Yesterday’s post introduced the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating.
It is preferable to consider LCHF not as a short-term fix ‘diet’ but rather as a nutrition plan that you and your family can adopt — just as you might have adopted a high carb low fat one!
If you missed my previous posts over the past several days, it might be worth your time reading them to better understand the science behind it: debunking popular breakfast myths, why overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet, why we should not graze and a case against grazing.
The primer below is not exhaustive. Information comes from my own 18-month experience as well as insights from other LCHF followers and medical practitioners.
N.B.: In order to avoid fatigue or light-headedness from Day 1, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with sea salt and Lo Salt.
Also, avoid falling into the trap of ‘gluten-free’ and soy-based foods (e.g. tofu). Most of these have large amounts of carbohydrate and are not on the LCHF plan.
1/ I’m afraid of fat, especially getting fatter by eating more of it.
Over the past few years, the medical establishment — which had previously advised against fat — now recognises it has a beneficial part to play in a healthful diet.
The problem Westerners have is eating a lot of carbohydrates which make us hungry a few hours later. This has made us fatter, not thinner, especially as more of us are obese and running the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
By turning the tables — eating more fat and far fewer carbs — we are actually helping to regulate insulin. Dr Mercola says (emphases mine):
Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.
Dr Lyle Macdonald explains:
… insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.
Note that fat has little to no impact on insulin secretion. This is why overweight people may well benefit from the LCHF.
On another practical level, fat increases satiety. Many LCHF followers find they consume fewer calories by increasing fat when compared with their former high carb low fat diets.
2/ How much weight can one lose on LCHF? Can you give me a real-life example?
The heavier one is, the more weight one will lose. The heaviest will also lose weight quicker than those who are in a normal weight range.
There are many examples that can be found by looking for LCHF successes in a search engine. A specific case is that of Tommy, a Scandinavian who has lost an incredible amount of weight — nearly 200 pounds in the first two years. The before and after pictures are amazing! His website, Eat Low Carb High Fat has many helpful posts on physiological markers and what he eats.
3/ How can I get a variety of fats?
Many LCHF followers rely a lot on butter. To it, one can add garlic, herbs and different kitchen seasonings (Old Bay, poultry seasoning). You can do this as you cook or make a compound butter in advance. Take a slightly softened stick or brick of butter, put it in a bowl and mix whatever you like into it so that you have it over the course of a few days. You can put it into a smaller container (with lid) or roll the butter into a sausage shape which you can then wrap in cling film (plastic wrap).
Clarified butter — known as ghee in the Subcontinent — is also an excellent cooking fat.
Cream is useful, especially in sauces or in a shot of coffee, known as ‘bullet-proof’. If you’re buying milk, make sure it is full-fat. Milk has a fair amount of carbs, so use it only in hot beverages and when thinning cream sauces.
Olive oil is great for salad dressings and light sautéing. It cannot withstand high temperatures, however.
Animal fats are highly recommended. I keep a variety of them in the refrigerator from our roasts and pan fried meats, e.g. duck. After cooking, I drain the fat into a glass jar (with lid) by type of fat. At any one time I have jars of the following fat: chicken, duck, goose, beef and pork. Chicken and duck fats are flavoursome to mix with butter when sautéing vegetables. Goose, beef and pork are for on the occasions when I make Yorkshire pudding, which needs fat that can withstand very high heat. To make light gravies to go with the roasts, keep a tablespoon of the fat in the roasting tin to make a roux (add a tablespoon of flour to mix and cook with the fat as a sauce base). Then add meat stock and seasoning gradually to the roux to make the sauce — a slightly thicker form of jus.
Pork crackling makes an excellent accompaniment to roast pork loin and a nice snack before dinner. I save chicken skin, salt it, flatten it and heat it in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp it. Served on the side with hot chicken, it melts in the mouth and is surprisingly filling! If I’m running low on chicken, I eat the skin with a small amount of meat and give the lion’s share of protein to my better half.
Full-fat mayonnaise is a must. Use it generously with tuna, chicken, egg or coleslaw.
Peanut and almond butters are great with vegetable sticks at lunch or as a daytime snack.
4/ How can I be sure I’m getting the right proportions of fat, protein and carbs?
Martina from the UK, author of The KetoDiet Blog, has a helpful calculator for macros — macronutrients — that are scaled to individual requirements. This determines the proportions you should be eating each day. The calculator page also has useful examples to illustrate how they work.
Most people with experience of this and similar calculators say to select ‘sedentary’ unless one has a daily workout regime.
You might have to rerun the calculator as you lose weight and reach a subsequent stall or plateau.
Initially, I was successful on a 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% vegetable with some flour (sauce) carb for the first few weeks. After my first month, I then had to recalculate my fat and protein amounts, so that I now eat 55% fat and 40% protein with 5% carb.
Weighing portions in the beginning will help to ensure that they are accurate. After 18 months, I no longer do this.
5/ It sounds as if you don’t count calories, then.
