Eat Fat to Lose Fat? A Carb-Lover Goes Primal Part 3

By Bethany Sanders

eat-fat-to-lose-fatFat is bad.  Saturated fat is deadly.  Bacon — and most meat in general, except for boneless, skinless chicken breast and lean ground turkey — was off limits to dieters.  Until now.

When I made the decision to go primal for 30 days, I asked a close friend if she would go with me.  After a few days to read up on the rules, she texted me.

I’m a little scared.

What’s to be scared of?” I texted back.  “Two words: MORE BACON.

Of course, I was kidding.  But — at the risk of aging myself here — I learned how to diet in the 90s.  Less fat/more exercise is the way to weight loss, at least that’s what I’ve been taught for the last 20 years.

Meat is Now the Backbone of My Diet

Summer food, rose colored fish steak in a wine marinadeI am willing to accept that there’s a better way, but old habits die hard.  Turkey sausage for breakfast, chicken for lunch, steak or roast or fish for dinner.  I’ve never been a vegetarian, but before trying a primal way of eating, I could go days without eating meat.

Suddenly it is very much the backbone of my diet and I can’t help but feel like I’m breaking the rules as I have come to understand them.

But a low-fat diet has never helped me lose weight in the past, so I’m sticking this one out to see what happens.

Eat Fat to Burn Fat

The theory behind the primal lifestyle is this:  Fat is very satiating.  Most nutritional experts know this. Carbs give quick energy, proteins provide lasting energy, but nothing fills you up like fat.  Fats also don’t affect insulin, which is great for avoiding spikes and crashes in blood sugar.

Primal advocates say that once you start eating low carb/high fat, your body learns to burn fat for energy.

My Paleo Progress

After recovering from last week’s tantrum, the very first thing I noticed is this:  I need less to eat.  Initially, I was packing a very large primal-style lunch and piling my plate at dinner.  But now I’m realizing that I just don’t need the volume I did before to get and stay full.  The fat — in addition to the extra protein that I have no doubt added to my diet — is filling me up.Avocado on white

I know.  I can feel you all rolling your eyes at this very obvious revelation.  But dieting has been a struggle for me for 15 years.  Finding myself not struggling to diet is a brand new feeling.

That’s not to say all has gone perfectly.  I still turn to sweet, simple carbs for comfort when I’m stressed (though I do not find myself looking for them as much in general and when I do eat them they don’t taste as good). This weekend was particularly stressful and I survived.

I’m still not quick on my feet when it comes to grabbing a primal-friendly meal or snack when my plans get altered.  But I am finding my footing in this new way of eating and liking the way it feels.

Weight lost:  A somewhat disappointing, but still progress 1.5 pounds for a total of 5 at the end of week two.

In case you missed it: Part 1 | Part 2


  1. Chain Saw Head Plates

    the best thing to do to speed up your weight loss is a lot of carido, and eat 6 small meals a day. lots of veggies! i’m telling you, once you get into this routine you won’t believe you ever ate bad

  2. amanda

    I am on day 14 of The whole 30. I feel great, lost 8 pounds and have no deisre to cheat. My husband is a day behind me. His feet no longer hurt all the time and feels great too. The only thing that we miss is picking up a pizza or take away after a really long day.

    I find referring back to the book and the Whole9 website very helpful with motivation, recipes and keeping me honest. We are committed 100% – no allowables or “occassions” to go off plan. To us those things take away from the whole pont of the plan, it’s about changing habits too.

    Good luck!

  3. Elena Grace Flores

    Oh I love eating fats especially from pork when cooked properly! It would be very satisfying for me if it I could really burn fats from eating fatty meats! Health practices can be very exciting with this!

  4. Bilgi

    Being fat is not genetic. True, your entire family may be overweight but it doesn’t mean that you have to be. There are success stories all the time of people overcoming their “genetics” and possibly increasing your chances of rapid fat loss.

  5. Brent

    The hardest part of this whole process is bucking the “social norm”. It’s so hard to do this in public because everyone will question it. Best you can do is know what you’re talking about and stick to it.

    • Bethany

      Good point, Brent. I haven’t run into too many situations socially yet where it’s been a major issue. I have been either able to politely decline something or if out to eat have managed from the menu.

  6. Dan

    A lot of people think that saturated fat is not harmful because apparently the Masai and the Inuit eat a lot of it and don’t have heart disease. Electrocardiograms (ECG) don’t show heart disease in them. However, my partner had a 95% blockage, but his ECG was normal. However, a subsequent stress test showed heart disease, as well as a catherization, where a tube is threaded through the arteries and shows pictures. He did a second catherization to insert two stents, which has helped him a lot. Likewise, even though the EKG’s show that the Inuit and the Masai don’t have heart disease, autopsies paint a different picture. Most of them have hardening of the arteries. They may not have heart attacks, but they could be more prone to them. On the other hand, Nathan Pritikin had heart disease and then he went on a mostly plant based diet with very little saturated fat. His autopsy showed that his arteries were soft and supple. even though at one time they were hardened. Monounsaturated fat has been shown in many studies to be far healthier than saturated fat. It doesn’t lead to hardening of the arteries. Fat from nuts, seeds and fish is healthier than the fat from red meat or full fat dairy. If one eats dairy or red meat, it is better to eat leaner versions of these and get one’s fat from fish and nuts. I eat a lot of nuts and seeds, but no animal fat, except for a little half and half in my coffee. Of course, trans fats are even worse than saturated fat. I could be even better about avoiding processed fats, since some of the foods I eat contain some hydrogenated oils. The label may say 0 trans fats, but we know that it can contain up to .5 grams of trans fats per serving and still be labeled 0.

