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  • Writer's pictureDarren Tebbenham

The GREAT debate: carbs versus fats...

What makes us fat - Carbs or Fats?

There is no debate.

If you were to argue carbohydrates are to blame, well you'd be wrong. People for decades now have consumed KFC, McDonald’s, and a whole array of high fat foods during the period we have seen the weight of most nations around the world rise. There are lots of overweight people who don’t eat bread and pasta never mind potatoes. And, let’s face it, for centuries athletes around the world have consumed high carb diets. There is no way carbohydrates are to blame.

And if you were to argue fats are the problem, well you’d be wrong too. There are lots and lots of people who consume very low-fat diets, who don’t eat salmon because it is high in fat never mind a nut or slither of avocado. Over the last 20 years we have created a fat-phobic nation and, at the same time, an overweight diabetic one.

If people are arguing for or against carbohydrates or fats they are basing their arguments on who’s right, not what’s right. For if they were to argue what’s right we’d actually make progress. People visit coffee shops and don’t drink coffee. The array of croissants and cakes and all things yummy are hardly in the background. And such foods are BOTH high carb and high fat.

The thing is, it’s NOT a food group that should be demonised, food isn’t the problem. The problem is the amount of food people consume. The problem is the decisions people make and the dependence people have established not on fat and not on carbohydrates but on fats and carbohydrates, especially fatty carbohydrates.

Is sugar the culprit? No. Assuming you don’t mean table sugar. No one takes sugar cubes and devours them, do they? You mean refined carbohydrates i.e. the simple and sweet-tasting ones. Same argument as above.

What about protein? Could protein be to blame? No, of course not. Protein doesn’t readily store as fat anyway as carbohydrates and fats do. Is a vegan diet the best way forward? No, of course not. Those that choose to be vegan and who do so for good reason, respect to them – there are many good reasons to consider being so, but to lose weight is NOT one of them! Those that find it fashionable and cool, or become so to lose weight, or preach it’s the best way to be healthy - again I suspect a who’s right versus what’s right problem exists again.

Food is not to blame. But because we do (blame food), people all around the world are now chasing the wrong thing to lose weight. They are chasing a food plan or a special kind of diet that will work wonders. The answer to people’s problems is NEVER out there is some place we haven’t yet looked. The answer is inside. In the decisions we make and discipline we choose to action and the conditioning we choose to impose on ourselves, or not - is key.

Whilst people insist on seeking the solution to their weight, health and fitness problems in some kind of extreme food philosophy they will end up surely disappointed, again and again.

And this is why I say weight loss solutions are NOT 80% nutrition. They are like 20% nutrition; 30% exercise and 50% mindset and behaviour change.

Why a weighting more on exercise than nutrition? Easy. One, I am a fitness professional and bias and inherent logic surely will always side with exercise versus kitchen discipline. If I was a nutritionist or dietitian I would likely side with nutrition over exercise. And two, exercise makes you feel kinda good and feeling kinda good changes your food choices. On the other hand feeling kinda bad more than any other factor, full stop, period – end of story drives poor food choices. Therefore, developing an exercise habit will drive and support new mindsets, which will aid whatever nutritional changes one decides to make.

So, when your client next asks “what is the best way to eat to lose weight?” please consider your response before replying – you are a behavioural change professional, right? Reduce your carbs is an answer blaming carbs. Create a calorie deficit is not helpful or compliant with the point of this article either. Don’t worry, I’ll give you a meal plan is hardly empowering, is it? So, try “so you’re interested in losing weight?” as your response and you open up discussion. Your first role is to ask to discover….not to fix!

And at the end of the day the No 1 role of a Personal Trainer when it comes to helping clients lose weight, at least, is as coach. Darren T.


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