The fat as fuel debate: Interview with Donal O’Neill

It seems there’s a movement in play. With the low sugar headlines taking storm and the recent research that concluded the low fat recommendations were based on weak evidence, the higher fat, lower carbohydrate way of eating certainly seems to be gaining more mainstream momentum.

What about if you’re exercising though? Things can get mega confusing when you try to fathom sugar in its various forms, carbohydrate intake and a decent amount of physical activity

Trust me, I’ve been pretty confused by it too!

Super fit but with a sweet tooth

Since coaching people to a healthier relationship with sugar, many of those I’ve worked with have been runners or others who are regularly active. They’re healthy and aware of what to eat but just can’t get a handle on the sweet stuff.

It seems it’s not a rare instance for those who exercise intensely to get a bit hooked on sugar (aka fructose). I know I was personally in this place and there’s all sorts of physical and emotional issues that come into play. Read are you a running sugar addict for more information.

It’s not fun…

I used to indulge heavily and then run off the sugar I ate; I used to panic a bit if I didn’t exercise and of course, I used to find myself with very powerful sweet cravings that drove me slightly crazy (well crazy enough to start this website!).

To help with the confusion, recently I started reaching out to interview some of the world’s experts on this topic and today I want to share some very interesting insight from a recent interview with Donal O’Neill – the man behind the Cereal Killers and Run on Fat films.

In the first film, Donal embarks on a high fat diet and shows you what it does to his athletic performance and most importantly his blood work. See the trailer below.

I’d strongly recommend you watch it – it’s only an hour but serves as serious food for thought. You can stream it for $4.99 here.

The second film, Run on Fat is more about athlete level performance but demonstrates some very interesting insight around ‘hitting the wall’. All of this does impact your sugar cravings because it influences the food choices you make when you fuel your physical efforts.

The full interview is here on You Tube, but in case you’re short on time, I’ve picked out some key points and quotes below:

On eating what you want when you’re young…

“It’s one thing for teenagers to eat a bucket load of carbohydrates (or sugar) but the danger is that you establish lifelong habits which over a sustained period of time lead to insulin resistance.”

Do this: Be aware it’s your lifelong habits around sugar (& refined carbohydrates) that can be more dangerous than the actual food in that moment. This is really important point.

On the dangers of being slim…

“40% of people who have develop metabolic disorders are naturally lean and thin so that’s not necessarily any guarantee of your health. It’s a reasonable barometer of health, but it’s certainly not the only one”

Do this: Consider what’s going on inside your body even more carefully if you exercise a lot and are naturally lean or a healthy weight

On not being able to find healthy food…

“People sometimes can have the tendency to reach for the excuse before the better food”

Do this: Take note of excuses. Finding healthier options is often just a habit. Often working around challenges comes down to your creativity and experimentation.

On breakfast…

“There’s a place in Cape Town that serves half an avocado, with cream cheese, pesto and bacon served with tomatoes rocket and olive oil!

Do this: Try it yourself at home one weekend! Donal also takes olive oil out with him to replace sugary dressings – I do this sometimes too!


On using fat as fuel…

“What has been discovered with a higher fat lower carbohydrate diet is that you can reverse ‘hitting the wall’ or ‘bonking’ (as it’s known in America). This happens when the body’s glycogen stores run out – it’s when you see athletes collapsing during a marathon. When you are fat adapted i.e. you use your fat tank of fuel rather than your carbohydrate tank, you essentially eradicate the concept of hitting the wall.”

Do this: Watch the films and then again experiment if you wish. I personally don’t do enough exercise to ‘hit the wall’ but I know I can refuel a 5K run with a high protein, higher fat meal (like scrambled eggs and avocado) and feel great.

On where to start…

“The first thing to do really is just push sugar off the plate. Persevere with this and then make decisions and consider if you want to make other changes”

Do this: Happy Sugar Habits first!! You’re in the right place reading this (make sure you’re signed up to get all the other free help), so just keep going wherever you are until you feel like you’re calling the shots on sugar. Perseverance and commitment it takes but it’s worth it. Focus on this one thing first – I’ve written about this before in what to do when you feel confused by the best diet.


My last words…

Do I eat extreme high fat, low carb? Not completely. Do I eat a lot more fat than I did when I was eating a lot of sugar. Oh yes – it was key in my transition and I definitely feel like I burn fat more effectively as fuel than sugar and carbohydrate now.

