Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight?
I wanted to take this post to cover something I get asked about nearly every week – high fat, high protein diets. It’s easy to see why this is such a popular topic: There has been a huge recent boom in dietary advice you could argue share some roots with Atkins: Paleo, Wheat Belly and others. These diets generally recommend:
Eating a lot of fat
Consuming a lot of protein
Only moderate amounts of vegetable (usually green)
Having little or no grains
Eating little to no fruit
The Beauty Detox Diet that I promote and that I personally follow consists of a whole-foods based diet primarily of vegetables, fruit, some starchy vegetables and/or occasional whole grains, some legumes like lentils, and small amounts of concentrated fat in the way of seeds, nuts and avocados, but I want to use today’s article to explain my stance. Today, I’ll outline some of the diets that follow the high fat, high protein guidelines and explain how they’re different from—and even similar to—Beauty Detox.
The High Protein, Low Carb Camp
You’ve probably heard of at least some of the diets that are in the high protein, low carb category, but here’s a brief overview of each one:
You may know this one as “the” high protein, high fat, and low carb diet. It’s been around awhile! This one has you progress through three phases before entering a fourth “maintenance” phase you stay in for life.
First, you start out with a lot of protein, a lot of fat (cheese, nuts, and seeds), and then you progress by adding in just a few types of fruit, dairy, legumes, and tomato juice. From there, you finally get to experiment with more fruits, a few whole grains, and starchy vegetables. It’s very restrictive in the beginning, and you eat every two to three hours. It’s based on monitoring ketosis to put your body in a state of fat-burning mode, but ketosis is also said to make your blood (and therefore body) acidic.
The Paleo diet is another one that keeps popping up time and time again, banning grains and opting for more of a “caveman” way of eating. The idea is to eat like our very early ancestors did. Since you’re essentially eating like cavemen on the diet, you don’t eat anything processed. However, you can have lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fish, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, and eggs. Foods that are off-limits include refined sugar, grains, dairy, salt, refined vegetable oils, and potatoes. You don’t eat on a specific schedule, and instead just wait for your body to tell you to eat.
Wheat Belly Diet
In this diet, you cut out all processed, refined foods and severely limit carbohydrates (fruit included). In large part, the idea behind this diet is that wheat is no longer what it once was, and it has been turned into something highly addictive. According to the philosophy behind this diet, modern wheat is a big part of why people now have more fat around their organs (visceral fat), where it’s most dangerous. On the Wheat Belly plan, you’re allowed to eat vegetables, select fruits, raw nuts, plant-based oils, grass-fed meat, eggs, ground flaxseed, some dairy (full-fat), fermented soy, and healthy fats, some grains, and beans. The more raw foods you can eat, the better.
This diet has you swear off grains–not just wheat. It’s a low-carb, gluten-free diet that also promotes very little fruit consumption outside of the low-sugar onesry (full-fat), fermented soy, and healthy fats, some grains, and beans. The more raw foods you can eat, the better. (like tomatoes, lemons, limes, bell peppers, pumpkin, zucchini, and squash). It requires you to eat a lot of meat, but only the grass-fed, wild caught, or free range varieties, and meat from grain-fed animals are on the “do not eat” list, understandably. Oils (coconut, walnut, olive, etc) are permitted, as are other healthy fat sources, like avocados, and non-starchy vegetables (especially green ones). Some dairy and wine are allowed.
Similarities to Beauty Detox
Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of what these diets have to say! They have a lot in common with Beauty Detox. Like Beauty Detox, these diets also promote that you:
Eat organic foods whenever possible
Choose non-GMO foods
Opt for gluten-free foods
Avoid refined sugar
Eat lots of green vegetables
Stay away from processed foods
Skip dairy (though some do say a little is okay)
These are all fantastic and important recommendations! However, there are still some profound differences between what these diets tell you to do and what the Beauty Detox principles are.
Differences with Beauty Detox
Though I do agree with some of the principles in each of the diets listed above, there are still some stark differences between those diets and Beauty Detox. Those revolve around the amount of fat, protein, and carbohydrates involved.
Low Fat, No Animal Protein
The Beauty Detox lifestyle is low in fat, while all the others listed here are much higher in fat—even healthy fats. Fat does have a very important place in the Beauty Detox (I often recommend avocados, coconut oil and flax/chia along with nuts/seeds as fat sources), as fat serves several functions, from giving us supple, glowing skin to protecting the nervous system. We just don’t need a lot of it to get these benefits, though, and too much fat (especially the unhealthy kinds) can actually clog up your system and slow digestion.
The basic premise of Beauty Detox is keeping your body clean and healthy and beautiful from the inside-out. Again, some fat is essential- but too much is slow and heavy in your system- and you can note that fat is the most dense macronutrient 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 in carbs or protein. Congestion due to too many slow-moving/digesting compounds in your system ultimately contributes to accelerated aging.
