The Fat Four are highly processed, and devoid of nutrients. Added sugar and refined vegetable oil are barren nutritional wastelands with nutrient tables so full of zeros that it makes you wonder if you’re reading the vitamin and mineral content of a food or a piece of cardboard.
White flour is marginally better, but it’s still nutritionally bankrupt compared to whole-wheat flour.
Every time you eat one of these ingredients, you’re depriving your body of nutrients that it was evolved to have.
We’re not evolved to eat nutritionally crippled foods.
No One Is Adapted
While 10,000-odd years was enough time for many populations to adapt to grains and dairy, the Fat Four have only been widely eaten for about 200 years.
This wasn’t nearly enough time for people to adapt.
There is no evolutionary precedent for these foods.
Added sugar has only been available to most people since the early 1800s. White flour wasn’t widely available until about 1880, when roller mills were introduced. Refined vegetable oil wasn’t eaten on a large scale until the early 20th century.
(Canola oil was invented—yes, invented—in the 1970s.)
We are completely unadapted to these foods.
But these foods are the majority of what we currently eat.
See the problem?
The Art of Processed Food
Not only are we not adapted to the Fat Four themselves, but we’re also completely unadapted to the way they’re processed into food. Added sugar, added oil, and white flour are the primary colors of the processed-food palette from which food corporations paint their tantalizing products.
These three ingredients are added to foods scientifically, in precise amounts derived from trial and error, food-testing panels, and countless prototypes to produce optimal “bliss points” that keeps us coming back again and again.
For example, before Dr. Pepper unleashed their “Cherry Vanilla” flavor in 2004, they had tested 61 prototypes and conducted 3,904 taste tests. They carefully documented these taste tests and fed the data through advanced statistical software that helped them calibrate the exact amounts of sugar and flavorings to add. (Source)
After all that, the new flavor wasn’t even terribly successful.
(That’s how stiff the competition is.)
We’re not adapted to this sort of food engineering. Like addictive drugs, processed foods are designed to hit our pleasure centers in unnatural ways.
And they are less filling per calorie.
This makes them fattening.
Easy to Break Down
It takes energy—calories—to digest food. The amount of calories it takes ranges from 0% to 30% of the total calories in the food itself, depending on the food’s allotment of fat, carbs, and protein (protein takes the most calories to digest).
Added sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil are so heavily refined that they’re relatively easy for our bodies to digest.
This isn’t good. It means we burn significantly fewer calories digesting them. A 2010 study found that people burned 47% fewer calories (73 calories vs. 137 calories) digesting a meal of processed food versus a meal of whole food. (The meals were matched for calories, and close in macros.)
Those differences add up.
Unlike the other members of the Fat Four, processed meat isn’t usually an ingredient, but a type of food—like chicken nuggets, bologna, salami, bacon, General Tso’s chicken, etc.
Processed meat is bad because it has astronomical amounts of salt. And it’s bad because it’s often significantly lower in protein than unprocessed meat, which makes it less filling (and more fattening). And it’s bad because it’s often doused in white flour and sugar and fried in oil to make something like General Tso’s chicken or chicken tenders with barbecue sauce.
Most of the Time
Cutting the Fat Four from your regular diet is probably the best nutritional decision you can ever make—for your weight, health, and life. It’s far more powerful than simply eating more of some “superfood” plant.
Focus on cutting the Fat Four from your regular diet. This means the diet you eat most of the time—most days of the week. You don’t have to be some kind of puritan to do this.
You can still eat anything you want, sometimes.
In practice, “sometimes” means once or even twice a week.
Our metabolisms seem to be regulated by what we eat most of the time. You just have to make sure your regular, most-days diet is good. (That it doesn’t contain the Fat Four.)
Eating whole foods on work days and letting loose a bit on the weekend can be a helpful guide.
If your regular diet doesn’t contain the Fat Four, you might be surprised with what you can get away with.
A good diet is more defined by what you don’t eat than what you do eat. Eliminating the Fat Four from your regular diet is the foundation of a healthy diet and a healthier body weight.
The Fat Four have transformed our diets, created a new constellation of diseases, and made hundreds of millions of people fat.
No one is adapted to eating the Fat Four in large amounts.
Get them in your head, and out of your regular diet.
1. added sugar
2. added oil
3. white flour
4. processed meat
The Fat Four don’t usually go by these names, or show up in red on ingredients lists. Instead, they’re deceitful, full of serpent wiles, often hiding in places we don’t expect—like healthy-looking food.
Let’s get into the gory details of the Fat Four.