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Q: OK, it’s time for me to lose my Covid 15. I just don’t know where to start.
A: The key to losing that Covid weight—or any excess weight we’ve picked up over the years—is to make the body burn stored fat. And to do that, we first need to overcome some huge misconceptions about dietary fat that have been plaguing us for years.
The Truth About Fat
Starting in the 1970s, conventional health experts began a decades-long war on dietary fat. Who can forget all of those “low-fat” (and high-carb) muffins and other confections that were sold as health foods? Even the American Heart Association (AHA) pushed the low-fat message. And Americans got fatter and fatter.
In 2015, the AHA changed its tune with a massive meta-analysis of five huge, randomized trials, concluding that “total fat consumption does not affect rates of coronary heart disease or stroke.” In fact, the AHA found that every 5 percent of dietary fat that you replace with carbohydrates equals a 7 percent rise in heart disease risk, which is linked with diabetes, chronic inflammation, and obesity—all caused by processed grains and sugars.
In other words, those low-fat/high-carb diets were actually making us more unhealthy—and fatter.
Fat as Fuel
If you’re carrying extra Covid wight—or any excess weight—it helps to think of that fat as stored fuel. Glucose is the preferred energy-producing building block in all mammals, so the body will always go for sugar first to make energy—because it’s easier than making energy from fat. The problem is that the body converts extra sugar into fat for long-term storage, so when you replace dietary fat with carbs, you’re actually increasing the amount of fat your body carries around.
To lose that Covid weight, you want burn away that stored fat, so you need to manipulate your body into fat-based energy production. Since energy production in mammals, including humans, is easier when starting from high-glucose foods (carbs), the only way to move your body into fat-based energy production is to cut carbs and high-glycemic foods and replace them with healthy fats.
And that’s the Keto approach.
If you’re thinking about going Keto, you don’t need to worry about being hungry. Keto-based eating has plenty of delicious high-calorie food (coconut, avocados, fatty fish, cheese). That said, any weight-loss program takes work, commitment, and planning, so set yourself up for success before you start. Let everyone in your household know what you’re trying to do and ask them to be supportive. Don’t advertise more widely though—folks can unintentionally make comments that could derail you, so keep it private.
Planning includes figuring out how to avoid feeling deprived while shedding that Covid weight. Deprivation isn’t sustainable, especially in this land of junk food plenty. Consider, and engage with, other means of deep comfort so you’re not dependent on food. Set yourself up for extra rest and time with friends and pets. Regulating temperature is also important—think of ways to cool off if the weather is hot, or to stay warm if the weather is cool. And as much as possible, engage with music, art, the outdoors, or anything that gives you genuine pleasure.
All food is made of three macronutrients: fat, carbohydrates, and protein. These are what provide us with energy (in the form of calories) and nutrients. When you need to burn the excess energy stored in your body, you want your body to choose fats (not carbs) as the building block for your energy requirements.
The minimum amount of good fat required for human health is 20 percent of total calories. On a Keto diet, fats will approach 60 percent of daily calories, with up to 35 percent coming from protein. It’s impossible to get zero carbs in your diet (because you have to eat veggies to stay healthy). But a nearly zero-carb diet will allow for safe, fast, sustainable weight loss. Low-carb veggies that you can eat aplenty on a Keto diet include leafy greens, onions, tomatoes, celery, scallions, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
The fundamental key to losing Covid weight (or any weight, for that matter) is the body’s own ability to use fat as fuel. If your diet program doesn’t improve your ability to burn body fat efficiently, it will fail. You must switch, at least for the duration it takes to achieve optimal weight, from being a carb-burner to a fat-burner. High-carb, low-fat diets simply do not work long term. Plus, by switching to a high-fat/low-carb diet, you’ll minimize blood sugar and insulin spikes and learn to love a whole range of nutrient-dense foods that will not only stimulate weight loss, but also enhance your overall health and vitality.
Find a licensed naturopathic doctor for a virtual (telemedicine) or in-person consultation at naturemed.org/find-an-nd.