Review: Eating Low Carb High Fat Real Food

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Did you see our recent article about the top diet trends for 2019? I want to share my personal experience about my “diet” over the past 3 years: Low-carb, high fat, unprocessed real food, a.k.a. LCHF.

Engadine Physio Cutting Back on Sugar

How did it begin?

I’m not a dietician by any means: I’m a physiotherapist with a passion for human movement. But while I was studying Physiotherapy with access to an abundance of peer-reviewed modern research I was taking it all in. I came across some podcasts mentioning Zoe Harcombe, who had recently re-examined the evidence available at the time that the food pyramid was created: She found there was no scientific basis for the recommendation to cut fat from the diet, or to have grains such as rice, bread and pasta as the largest part of our diet. This has been solidly confirmed. But it’s too late because for 30 years the resulting “low-fat, high-carb” recommendation means we’ve been eating processed foods that are high in sugar. This has resulted in a chronic disease epidemic. So, I started a low carb, high fat diet.

Where did I go from there?

My wife is skeptical of fad diets, and of conspiracy theories, and she refuses to cook different meals for each person in our house (including a preschooler and toddler!). A switch in her brain turns off when it comes to talk of macros, calories, energy requirements, etc. But she was also constantly under the weather, suffered from “hangry” moods (it’s scary stuff!), and struggled with managing stress (and the associated unwanted weight loss). She wanted to avoid the chronic diseases in her family history: heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, thyroid problems, and cancer. So, we gently took our household into low-carb high-fat healthy eating, using resources easily available: a book called A Fat Lot of Good by Dr Peter Brukner, and the website Diet Doctor by Dr Andreas Eenfeldt. Over the next few months we moved from getting about 70% of our energy from carbohydrates to less than 20%, and eating healthy fats until we felt content. And we’re loving it!

What do we actually eat?

This is the most common question I get!

  • Breakfast: omelette with zucchini, capsicum or mushroom and smoked salmon; yogurt with berries and nuts; bacon, eggs and butter fried banana. Most weekdays, despite training in the morning, I don’t wake up hungry and don’t feel the need to eat breakfast, so I just have black coffee.
  • Lunch: usually something from the slow cooker that I’ve done a big batch of early in week such as chicken thigh with cream, pesto, black olives and fetta with a side of leafy greens; dinner leftovers; salad with leafy greens, pickles, avocado, cheese, canned fish and lots of EVO oil; charcuterie board of cured meats, cheese, avocado and pickles.
  • Snacks: I’m rarely hungry between meals. But if I get a bit peckish I have nuts, coffee or tea. My family have dip & carrot & celery sticks; almond meal & coconut flour berry muffins; zucchini chips with cheese; berry smoothie.
  • Dinner: stews made with fatty cuts of meat such as chicken thigh, pork neck, or lamb shoulder; soups; meat or fish cooked in butter & vegetables with EVO oil; cauliflower pilaf “rice”; Caesar salad with whole egg mayo; cheese base pizza.
  • Dessert: whipped cream with berries; 70%+ dark chocolate; apple & nut crumble.

On weekends, if there is a party we definitely still eat cake! It’s not super strict, it’s making educated choices for our family.

We’ve taken the main ideas for our eating style from one of the most famous and well-regarded Sports Doctors in Australia, Dr Peter Brukner’s, book called A Fat Lot of Good:

  • You don’t need to count calories! Just keep carbohydrates (sugar) low, so you eat when you’re hungry.
  • Eat real food
  • Avoid sugar, including bottled drinks
  • Avoid processed foods, including cereal, bread, rice, pasta, flavored yogurt
  • Avoid vegetable oils and cook with heat-stable fats such as butter
  • Choose healthy fats, like eggs, meat, fish, avocado, EVO oil, nuts, cheese & cream, natural Greek yogurt
  • Choose foods for their nutrients, like cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, capsicum, pickles, and the healthy fats above

Engadine Physio LCHF Food Guide

What are the benefits?

My family and I clearly notice these differences.

  • Feeling satiated for longer
  • Stable concentration (no carb crash)
  • Less inflammation response, e.g. runny nose, itchy eyes
  • Delicious food that we can eat until content
  • Suitable for the whole family
  • Easy to maintain long term
  • No “diet” guilt
  • Knowing we’re eating to avoid chronic diseases

What are the challenges?

  • Transition period: understanding what to eat and what to avoid can take time especially if the low-fat diet ideal has been well entrenched. We’ve been told for so long to avoid all fats, especially saturated fats, that it can be hard to get your head around the fact that it’s not going to kill you.
  • Eating out: when you’ve been eating low-carb for a while, you feel sluggish and lousy when you do eat lots of sugar, so you actually want to avoid them. Café meals tend to be carb-laden, and most take-away is cooked in vegetable oils, so lunch is especially tricky. Ordering a “big breakfast” without toast, or a rich coconut cream-based curry with extra vegies, instead of rice, are some ways around the carbs.
  • Meal planning is essential: this helps with bringing the cost down. Bulk cooking on a Sunday or Monday night for lunch meals makes thing easy. If you have delicious low-carb, real food meals sitting in the fridge then eating right is easy!

How do we feel?

I’ve realized that for more than 2 years now I’ve been eating a low-carb high-fat diet, with 16:8 fasting over the last year or so. But I don’t think about it as a “diet”, it’s just the normal way that I eat. And that’s the point, having a healthy lifestyle rather than a short-term diet.

Notably, there is no more “hanger” from my wife! And I can have a busy day doing back-to-back patients and meetings without worrying about having a carb crash that renders my brain totally useless until I eat again! My son’s pre-school teacher says she gets jealous looking into his lunchbox each day! It’s tasty, real food.

We are gradually getting more and more questions about the way we eat from colleagues, clients, friends and family. Our parents are gradually making the change too. They’re noticing weight loss despite being in the “hard to lose weight” age group, and gaining more control of their chronic diseases. That’s what the new research suggests too: that diet should be the first line of treatment for chronic diseases.

Personally, I’ve never been in better physical condition: this way of healthy eating, as well as my half squats as maximal strength training, has helped me be the most competitive cyclist I’ve ever been! I don’t have the constant fear of hitting “the wall” due to running low on carbs. I don’t need to carb load for my long rides. Actually, I don’t even eat before my morning rides, and only eat during the ride if it’s going to last more than 3 hours.

I feel great eating like this. I can see myself continuing this style of eating for the rest of my life, and on a personal level, couldn’t recommend this way of eating more highly.

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