The Fat Debate

Deep Fried Pizza. I have never eaten this.

Deep Fried Pizza. I have never eaten this.

I don’t often post about diet.

I would go back and trawl through my posts to see if I ever have, but I can’t be bothered. If you, dear reader, have any desire to do so, please feel free and let me know.

I don’t often post about diet, but it is something that fascinates me. The fact that so many people place so little emphasis, at times, on something that so fundamentally affects every part of our life. On the flipside many others place so much emphasis on it that it becomes all encompassing. I’ve spent many a lunch hour listening to people talking at length about their “diets” while eating their clearly unsatisfactory lunch that they are eating as though it were some form of penance.

Let me take a brief step back… Diet can be both a noun

Diet: The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

And a verb

Diet: Restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight: “it is difficult to diet in a house full of cupcakes”.

I don’t know where Google define gets its definitions from but a cupcake would be lovely right now.


I’m fascinated by both forms of the word; the standard Diet and the series of fad diets that people follow.  I’d like to clarify a point here. As I’ve been writing this I’ve found myself repeatedly using the term “fad diet”. I make no apology for this. I’m specifically using this term as I feel it best describes the diet regimes that become popular for a while then fade away over time.

I could probably ramble on for days here about this subject, but as the age of the internet has reduced our attention span to something akin to that of a 3 year old, I should really get to the point of the post… FAT.

Years ago, it was generally accepted “knowledge” that you got fat from eating fat.

Stands to reason, right?

Well as with most generally accepted “knowledge” it’s utter nonsense.

The fad diets of the past tended to focus 100% on cutting out fats from the diet. Jump forward a few years and we have finally realised that actually, sorry, no, it’s not fat that makes you fat. Its carbs.

Thanks Dr Atkins.

Yeah, the Atkins diet is probably the most famous of the new fad of diets that involved cutting out carbs. Another example was the South Beach Diet which was developed by Dr Arthur Agatston. Both Agatston and Atkins were cardiologists. To me this lends some credence to what they said. I’ve read up on both and there is definite validity to what they both propose. I’ve never followed either of these diets but I can see how they would work.

I should probably save myself the hassle of repeating this over and over… I’ve never followed any specific diet. I went vegan once for a few weeks and it was tough going. I think I mentioned this in a blog post once but never actually posted any details. If people are interested in these dietary type posts then maybe I will cover it at some point in the future.

Back to the point of this post, diets and fat. So Atkins and South Beach both cut down carbs and tried to get rid of the “fat is bad” myth. And it is a myth. Fat isn’t bad, we categorically need fats in our diet. There are many things in fats that we need, probably most importantly the 4 fat soluble vitamins that we can’t get from anywhere else (Vitamins A,D,E and K). All four of these vitamins are critically needed by our bodies and deficiencies in these vitamins can lead to lots of unpleasant things ranging from night blindness and weak bones to cancer.

The diets that cut out fats really weren’t a great idea were they?

So let’s look at those diets that cut out carbs….

I have no argument whatsoever that our diets contain too much carbohydrate. The problem is that if you take Atkins or South beach to the extreme (which, let’s face it, tends to happen with people on diets) you will feel awful, suffer health problems and ultimately it’s not going to do you a lot of good.

We need carbohydrates too.

The point of healthy eating is not to follow a fad diet (verb) it’s to have a good and balanced Diet (noun). Of course the real challenge comes in knowing what this is.

Another fad diet I heard a lot about a while back, especially among the triathlete community (who are mental about nutrition to the point of obsession) is the paleo diet.

So I read up on this and of all the things I’ve looked at, it seems to be possibly the best and most realistic diet that could be considered as both the noun and the verb form of the word. The paleo approach makes sense, I’m not going to go into the detail here, but if I were to try and eat according to any form of recommended diet regime it would probably be a modified form of the paleo diet.

Another fad type diet that is virtually impossible to have not heard of is the cult of slimming world. I’m going to be blunt… Slimming world freaks me out.

All that talk of SINS is unnerving. Yeah I know they spell it differently but seriously…it’s hardly coincidental, you crazy cult members.

I do not in any way deny that slimming world works. It absolutely and clearly does. Many people I know, including close friends, family and even my wife, have tried this and lost weight. I’ve read up on it and I can see a lot of benefits, it works and it’s mostly very healthy. If done right, it can be a modification to your Diet (noun) that is more sustainable than many diets (verb). The thing that always bothered me about it, apart from the bizarre cultish nature, the talk of sins and the fact that everyone on it seems to just talk to each other endlessly about being on it, is its attitude towards fats.

It pretty much advocates cutting out all fats and oils.

I don’t get it.

Is that sustainable and healthy?

I don’t know.

I don’t think so, but as I’ve said, I know so many people who’ve lost weight on it that I won’t criticise. Obesity is much more of a health risk than vitamin deficiency, so if you’re on Slimming World and you are losing weight, stick with it.