These diets are also higher in protein than Beauty Detox, and generally incorporate large amounts of animal products to reach those goals, which Beauty Detox does not do (even though you can keep some animal products in your diet if you want to, as long as they aren’t dairy). A lot of people seem to take a “more is better” approach to protein consumption, especially in the Western diet, because they think that’s the way to build more muscle. In reality, women really don’t need more than about 46 grams of protein (men only need about 52 to 56 grams), and you can get that from a plant-based diet.
But You CAN overdo protein- and overdoing it overloads your body with acids and once again…can accelerate aging. I talk about the concept of “old skinny” in The Beauty Detox Solution…I think you know what I mean just from that term! So there’s no need to load up on meat, eggs, or dairy to meet the requirements for a healthy, strong, functional body. Besides, those animal products are extremely acidic and can actually age your body—not just by how you look, but how strong your bones are and how disease-prone you become over time The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says excess protein has been linked to osteoporosis, kidney disease, kidney stones, and cancer). It’s also been linked to liver disease.
One concession I will make to those in the high fat camp is that most studies on those consuming a higher percentage of dietary fat were not doing so in a “clean way. In other words, bad oils, non-grass fed animal proteins and fats, plus other low quality items in the diet. So further research is definitely needed to study the results of those who perhaps eat higher quality meat and fat sources, while avoiding sugar, gluten and other offenders.
Focus on Cleansing—Yes, with Fruit, All Vegetables, and Even Grains
As the name suggests, Beauty Detox focuses not just on clean eating, but on cleansing the body in an ongoing way. The diets listed above do want you to eat “clean” (as defined around the notion of not processed with loads of additives), but don’t discuss much in the way of undoing all the years of poor food choices up until the point where you decide to make a change.
That means you may not be removing years of stored toxins and gunk from your body. Instead, you’re putting “healthy” (again, these terms are so up to interpretation aren’t they? Animal foods do not digest as cleanly as plant foods as they leave acidic residues in your body, so I don’t define them as “clean”) foods in on top of them and potentially limiting the amount of good they could do for you. For example, you may not be able to absorb all the good vitamins and minerals you’re putting into your body if you’re still carrying around sludge and mucus that get in the way.
And the longer it takes to get those toxins out of your body, the longer your body holds on to those fat cells that are trying to protect you from them. I also believe that carbs are okay—and necessary—in a well-balanced, healthy diet. They are a macronutrient! No, that doesn’t mean I think you need to dive into a bowl of sugary cereal or a bag of white bread any more than Dr. Atkins did, and I always suggest staying away from wheat and other gluten-containing grains, but should you eat fruit, starchy vegetables, and some gluten-free grains? YES! Absolutely. They’re amazing and offer incredible health benefits, from vitamins and minerals to cleansing fiber!
Fruit alone is one of the best things you can put into your body. Not only is it rich in amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, it’s also full of hydrating water, which keeps you looking young and beautiful. Fruit is also the most cleansing food you can put into your body, sweeping those old toxins out so you can rebuild your health. Starchy vegetables are also beauty foods, and they’re especially nice in the winter when all you really want is a good, nourishing, hot meal that won’t pack on weight. You can also enjoy them in the summertime too (just think of summer squash!). The best ones you can choose are sweet potatoes, squash, red jacket potatoes, and yams.
When you digest grains (the best ones are quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat), they leave behind an alkaline residue in your body, which is beneficial for making it harder for disease to take root and thrive (acidic residue, on the other hand, has the opposite effect). Fruit, starchy vegetables, and grains all have a purpose, and when eaten in their unrefined, natural state, should not be avoided. In fact, one study that followed up with women after 26 years and men after 20 found low carb diets to increase overall mortality rates. A Swedish study published in The BMJ linked low carb, high protein diets to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women.
What Beauty Detox Is Based On
A lot of time and research went into formulating the Beauty Detox principles. I researched not only what other experts had discovered over the years, but traveling around the world to observe how other cultures eat and live taught me so much. I also have my personal experience to go on, which started with personal struggles with weight gain and debilitating acne. My passion for natural eating and health helped fuel a my three-year journey around the world, as well as an insatiable craving to learn more from teachers everywhere is so many varied ways…that continues today!
When I started incorporating what I had learned about food as beautifying medicine, my acne cleared up, my hair became stronger and smoother, and my muscles became more toned than ever. My skin started to glow, the whites of my eyes looked brighter, and maintaining my perfect body weight became so easy.
My Clients and Community Members
My results weren’t coincidental. Since then, I’ve gone on to help many clients achieve similar results. For example, one of my clients was convinced at first that letting go of her low carb, low calorie, and high protein diet that she spent way too much time and effort tracking in a little notebook. She still had some extra weight, especially around the middle, that she wanted to get rid of. Nothing was working.