So I do embrace LCHF (even if to a less extreme extent) and understand why it all makes sense.

My body has shown me the merits of higher fat, lower (nutritionally weak) carbohydrates, but I also embrace a very non extreme way of eating these days because I believe it was this attitude that caused my sugar issues in the first place.

I still eat rye bread from time to time, enjoy my sweet potatoes and use wholemeal flour to bake with. Currently being in Bali as I write this I can’t really avoid white rice all the time so I do as best as I can.  I just work healthy eating to my own liking and lifestyle free from my former unhealthy habits with sugar and unhealthy attitudes to extreme eating. I think it’s important for me to share honestly where I am because I want you to know that you can find your own blend of things in all this confusion.

I know this has been a mega long post. It’s taken me a near age to craft so I hope it’s helpful!

Have fun watching the films, I’d say watch this space as I expect there’s going to be more on it coming out. At the end of the day listen to your own body and keep working on that healthy relationship with sugar before getting too overwhelmed or caught up in the detail of the rest of it.

What do you think about this topic? Have you any thoughts on experience on using fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates? I’m open to all your opinions and thoughts on this, even if you strongly disagree so please state your stance in a comment below. 

Laura x



Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course Review

Review: Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course

Whilst I get more into this blogging malarky I come to realise a few things. On the one hand, I like writing and expressing myself in this way however, on the other hand, I possibly can’t talk about sugar all the time. I’m sure you know by now that you should snack regularly, look out for invisible sugar and go easy on the orange juice.

So I’d thought I’d open out and review a few other things that have been going on, similarly aligned to the health and wellness-like theme.

Enter the Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course. I was lucky enough to go to The Yoga Show back in October where I entered and won a competition for this three day course. So I thought I’d do a bit of a review.

My previous yoga experience 

Now 2011 was my year for Bikram Yoga (a hot intense sweaty affair) and 2012 I was more of a runner with a spot of yoga here and there. When I say spot, I mean the odd You Tube thing at home. Least to say I was not well prepared for a new practice I had never experienced before but nevertheless, went with an open mind.

Teaching yoga

The Hot Power Yoga Foundation course is the pre-curser to the 200+ hour teacher training program. It’s designed to give you a feel for teacher training before you commit and it does a good job of that. I found myself in the deep end teaching yoga everyday (well attempting to teach)…

Hot Power Yoga Foundation Course Review

“Right now go into press up position, oh I mean the plank..yes…now downward dog…and breathe, yes just breath here…deeply (while I rack my brain to think of what you should do next)…bring your left leg up (oh no was that meant to be their right let, oops)…”

Do you know what, it was really quite a lot of fun. Everyone was encouraged to just have a go and make mistakes, which bought light hearted laughter to it all, even if you were balancing on one foot trying to twist into the Bird of Paradise.

And the rest…

Apart from the teaching, we also clocked up a fair bit of practice itself. It goes without saying that I obviously was aching in places I didn’t even know existed for about four days.

Guided practices were followed by close knit friendly lectures from Dylan Ayaloo and Craig Norris, two incredibly experienced and personable teachers. I felt entirely content in these, listening to the philosophy and the principles behind a mindful yoga approach, whilst sipping on a herbal tea. I reflected on all sorts of things the discussion touched upon, where many of the principles were readily applied to all walks of life.

I didn't quite make this pose...

Dylan showing us what he does… I didn’t quite make this one

The take away

The group bonded, we grew close and that’s what made this experience so very special. We shared, we balanced, we sweated, and I think at least half of us got a dead leg during the meditation practice (I know how to sit differently next time).

I must also say that I was tempted with the full teacher training but come on Laura, lets walk before you can run. I think that’s a bit ambitious considering I fall out of the Tree pose every five seconds. If you’re not sure whether or not to take the full plunge with teacher training, this course is a great teaser to see if it’s for you. Even if you’ve not interested in teaching, it’s worthwhile for just deepening your practice in a very holistic way.

All in all, thank you HPY for a lovely experience. I will add that after the three days, I could touch my toes for the first time in my life! Incredibly chuffed would be an understatement.

Dee and Jesus show us how it's done

Time to Strut my Stuff at the Total Yoghurt Dance Master Class

An absolute salsa-dance enthusiast, I was delighted when Total Yoghurt invited me to their Dance Master Class event. Digging the salsa shoes back out of the cupboard, I trotted off up to the Frame Studio in Kilburn to shake my stuff.

