fat!
As you can see from the chart below, I lost weight. Not only this but I lost body fat too. This surprised me, especially as I was eating whatever I wanted regardless of quantity.
“One day I ate a baguette, a banana and a loaf of bread!”
It’s hard putting on weight without fat in your diet! Really hard!
Despite losing weight I actually did feel weaker and heavier. My joints ached, as if I was heavier, and I lost the intensity from my exercise. I maintained the same exercise program that I normality do, however it did seem harder.
I got headaches for the first time in 10 years!
After a few days I got headaches on this diet. I have not had a proper headache for as long as I can remember, and yet after just 2 days I had a near blinding headache right in the centre of my head.
I’m not sure if it was a migraine but it was certainly powerful!
If I had to choose a food to pin it on it would be the 0% Greek Yoghurt’s I was eating…
My digestive tract felt like a water slide!
Without doubt the biggest change was in my digestive tract! Bloating, gas and a digestive tract that felt like a water slide were all part of this joinery for me! No likey…
Many years ago, during my dark days of being an anxiety riddled “Stress Cadet” I did suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and this diet seems to bring it all back!
Without doubt this was the most uncomfortable part of the diet, and whilst all symptoms have disappeared after just a few days of returning to my normal “High Fat / Real Food” diet, I now experience intense gut pain if I eat sugar. Bizarre, considering that the “No Fat” diet was relatively low in sugar too.
I slept badly for the first time in 10 years!
Before I changed my career and lifestyle as a 24 year old, sleep had been a constant problem for me. From the ages of 12 – 24 it had always taken me at least an hour to get to sleep, and the quality of that sleep had been poor.
For the last 10 years my sleep has been excellent though. Deep sleep within 5-10 mins of my head hitting the pillow, up at 5:15am without feeling groggy.
This diet took me back to the bad old days.
It took me longer to get down, and I had more sleep interruptions. It was far harder to mentally switch off, and I actually abandoned my usual daily habit of meditating for 20 mins due to the difficulty.
I became a weakling
Whilst I still continued to exercise, I did feel weaker the longer the challenge went on. In fact towards the end, my attitude to exercise became somewhat apathetic!
I felt sluggish, weak and bloated in the gym.
On one occasion I even had to exercise with my shirt on… (Joke)
Seriously, poor nutrition is not good for performance in the gym!
In Conclusion – What I learnt
A “No Fat” Diet was an effective way of losing weight and body fat for me!
Here’s the sad truth for me. Despite my best intentions, a “No Fat Diet” was an effective means of losing both body fat and weight for me. (I cannot only speak for myself)
And perhaps this is why people still use diets like these.
It was simply so hard to gain weight when I wasn’t eating any fat.
This may also be due to the fact that most junk foods contain more than 3% fat in them. You can’t eat that much junk on a “No Fat ” diet.
There is more to a diet than weight loss…
Despite this diet getting results I felt lousy for much of the challenge.
Constant gut pain, low energy, poor sleep and a general feeling of weakness are not the norm for me!
It reminded me of the three questions that I tell my clients to ask themselves about any diet they are on;
Do I look good?
Do I feel Good?
Do I enjoy this?
If you can’t answer YES to all three questions you haven’t found a diet that works for you yet.
It’s not all about a number on the scales!
It’s about “lifestyle” rather than just diet…
For 21 days I was eating a diet pretty much bereft of nutrition.
And yet I didn’t collapse and die!
I managed to have a great month, full of fun, productivity and meaningful relationships.
Despite the scare mongering of many Personal Trainers and health professionals, a poor diet is not going to make you a terrible person.
I still exercised, I still invested in meaningful relationships, and I still had fun everyday.
What I learnt is that if you have a good lifestyle that you enjoy you can ride out a month of terrible nutrition. Perhaps only a month though!!!
I think that what goes into your mouth is really important, but what comes out of it is still far more important!
Good nutrition does not make you a better person, and bad nutrition does not make you a worse person. It just makes life a little bit harder.