You Need Fat to Burn Fat

By: Jeffrey Schifanelli, Jeffrey is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. You can reach him at:


Want to lose weight but always feel hungry? The knee jerk response when your pants no longer fit is: “I have to cut out the fattening stuff.” But a crusade against all fats may turn out to be a lot of hassle with no real long term gains.

A recent Harvard study in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Journal analyzed 53 studies on losing weight. They found, in terms of long term weight loss, the evidence doesn’t support low fat diets over other dietary interventions(1).

Fats are often misunderstood and considered the plague to anyone struggling with weight; however, dietary fats can kick start our metabolism. The body needs adequate fuel if it is going to function properly, especially in terms of a good working metabolism. The right type of fats play an important role in this process.

Since the body needs energy to metabolize food, fats are preferred over carbohydrates and protein because fats contain twice the energy per gram. Dietary fats are also necessary for eliminating the fat we’re trying to lose by activating fat-burning pathways through the liver (2).

In a nutshell: You need fat in order to burn it.

Unfortunately, a lot foods we buy today are merely empty calories. Many of these consist of grains like crackers, chips and cookies. Worst of all, low fat products capitalize on our fear of fat only to provide us with food of little nutritional value. The end result is we tend to be incessantly hungry and our blood sugar destabilizes: two outcomes that will surely torpedo any effort to lose weight.

The issue with weight loss is more than just our lack of understanding that fats are good for metabolism. Fats are also very satiating which can help curb hunger cravings. Unfortunately, our over reliance on grains and phobia of fat leads us into an incessant eating cycle limited in macronutrients. Despite the prolific low fat industry, there is a wide scale obesity epidemic because we are overfed, yet malnourished. One striking example of this is that those that are obese tend to be the most nutritionally deficient(3).

Instead of starving ourselves, our best long term strategy is to pay attention to the nutritional density of what we eat. Informed eating, along with a comprehensive life plan, is more likely to help one succeed at losing weight. Although it may seem contradictory at first thought, fat is critical for that goal. Just stick with the natural fats like coconut oil, avocado and grass fed butter.

This cilantro pumpkin soup from Mediterranean Paleo has good quality fats like grass fed butter and full fat coconut milk. Pumpkin, a main ingredient in this soup, is also high in vitamin A, fiber and iron. These important nutrients support the immune system and intestinal health, two other key components for weight loss.



Pumpkin cilantro soup


1 tablespoon unsalted butter or coconut oil

1 medium white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon paprika

fine sea salt and ground black pepper

2 cups full-fat, canned coconut milk

3 cups canned pumpkin (about two 15-ounce cans)

4 cups Chicken Broth

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1/4 cup chopped pine nuts, for garnish (optional)


Melt the fat in a stockpot over medium heat.

Add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes, until translucent.

Add the nutmeg, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the coconut milk, pumpkin, and broth to the pot and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, uncovered. Keep simmering for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Remove the soup from the heat.

Use an immersion blender to puree, or puree in a blender or food processor in batches. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Add half of the cilantro and stir. Divide the soup between bowls and garnish with the remaining cilantro and the pine nuts before serving.




(1) Tobias, Deirdre. et. Al, “Effect of low-fat diet interventions versus other diet interventions on long-term weight change in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis”, Elsevier Inc., Web. 29 Oct. 2015.

(2) Fetters, K. Aleisha. “Eat Fat to Burn Fat”, Demand Media, Inc., 11 Sep. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

(3) Gillis L, Gillis A. Nutrient inadequacy in obese and non-obese youth. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2005 Winter;66(4):237-42.

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