Once she gave up that extreme control and relaxed into the Beauty Detox principles, she saw an increase in energy, lost those last few pounds, and began to look absolutely radiant! This is not an isolated incident. Beyond that, I see posts every day in the Beauty Detox community that make my heart soar! So many Beauty Detox readers are incorporating the guidelines into their own lives and seeing amazing results. They look more beautiful, feel more vibrant and energetic, and in some cases, even reverse disease.
Longevity Around the World
There’s so much evidence around the world that a low fat, low animal protein, plant-based diet is the key to health and wellness. I saw it time and time again—and still see it today—in my travels. Some of the healthiest cultures in the world thrive on diets similar to Beauty Detox. For example, the Abkhasia of the Caucasus Mountains in southern Russia are known for their longevity. Rumor has it, some of them live well past 100—some say over 150 (they may be exaggerating, but they’re definitely making it to their 80s and 90s with some frequency and they’re still youthful in the way they move and how they spend their time)! So what are they eating? Whatever they picked that morning, basically.
The Abkhasia eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. On the rare occasion that they do eat meat, they remove the fat. There aren’t any refined sugars or processed foods to be found here. Another group of people who typically live a very long time, the Vicalbamba Indians, live in southern Ecuador (the Andes). They, too, have a diet that consists of plant foods and little to no meat. They love their veggies! They also enjoy cooked whole grains, fresh fruit, and raw nuts and seeds. The Hunza of north Pakistan live in a high mountain valley and subsist on lots of raw fruits and vegetables. They save up dried fruit to get them through the winters and also enjoy cooked vegetables (especially when it’s cold), and do not eat large amounts of meat or dairy products. Perhaps a small amount in their soup, but the whole “meat as a main dish” notion would be foreign to them. None of these groups consume excessive amounts of calories, meat is consumed in very small amounts (often with irregularity), and they thrive on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
They don’t merely get to a certain age and then continue to exist, unable to do much because of disease or other complications. They continue to live full lives well into their 90s, if not beyond. So is high fat, high protein the way to go? Not in these cases. Have you heard of The China Study? It’s the most comprehensive study on diet and disease in medical history, and the head of the study, Dr. Campbell, found over 8,000 associations between disease and dietary factors.
The biggest revelation in Dr. Campbell’s research was the role dairy and meat play in cancer development. Plant-based diets yielded far fewer cases of high cholesterol and breast and digestive system cancers than those that allowed for a lot of animal-based foods. Casein (a protein found in dairy) in particular held a strong link to cancer growth at all stages. These findings fit right in with the lifestyles of the Abkhasia, the Vicalbamba, and the Hunza, where diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are unheard of.
Dietary Fat and Disease
We talked a little about the problems with a high protein diet earlier, but what about the fat? Could there be something behind increasing fat intake to rid or prevent disease? Still, probably not. Evidence shows that high fat diets create more trouble in people with type 1 diabetes as well as type 2 diabetes. In those with type 1, high fat diets made glucose levels rise and created a need for more insulin. An article in Diabetes Care suggested a low fat diet to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes after considering different amounts and types of fat in the diet.
The bottom line is, consuming too much fat—even healthy fat—can contribute to weight gain. Obesity plays a role in the development of type 2 diabetes, so by eating a high fat diet, the odds of gaining weight and developing the disease (and other obesity-related diseases) creep up over time, too.
Are We Right and They Are Wrong?
No! We’re definitely not saying that everyone else is wrong and we’re right. We just have different perspectives. In Beauty Detox, we have a large, rapidly growing community with people who are getting amazing results. Yet, I’m sure some of these other approaches have great success stories of their own. I hope you see that I appreciate the similarities we all share every bit as much as any of the differences.
But a key difference is that Beauty Detox is not JUST about weight loss, but about having fantastic, glowing skin and radiant energy all around. There are many ways to lose weight….but some ways may leave you looking and feeling more aged, which I certainly want to avoid for myself and anyone on my program. The “Old Skinny” look must be avoided!
In the end, any diet that removes processed foods is a big first step! When a program removes refined sugars and gluten, that’s even better. Some of the programs allow a little (and sometimes a lot!) dairy, but it’s generally not great for you. See how you feel when you follow the Beauty Detox principles and adjust as necessary. If you feel that you still need some animal protein after you’ve played around with going without, add some back in, but be gentle. Don’t load up on it just because certain experts say it’s okay.
Ultimately, any dietary perspective must be adjusted or adapted to your own body, day by day. Even if you wholeheartedly agree with the Beauty Detox philosophy, you should never stop listening to your body and making changes based on the way you feel each day. I wouldn’t want you to blindly follow any diet if your body was telling you it needed you to change things up a little, and you know yourself better than I do.
Once you’ve done some detoxing and started to enjoy a cleaner diet, it’ll be easier to determine what your body is telling you it needs.
Also, in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions! Have you tried a high protein, high fat diet? How did it make you feel compared to the Beauty Detox way of eating? How have you tweaked the diet to make it fit your body’s needs?
Please let me know – and I hope this article was helpful to you.