    • Brent

      Saturated fats themselves do no harm. It is only when coupled with a carbohydrate heavy diet (common to America) that they show their potential bad side.

    • Spectra

      Yes, Brent is right–the reason the Inuit and Masai don’t have problems with a diet high in saturated fat is because they eat very few carbohydrates with it. Excess carbohydrates cause inflammation in your arteries and that inflammation creates a perfect surface for plaques to form. If you don’t consume many carbs, you shouldn’t have a problem.

      • Dan

        Unrefined carbohydrates are not the problem. They only are if a person consumes a lot of saturated fat. Most kinds of saturated fat has been shown to raise LDL levels, even though they don’t lower HDL levels, as trans fats do. Even Loren Cordain, of the primal diet stated that the Inuit had hardening of the arteries and that palmitic acid was atherogenic. Eating fewer carbs makes the person less likely to have a heart attack, says Cordain, but having hardening of the arteries is a problem and is not benign. It must also be stated that regular exercise does mitigate some of the effects of saturated fat. It isn’t that all saturated fat is equally bad. Stearic acid, found in Cocoa butter has not been shown to raise LDL cholesterol, as palmitic acid does Not all animal products are equally bad. Fish has some of the healthiest fats a person can eat= omega 3’s. Probably grass fed meats have less saturated fat in them. Nuts have been shown to be beneficial for heart health, but red meat and full fat dairy has not been shown to be. I wouldn’t say a person cannot eat any saturated fat, as they should avoid trans fats, but I don’t think it is a good idea to eat a lot of fatty red meats, esp. those from factory farms. It is better to eat nuts and fish. I personally won’t eat fish, because I am a vegetarian, but I wouldn’t claim that fish is per se unhealthy. I wouldn’t imagine that mercury free fish, if there is such a thing, is unhealthy. Mainstream science pretty much shows it isn’t a good idea to eat a lot of red meat- and it isn’t just Vegans who say that. It probably also is a better idea to consume whole food sources of fat than to consume vegetable oils. For instance, ground flaxseed is better than the oil, because it has more of the nutrients, such as the lignans and fiber left over. And yes, there is a problem with consuming too many omega 6’s as well, such as from corn oil.

    • Bethany

      This is fascinating to me because I’ve just been reading up on it. Apparently having a high cholesterol reading after following Paleo for a while is a normal thing? But because it’s just HDL that’s high while triglycerides stay low some people can stay off statins? This is a new concept for me, so I’m still learning. My own cholesterol numbers are great, so I’m a little concerned about them going up!

      • JD

        I think part of the reason they want to give advice that conforms to the current meme to not confuse anyone. For example in cholesterol charts show a high range, a borderline range, and then say total under 200 is ideal. Well a total cholesterol under 160 is a better predictor of eminent death than over 240, just from things like cancer and suicide instead of heart disease (although CVD is very possible with low cholesterol). So why don’t they have a “too low” setting on the chart? I’m guessing because the current meme is low-fat, low cholesterol=good, animal fat=bad, why confuse anyone over it?

        The truth is what you want in order to assess your CVD then you LDL count (LDL-c) is worthless. What you want is the LDL particle density (LDL-p), hs-CRP inflammation, and HDL/Trig ratio.

        Because of my family history I’m very concerned about things like this (as you may have guessed). After careful consideration I’ve decided to go with the high-fat low-carb paleo like diet (basically paleo with grass fed butter). What you’re trying to do, high-protein low-carb doesn’t work as well. Up the fat intake, use hunger as your guide not calories, and if it doesn’t work try something else. And if it does work and you’re concerned about your lipids get yours checked (after you lost the weight you wanted, dropping tons of fat weight can cause havoc with lipid test).

        One more thing, everything you’ve wanted to know about cholesterol is in this ongoing 9+ part series that starts here

  7. Serena

    Five pounds in two weeks is great! As for bacon and other cured meats, well, some can handle it and some can’t. I’m in transition to a paleo diet, don’t know how far I’ll go, and my main foods are lean hamburger, tuna and sardines, celery, lettuce, avocados, coconut, bananas, apples, oranges and live-culture sour cream and cottage cheese. I’m hoping to phase out dairy someday. I already look and feel much better, after about five or six weeks. Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Bethany

      Good for you!! I have actually not been able to kick the dairy as much as I had hoped. Greek yogurt and cheese are my guilty pleasures.

  8. Spectra

    I know–it’s so hard to give up that old 90’s mentality of “fat=BAD!!”. I think the government and diet companies in general have done a great job of drilling that message into our heads. Now, I eat a lot of salmon, chicken, pork, even pork rinds and I use coconut oil and lard for cooking. I eat a lot of nuts, too–it IS counterintuitive, but it does work. You’re doing great–keep up the good work!!

    • Bethany

      Thanks Spectra! Just got a big jar of coconut oil today!

  9. Sister Lou

    Yay!!! Five pounds, two weeks! Keep going! I feel less hungry. Which is awesome. Because I’m not battling all day hunger by eating more protein at meals! Keep going 😉

    • Bethany

      Thanks Sister!