“Anytime you see the word, ‘diet’ attached to any nutrition plan, expect to fail!”
So, you want to be healthier, and maybe even drop a few extra pounds. Furthermore, you have decided that the High Carb Low Fat (HCLF) vegan diet plan is the best approach, but don’t know where to start. No problem! Today I will provide all the tools you need to make an informed decision about whether or not to embark on the HCLF diet plan. In fact, I tested it out myself!
Defining the “High Carb Low Fat” Approach?
The HCLF approach promotes eating the majority of your daily caloric intake from carbohydrate rich foods. It further advocates the dramatic reduction in fat. In the average western diet, men and women both consume approximately 33% of their calories from dietary fat. You don’t need me to point out how very high that number is!
Calories that come from fat, are more readily stored as fat on our body. Moreover, with nine calories to each gram of fat (compared to four from carbs), that means it takes more effort to burn what you consume per gram. It makes logical sense then, that maximizing on carbs, and minimizing on fat intake should result in decreased weight.
Is the HCLF Diet Just Another Fad?
I don’t encourage people to participate in fad diets of any kind. Any diet plan designed to make the author money, is easily “fad” material. But what about HCLF?
This is something that you will need to decide for yourself. After reading today’s article, you will have everything you need to make this decision in an informed way. The measure to consider as you move forward, is sustainability. If you cannot incorporate HCLF as part of an ongoing sustainable lifestyle, then yes, it is just a passing option in the endless sea of commercialized diets on the market.
The Better Question To Ask: “Why Do I Want to Go On A Diet?”
There are endless good reasons to start a diet. Weight loss for most people is the usual antecedent (primary motivator) to change. There is nothing wrong with this, at least at the start of your journey.
I encourage you to choose a diet for reasons beyond the desire to achieve ideal body mass index (BMI). Dieting should target whole nutrient rich foods that contribute to your overall health. Thus, it should be more additive than subtractive in nature. The plan that you commit to should focus on what you can have, versus the promotion of dismal restrictions, destined to doom your efforts in eventual failure.
Finally, a diet should not be a destination – A diet should be a journey, part of a comprehensive approach to wellness.
History of the High Carb Low Fat Approach
High carbohydrate dieting emerged in the late 80’s. The standard American meat and potatoes diet quickly went out of style, replaced by easy to prepare and highly processed foods. However, these foods were loaded with sugar, sodium, and fat, the perfect combination the public was looking for, and a combination our body simply cannot resist.
Western culture weight gain quickly became an epidemic. Prior, exercise was viewed as the singular and essential prescribed approach for weight control. We now know that exercise alone cannot keep up with the dense calories readily available at the market. In fact, we live with the same challenges in 2017, that folks in the late 80’s and early 90’s were just beginning to struggle with.
The 80’s is also the beginning of the diet wars, the never ending battle between high carb vs the high fat and protein advocates. Billions have been made on the confusion caused by these competing approaches.
Two Popular HCLF Approaches
Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease
Dr. Dean Ornish’s is a cardiologist that looked to diet as part of a comprehensive integrative approach to treating heart disease, arterial sclerosis to be exact. In 1990, he published his program for reversing heart disease, a plant-based low fat diet combined with regular moderate exercise.
I am particularly partial to the work by Dr. Ornish, work that was the central part of my studies in graduate school. Although the diet does not promote the adherence to a vegan diet, it is important to notice that even back in 1990, those working in health promotion recognized the healing outcomes of consuming less animal products.
Douglas N. Graham and the 80-10-10 diet
Where Dr. Ornish advises participants to count grams of fat (e.g.; Men, generally speaking, should consume no more than 30 grams of fat per day), the 80-10-10 rule focuses globally on macro nutrients.
The 80-10-10 approach was popularized by Dr. Douglas Graham in his book, “The 80-10-10 Diet: Balancing Your Health, Your Weight, and your Life, One Luscious Bite at a Time.” In it, he promotes a focus on the three primary macro nutrients, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. He states that a healthy plant-based diet should consist of 80% carbs, 10% fats, and 10% protein. Moreover, the diet should be raw (no processed or cooked foods).
My HCLF Dieting Experiment
If you have been listening to our most recent podcast episodes, you know that I embarked on a HCLF vegan diet plan about a month ago. Just so you know, I am not that guy who sits with friends over coffee on a Saturday afternoon, oscillating in conversation between exhilaration and scorn over of my latest dieting adventure. Those people drive me nuts!
However, with marathon training season just around the corner, I thought it worth giving the HCLF approach a shot; losing a few extra pounds would certainly make the first part of my training efforts that much easier.
Following is a screen shot from MyFitnessPal. It was taken during one of the days that I was on the HCLF diet so you can see the nutrient break down. I did not use the traditional raw food approach, nor did I focus on grams of fat. I simply cut out the primary fats in my diet (vegan margarine) and maximized on carb dense foods (potatoes). I also cut out most simple sugars and reduced my sodium intake.
I was able to stay on the HCLF vegan diet for a little over two weeks. After 18 days, I broke down and had some Earth Balance with my toast one morning. That marked the insidious end of my high carb adventure.
What I Ate On a HCFL Vegan Diet
Following is a list of all the food I ate from the clip above showing my macro nutrient breakdown on October 16th, 2017. I think that it is important to show how restrictive the diet is. However, it is also important to point out that it is not nearly as restrictive as the majority of popular diets.
(Total calories for October 16th was 2019. I did not exercise on this day.)
- Whole Wheat Bread – 405 Calories
- Jam – 90 Calories
- Cinnamon Raisin Bagels – 405 Calories
- Russet Potatoes (baked) – 252 Calories
- Vegan Brown Gravy – 84 Calories
- Red Cargo Rice 213 Calories
- Lentils -230 Calories
- Baguette – 170 Calories
- Whipped Vegan Butter – 80 Calories
- Jam – 90 Calories
Vegan Health and Nutrition Considerations
The vegan community is often criticized for the well known restrictive diet that is part of living an ethically minded lifestyle. People often think that vegans naturally lose weight after becoming vegan. It is important to understand that many of the readily available highly processed foods to the wider community are vegan (Oreos).
Vegans have to mind their nutrition just like everyone else. Vegans also have to pay special attention to B12, an essential nutrient that requires supplementation. In other words, simply eating a vegan diet will not deliver you to wellness Valhalla.
I did not succeed at incorporating the HCLF approach into my vegan diet in a sustainable fashion. I rarely go on diets, but every time I do, I am reminded about the importance of balance. I am also mindful of the integrative holistic nature of sustainable change – Diets, in general, are not holistic by nature. The closest program to this ideal is the work done my Dr. Dean Ornish (book link below).
As a vegan, you can easily create a personalized diet plan that reduces the amount of fat in your diet, while at the same time increasing carbohydrates. However, I also think it is critical to ask yourself why you are making changes to your diet in the first place.
Finally, it goes without saying, that any transformational plan should also include regular moderate exercise, such as walking. When it comes to weight loss, diet is king. However, that does not mean that exercise should not be a part of your plan. Regular moderate exercise is the optimal weight maintenance tool. Dieting is essential to getting the weight off, especially in the beginning of our journey.
Even more important – Consider our culture’s obsession with weight. The obsession actually might be a bigger problem than the extra pounds we are all packing around.