I’m going to pause for a second here while you shout WTF or facepalm yourself or something as you realise that the previous thousand words or so was just the preamble….



Sweet, I’ll get to the point now, it probably won’t take long.

Recently, I’ve been trying to lose some weight. I mentioned this in my last post. My approach has been as it always was… Exercise more. Plain and simple.

When you’re training for mid to long distance triathlons, you can pretty much eat anything and everything. Previously simply exercising more has worked for me. This time round I’ve stepped up my training regime to 6-7 days a week. I’ve been doing that for the last 5 weeks. I’ve burned off a lot of fat, but actually lost virtually no weight. I’m not bothered by this; I have changed my body shape considerably (something that I may show photographic evidence of in a few weeks). Still though, I’ve still some more to do. My training is working, but I’ve realised I do need some dietary modification as well. Overall my diet is OK. I eat way too much junk food, but Steph’s home cooking is always healthy so it balances out. My main problem is my tendency to eat in the work canteen and to too often go for the unhealthy option.

I like chips too much.

Another problem I have is that I don’t eat breakfast.

I know, I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day etc. etc. blah blah blah.

I’ve never really been a fan.

When I travel and stay in hotels, sure, I eat massive breakfasts, but at home on a normal day, my breakfast is coffee and water. I can’t eat first thing in the morning, it messes with my stomach, and so I mostly just coast by on coffee (and more recently green tea) till lunchtime.

Of course this means that by lunchtime I’m ravenous and can eat massive quantities of food. Also, not eating till then messes with your metabolism, the body needs regular input of food, and I regularly go for 12+ hours with no food… Not smart.

The thing is I’ve been like this for years and years. It’s a bad habit but it’s a hard one to break.

So recently I heard about the idea of buttered coffee. Some of you may have heard of this, or heard of the branded “Bulletproof coffee” term. I’ll not go into any depth on the branding, the “inventor or any of that at this stage, but I will simply explain what it is… I can give the other detail some other time. If you want to know, just Google bulletproof coffee.

In short, it’s coffee with butter and either MCT oil or coconut oil.

Sounds disgusting… right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

However, sometimes when I hear about things that resonate with me, they stick in my head and my scientific curiosity gets the better of me. So I did some research and gave it some thought, and this is where the whole diet and fat preamble comes in…See? This shit all comes together eventually…

I do firmly believe we need fat in our diet. I also am smart enough to realise that my regular consumption of KFC is really not the right way to go about this. Yes… there are good fats and bad fats. You all get that right? Avocado? Good fat. KFC fries with gravy? Bad fat.



Good fat?

Bad fat?

As with many things, it’s not clear cut. It seems that grass fed butter is definitely better than grain fed. Thankfully I live in Ireland and all our domestic cattle are grass fed so that’s handy. Butter is a source of energy, vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and omega 6 fats and fatty acids among other good things. Of course, too much of anything, even water or vitamins, is bad. How much butter is too much? I don’t know yet, I’ll need to look into this further.

So what about buttered coffee?

Well, when I looked into this and gave it some thought and tried to ignore all the marketing bullshit, I concluded that I wanted to try it. It allows me to continue my normal routine of just having coffee for breakfast and may help boost my metabolism and give my body both fuel and a wide variety of other nutrients that I don’t normally get in the morning.

So this morning I made my first cup of buttered coffee. I followed the recipe available on Dave Asprey’s website (the Bulletproof coffee guy) .

In short… 2 cups of freshly brewed coffee (not instant!), 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass fed butter and one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil. Add coffee to butter and coconut oil and blend with a pre-warmed hand blender…

The makings of a cup of buttered coffee

The makings of a cup of buttered coffee

The first question most people asked me (well, second after “Are you mental?”) was “How did it taste?”

Actually, pretty good. For the record, I take my coffee with milk and one sugar thanks.

The thing is I know that this is not good. Refined sugar spikes your insulin levels so having refined sugar first thing in the morning is a really bad idea. Milk isn’t a fantastic idea either, but I don’t like black coffee with no sugar.

With the butter and coconut oil it didn’t need anything else added and was tasty. I will be perfectly honest though, it felt WRONG.


My body screamed at me


My brain shouted in response.

After the first few sips, I got over the weirdness of it and enjoyed it. Even drank the second cup. For the nerds (like me) out there, I just did some quick calculations on a piece of paper and think that these two cups of buttered coffee would have contained about 320 calories. That’s not far off what you would have in a bowl of cereal or a bowl of porridge and a slice of toast.

How did it make me feel?

Well, I contemplated this over the next few hours and in the first instance it made me realise that at some point soon I need to write a post on bodily awareness.

Yes, I think in tangents in much the same way I write blog posts tangentially.

Once I stopped pondering that I realised that I felt pretty good.

I’m going to try this over the next few days and see how it goes. I’ll write another update when I’ve had some more time to judge the potential benefits.

As always… Thanks for reading: D






One thought on “The Fat Debate

  1. Pingback: Trying to eat clean and drinking buttered coffee…

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