Eat Fat To Lose Weight - Interview With Dr. Mark Hyman

Latest studies show that eating fat can actually help you lose weight, get rid of heartburn and support your heart health. To find out exactly how and whether there are any pitfalls, we caught up with Dr. Mark Hyman - a ten-time New York Times bestselling author and Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine.


  • What happens to your body when you eat fat
  • Which fats should we not fear and which to avoid (you’ll be surprised!)
  • What a healthy breakfast really looks like

How many of us have grown up with an ingrained belief that it’s necessary to stay away from fat - as it makes us put on the pounds, clogs up arteries, leads to heart disease and generally destroys our health?

Today, study after study is being released debunking our fat-phobia and instead revealing the amazing weight-loss, heart health and other benefits of a diet rich in healthy fats.

But, in the back of our heads is that age-old voice telling us to still beware of fat with confusion about which fats are truly good and which are bad and can we really avoid gaining weight on a high-fat diet?

So we caught up with Dr Mark Hyman - a practicing family physician and ten-time New York Times bestselling author - to address these concerns and hopefully, to fear fat no more!

Dr. Hyman is one of the leading voices of Functional Medicine in the world today. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine and chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine. He is also medical editor of Huffington Post and was a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and The View, Katie and The Dr. Oz Show.

Dr. Hyman is an expert on the subject of weight loss and high-fat diets and has recently written two books on these topics.

His Eat Fat, Get Thin book is a cutting edge program for weight loss and feeling your best. His latest book, Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook has over 175 recipes for weight loss and optimal health.


C&J: Eating more fat to help lose weight for many is a totally new concept. What is the mechanism behind it?

DR. HYMAN: For years and years we were told to stay away from fat because it makes us fat. Even I believed that and avoided fat, especially saturated fat, like the plague.

In human experiments, those who ate high-fat diets had a much faster metabolism.

Low-fat, high-carb diets spiked insulin, subsequently slowing their metabolism and storing belly fat.

The higher-fat diet group had a faster metabolism, even eating the same amount of calories. So healthy fats actually speed up our metabolism and help you burn more fat, and that’s just the beginning of their benefits.

…It’s actually sugar and refined carbs that make you gain weight.

As I started to incorporate more fat into my diet and into my patient’s diets, I saw remarkable transformations that I had never seen before. People losing a significant amount of weight and optimizing their cholesterol.

In human experiments, those who ate high-fat diets had a much faster metabolism.


C&J: It’s a common concern that foods high in fat are high in calories and will therefore lead to weight gain. Is this a valid concern?

DR. HYMAN: From a caloric perspective, it makes sense that fat would make you fat. Dietary fat contains nine calories per gram, versus the four calories per gram for carbs and protein. If you eat less fat, you will eat fewer calories, and you will lose weight – easy and done, right?

Unfortunately, that theory doesn’t work for many reasons.

The theory that all calories have the same impact on your weight and metabolism remains one of the most persistent nutrition myths that keeps us fat and sick.

All calories are the same in a laboratory when you burn them in a vacuum. However, your body is not a laboratory. It is an intricate, interconnected organism that simultaneously juggles thousands of duties.

Food controls everything. Food affects the expression of your genes that cause or prevent disease. In other words, food literally turns on health genes or disease genes. It tells those genes to store or burn fat.

Food influences your hormones, your brain chemistry, your immune system and even your gut flora.

Let’s look at just one example of how our society places importance on the number of calories, not the quality. Newer public policies require restaurants to list calorie contents next to menu items. This becomes an example of completely misguided policies about helping people make better food choices.

Calories from a Cinnabon, for example, are different than calories from an avocado in how they affect your hormones, your metabolism and even your appetite. Sadly, mainstream thinking has not caught up.

Food influences your hormones, your brain chemistry, your immune system and even your gut flora.


C&J: Can you share with us a success story you’ll never forget of someone who followed your protocol?

DR HYMAN: A woman from our Eat Fat, Get Thin Beta Group reported some tremendous results.

She lost over 50 pounds, was able to get off of her diabetes and blood pressure medication. Her heartburn went away. She no longer has stiff and achy joints. Her blood pressure is back to normal.

She told us that she feels like she’s in her 30’s again and she’s 68.


C&J: What are the best fats to eat? And what are the ones we should avoid?

DR. HYMAN: Among my favorite sources of fat include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Seeds—pumpkin, sesame, chia, hemp
  • Fatty fish, including sardines, mackerel, herring, and wild salmon that are rich in omega-3 fats
  • Extra virgin olive oil (a large study showed that those who consumed 1 liter a week reduced heart attacks by 30 percent)
  • Grass-fed or sustainably raised animal products (I recommend the Environmental Working Group’s Meat Eater’s Guide to eating good quality animal products that are good for you and good for the planet)
  • Extra virgin coconut oil, which is a great plant-based source of saturated fat that has many benefits. It fuels your mitochondria, is anti-inflammatory, and doesn’t cause problems with your cholesterol. In fact, it may help resolve them.   

