Are High Fat, Low Carb Diets Effective?

Dear Hannah, HI! You’re killing it with wholesomelyhannah lately!! So I’ve been listening to health podcasts on my way to work because my commute is brutally long. I’ve come across various people saying that high fat diets with whole foods are the way to go for your body. I just wanted to know if you've heard that (you probably have), and what you think of it, because obviously I’ve always heard fat is bad for you (blah blah blah) from the media and such. 

Thank you! Anonymous 

Are High Carb, Low Fat Diets Effective? | Dear Hannah
Are High Carb, Low Fat Diets Effective? | Dear Hannah

Dear Anonymous, 

Aw, thank you so much! First off, I am thrilled that you have been listening to health/wellness podcasts while driving to work! It sucks about the long commute (because paying for gas, etc.), but I totally understand. I had to drive 45 minutes all last summer for my internship, and what got me through the traffic bouts were podcasts. My current favorite is the Paleo Women Podcast. They talk authentically about self-love, body acceptance, natural skincare, healthy weight loss/gain for women, eating real food, hormones, workouts, and other important wellness topics. I cannot recommend it enough! 

So this is a complex question, one that I have absolutely grappled with myself. As you know, I'm not a certified nutritionist or a medical doctor. Maybe a high-fat diet would work for you, maybe it wouldn't (that would take some experimentation), but to answer this question, I will stick to speaking from my personal experience. 

I tried the high-fat-low-carb (HFLC) approach last summer and fall, and I found that it did not work well for me or my lifestyle. Even though I was eating real, whole foods, I was consuming no fruit, definitely no grains, and not many sweet potatoes or squash. I ate a lot of eggs, chicken sausage, coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, chia seeds, full-fat coconut milk, certainly too much almond/cashew butter, and raw dark chocolate.

One reason that I disliked this way of eating was because oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruit, butternut squash, quinoa, and rice are some of my favorite foods. I was unhappy when I “couldn’t” include these in my diet. 

Another reason I disliked low carb was because it made me feel tired and hungry more often. I think that the frequency/amount of exercise that I do in combination with the very minimal carbs I was eating caused me to feel these feelings of fatigue and hunger. (To give you a bit of context about my workout regimen: I enjoy exercise so much, and I try to do it every day of the week. I either do walking/hiking, yoga, or a high intensity interval workout.) 

Additionally, I didn’t love the bloated feeling that I had while eating HFLC. This, I’m guessing, came from all of the almond butter. As I was restricting myself from eating refined treats and carb-heavy desserts, it made my brain think that I could binge-eat All of The Almond Butter (literally tablespoon after tablespoon) because it was high in fat, and that was what I was “supposed” to consume. However, what I learned later (from this episode of the Balanced Bites Podcast) was that our bodies do not biologically necessitate very much polyunsaturated fat, which is what nut butter is high in. 

After a few months of this low-carb diet, I tried reintroducing beans, hummus, oats, quinoa, significantly higher amounts of sweet potatoes, and all of the fruits in the world. For my body, lifestyle, and fitness, this was a very positive decision. My workouts have drastically improved, I have more energy throughout the day, and I’m significantly happier (likely because I allow myself to eat the foods that I DESIRE to now). I wanted to feel better, so I sought out a way to do so.

The high-fat/low-carb diet is just one approach to eating, and simply because other people are doing and talking about it doesn't mean you have to jump on the train, too. If you do try it, I encourage you to check in with how you feel, constantly, to determine if it's working for you. If it's not, make a change. 

To learn more about the science behind low-carb diets and how they affect females, I highly suggest checking out these resources: 

1.) Females, Carbohydrates, and Hormones - by Stephanie Greunke, Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and holistic educator of rockyourhormones.com

The article explains a lot about low carb diets for women, as a low-carb diet affects females differently than it affects males. It also gives you pointers for how to figure out if low-carb is right for you (or not). 

2.)Is Low Carb Good For Women's Health? - an article by Kristin, Nutritional Therapy Practicioner and author of thegirlwiththebutter.com

3.) The Paleo Women Podcast Episode #002: Protein Powders, Paleo For 1, Low-Carb And PMS, & Fish Quality

The part about Low-Carb and PMS will be helpful! This podcast is hosted by Stefani (paleoforwomen.com), author of Sexy By Nature, and Noelle (coconutsandkettlebells.com), Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and Certified Personal Trainer. 

So, there’s a little novel for you. I hope this helps!!

Additionally, if you ever feel like you need guidance with eating, I think it's always a great idea to connect with a holistic nutritionist or a functional medicine practitioner. Getting some support has done absolute wonders for me.

Have a wonderful day! 

Love, 

Hannah 

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