Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight?

By Kimberly Snyder September 22, 2014

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 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 diet 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.

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:


Shawn Johnson's The Body Department - Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight

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.


Shawn Johnson's The Body Department - Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight

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.

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

Shawn Johnson's The Body Department - Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight

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.

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…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.

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.

Longevity Around the World

Shawn Johnson's The Body Department - Is High Fat, High Protein the Best Way to Lose Weight

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.

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.

Focus on Cleansing—Yes, with Fruit, All Vegetables, and Even Grains

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. 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. 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.

*This was originally published on Kim’s blog, Kimberly Snyder. For more from Kim visit!

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