Some fats are unhealthy. They include trans fat found in foods like pizza, donuts, cupcakes, and cookies, and inflammatory vegetable oils like canola oil or soybean oil.

Unfortunately, these fats have increased in our diet - they make us fatter and contribute to inflammation, which plays a role in nearly every chronic disease on the planet.


C&J: Saturated fats are still vilified today by many doctors and dieticians, despite the research and even the USDA changing its stance in 2015. Why do you think that’s the case and what would it take for them to catch up? 

DR. HYMAN: Even today, as new studies emerge showing saturated fat does not cause heart disease, you’ll occasionally find a misguided journalist incorrectly lump it with trans fat or use “artery clogging” to describe saturated fat.

Lumping all saturated fats into one category over-simplifies things much like claiming all carbohydrates are bad. Broccoli and a hot fudge sundae are both carbohydrates, yet you know one benefits you and the other doesn’t.

Don’t be afraid of saturated fat. Instead, maximize healthy sources like coconut and grass-fed beef and you’ll automatically edge out unhealthy sources.

Combine that with a diet free of added sugars and you have an effective strategy to normalize cholesterol, as well as reduce your risk for heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and numerous other chronic conditions. Over the past decade, we’ve seen a paradigm shift from dietary fat to sugar becoming the enemy.

Maximize healthy sources of saturated fat and combine that with a diet free of added sugars.


C&J: Some leading experts say that butter is a health food – do you agree? 

DR. HYMAN: Is butter a health food? Probably not. Should it be shunned? For sure not.

A review of the literature and a growing consensus among a large group of leading scientists suggest that we, for far too long, have unfairly maligned butter and saturated fats.


C&J: What’s a typical breakfast in the Dr. Hyman household?

DR. HYMAN: I love to have a Whole Foods Fat Shake in the morning:

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 4 walnuts
  • 3 Brazil nuts
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1⁄2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup water

Blend together and enjoy!


C&J: Which fats and oils are safe for cooking with? What is your view on cooking with olive oil?

DR. HYMAN: For cooking, you can use extra virgin coconut oil and even ghee which is clarified butter.

Ghee has a higher smoking point at 400˚F (204˚C) to 500˚F (260˚C) and it has all of the same nutrients found in grass-fed butter. It’s also high in vitamin D and A, omega-3 fats, CLA, and butyric acid which can boost immunity and help with inflammation.

Coconut oil tolerates temperatures up to about 350˚F (176˚C), so it’s great for most baking and medium-high heat sautéing.

Olive oil is best for low-heat cooking or used raw for dressing salads.

Avocado oil, macadamia oil, and walnut oil also are wonderful raw and make great dressings. 

Olive oil is best for low-heat cooking or used raw for dressing salads.


C&J: Many believe diets high in fat lead to high cholesterol and heart disease, whereas low fat diets help combat and prevent these issues. What’s the truth?

DR. HYMAN:  Low-fat diets actually tend to be heart-unhealthy, high-sugar diets.

When people eat less fat, they tend to eat more starch or sugar instead, and this actually increases their levels of the small, dense cholesterol that causes heart attacks.

When people eat less fat, they tend to eat more sugar instead.

In fact, studies show 75 percent of people who end up in the emergency room with a heart attack have normal overall cholesterol levels. But what they do have is pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.

I recommend that everyone eat anti-inflammatory foods like cold-water fish including salmon, sardines and herring, as well as flaxseeds and even seaweed.

Healthy fat actually benefits your heart by improving your overall cholesterol profile. It also lowers the small, dangerous LDL particles that contribute to heart disease by converting them into light, fluffy, safe LDL particles.


C&J: Thank you Dr. Hyman! …And with that, we’re off to whip up some guacamole!

Bio: Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician, a ten-time New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and was a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and The View, Katie and The Dr. Oz Show.

Hi latest book, Eat Fat, Get Thin Cookbook with over 175 recipes, is available for purchase here:


Science Daily. A carefully scheduled high-fat diet resets metabolism and prevents obesity, researchers find. September 12, 2012.

The New England Journal of Medicine. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. April  4, 2013.

Dr. Mark Hyman. Never Eat These FrankenFats.

Dr. Mark Hyman. Time for an Oil Change.

Dr. Mark Hyman. Inflammation: How to Cool the Fire Inside You That’s Making You Fat and Diseased.

Circulation. Dietary and Policy Priorities for Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, and Obesity: A Comprehensive Review. January 12, 2016.

Annual Review of Nutrition. Saturated Fats Versus Polyunsaturated Fats Versus Carbohydrates for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Treatment. 2015.

Science Daily. Most Heart Attack Patients' Cholesterol Levels Did Not Indicate Cardiac Risk. January 13, 2009.



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