No. I weighed everything instead. Now I judge by eye. After a few months, you’ll see and feel (fullness) exactly what you need to eat to achieve satiety. Again, because of the dominance of fat, you’ll consume fewer calories.
6/ Did you throw out all the carbs in your house in the beginning?
No. I only threw our remaining pasta, rice and couscous a few weeks ago!
I went cold turkey whilst my better half continued to eat bread and potatoes for a few more months. We have both been on LCHF (ketogenic diet for us) for over a year, so it seemed a waste of space to keep these carbs around. As much as I dislike throwing food away, the opened packets were only taking up space. None of it appeals to us anymore!
I still make bread, but primarily for bread crumbs, used sparingly just to give crunch to soft vegetables. My better half needs a few more carbs than I do, so I make bread once every fortnight now on average. We have Yorkshire pudding much less often. For our birthdays, Christmas and Easter I make a fruit crumble or ground nut-based daquoise (e.g. Opéra, Yule Log).
7/ What sort of foods will provide both protein and fat?
Always buy fatty meats and eat the fat after cooking. When pan frying duck breasts, render the skin before flipping the breast over to cook on the lean side. Delicious.
Bacon and good quality sausages (85% meat minimum) are excellent sources of protein and fat. Premium hot dogs are perfectly keto.
Fatty fish — salmon, mackerel, sardines — provide a lot of Omega 3 and satiety.
Cheese is outstanding. Not only does it give you the excuse to eat different varieties but it is also very filling. A thin wedge of brie after dinner often suffices.
Don’t forget the versatile egg. Enjoy it scrambled, poached, hard boiled, devilled or in an omelette.
8/ What should I avoid?
Beware of eating too much dark (70%+) chocolate. It has carbohydrates, so only have a square or two now and then unless you are fully in maintenance.
Nuts are another potential downfall. Too many almonds or peanuts can cause a stall or weight gain. A handful — 15 whole nuts — really is the maximum one should have per day if one is not in maintenance. Nuts have a fair amount of carbohydrate. It is easy to underestimate how many we eat.
9/ Can I have a carb cheat day? If so, how soon?
If you’re really into carbs, cut down dramatically to begin with as you increase fat. If you can’t do without toast or breakfast cereal, have one or the other — and only a small portion. Give up every other carb.
If you’re not losing weight within the first fortnight, give up carbs altogether.
Most LCHF followers will experience a taste bud change once they go cold turkey. Carbs and sugars lose their appeal within a few weeks.
If you’re entering the LCHF plan anticipating your first cheat day, you’re unlikely to succeed long term. One way around this is to think of something fatty and appetising every time you want something carby. If you’re really hungry, have a fatty snack. Otherwise, imagine you’ve just eaten a fatty snack and you now feel full. Mind over matter.
10/ What are my chances of reaching a stall? What do I do?
Nearly everyone, reaches a stall — plateau — at some point on LCHF. This is especially common for those with the least to lose. However, this is common to every diet plan, which is why so many of us fail.
Considering LCHF as a long term way of eating helps to give us patience and endurance in reaching our goal.
LCHF is a gradual plan for those of normal weight. The heaviest have the most dramatic results. For everyone nearing their goal weight, the last several pounds take the most time to shift.
In general, it is essential to remember that after decades of an excess of carbs, the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and thyroid need time to readjust. This might take months or a few years.
Speaking personally, it was normal for us to have plateaus every few weeks. Sometimes we lost nothing. Sometimes we lost inches instead of pounds. Some pound loss came easier than others. There seems to be a step-change, including stall, every several weeks with progress at the end. Whilst my better half is now in maintenance thanks to a historically better metabolism and insulin sensitivity, I still have several more pounds to lose.
Those who are concerned can re-evaluate their macros, keep a food diary, weigh portions to guard against underestimating and increase gentle exercise. Some people find it helpful to reduce consumption of cream and milk.
Martina has an excellent précis of LCHF which serves as a useful reminder of what we should be doing. She also has an encouraging follow-up post. The readers’ comments and Martina’s responses are also enlightening.
Don’t give up! The benefits will come sooner or later! Internal clean-up is a big part of LCHF. Often, that stage has to be completed before the rest follows.
11/ You said ‘gentle exercise’.
LCHF does not work well for sedentary types who suddenly engage in intensive exercise to break a stall. Some actually gain water weight.
It is much better to get one’s exercise from moderate walking, cycling, housework, DIY or gardening.
That said, fitness enthusiasts who have already adopted their regime can do well if they choose to embark on LCHF.
12/ In what other ways can LCHF benefit us?
Diet Doctor has over 100 articles with case studies on the ways LCHF can benefit us. These cover a variety of health issues from acne to cancer to Parkinson’s.
I got interested in keto because it seemed that there should be a diet which can help with low moods and irritability. What I found amazed me. Related posts are on my Recipes/Health/History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression‘:
Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)
Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)
High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])
High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)
Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)
High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)
In closing, best wishes to all those who are undertaking LCHF or are embarking on such a journey.
Final words from me before exploring recipes in future posts: low carb high fat eating is the most fun you’ll ever have with food!