We learnt a staggering four dances in two hours; the jive; the tango (yes including that cool dramatic look thing); the rumba; and the samba with Jesus Ortiz and Dee Thresher. Dee’s trained a number of celebs into shape and Jesus is an incredible teacher and Salsa king. I literally no joke was in dance off heaven.

Dee and Jesus show us how it’s done

The tango was a lot of fun, working on that smooth but dramatic movement across the floor..dum dum! However as the supposed lead I just couldn’t seem to follow the circle as instructed, so there were a couple of collisions and trodden toes! I’m sure my partner was in fact leading me most of the time. Hmm. Dancing really burns off a load of calories without even thinking about it because you are concentrating so much. If you want to learn some of the moves yourself, Dee and Jesus have put together some videos here.

Serious concentration


Make sure you have the look in the mirror!

We headed downstairs for a beautiful healthy and well deserved yoghurt themed lunch. An incredible selection of wraps and dips made with Total Yoghurt. You can read about what I ate and see more pictures of the food in my What I ate Wednesday.


We had earned this!

I already have been a fan of Total Greek Yoghurt for a while due to its low sugar content but I have always just used it a breakfast or dessert yoghurt. I was soon informed that there are now over 1000 recipes on the Total Yoghurt website…yes 1000! I thought that was a bit mental too. No excuse for having any leftover in the fridge really is there. Everything from hotpots to cakes and bakes, we’re talking seriously versatile white chuck it in everything goodness.

An excuse to have a yoghurt picnic maybe?

Being my first event like this, it was wonderful to chat to other bloggers and hear some interesting stories. We all left with little cool bag full of Total Yoghurt goodness which will be enjoyed over the next few weeks. A lovely day, lovely people and I have promised myself I am going to swing back into the dancing. A hobby I love so much, it’s a shame I have let it slip in the past year so here is my pledge online to get going again!


No he didn’t drop me!

Are there any hobbies you have left slip and desire to take up again? Does dancing put you in an instant good mood? I’ll leave you with a quote off the back of Jesus’s card that I instantly took to…

“There are some shortcuts to happiness…dancing is one of them”

Thanks to Satureyes for the photos

Portions of veg for the day...check!

A Healthy BBQ Suggestion

With the flurry of the Olympics and the ridiculous affair that has been this year’s British summer, it seems the sun is finally out and I am soon to head to a BBQ! Woo hoo :) The rarity makes it all the more exciting but I thought I would quickly post talk about a few healthy BBQ suggestions.

Now that I have newly started my ‘health blog’ (which I am loving :)), I am somewhat fearful of getting a slap on the wrist from friends when I dive into anything remotely associated with sugar! I guess they expect you to practice what you preach but seriously, not all the time – one of my friends regularly makes cupcakes so good I will never want to resist. My whole inspiration for starting the blog was to advocate some healthy habits here and there, particularly where sugar’s concerned – but ultimately just enjoy life as you would anyway.

However in healthy willing, I have made some haloumi cheese pesto kebabs for this afternoon, which I am ever so proud of. These will be accompanied by lamb and mint sausages (yeah didn’t fancy making those) along with a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio as my contribution to the takings. Party on indeed!

Portions of veg for the day…check!


Sun, sausages and wine. Need I say more.


This morning I attended my very first British Military Fitness class. I was a little nervous as had this image of them frantically yelling at me do proper press ups (I can only do ‘girls’ press ups on my knees, which thankfully most of the other girls were doing too). Surprisingly I found it all quite enjoyable where the sun was shining, the grass was green and the instructor was a nice chirpy Australian guy. I ate some yoghurt with mixed berries and a little muesli when I got up and then my favourite weekend eggs-spinach concoction for lunch when I got back. Starting to read all the other health blogs out there this weekend I am excited to try out lots of new recipes and start to share some of my own.

Anyway, feeling at the moment I need to add in a few sugar/health notes to each post where this has been a more unstructured but excited ramble….On the topic of BBQs,  it’s a fun occasion that you want to fully relish (ha ha get it?!) for all it’s the glory. If you do want to be careful then load up on salads and proteins like chicken, lamb kebabs; watch out for sugary dressings or sauces; and go for brown rolls if you can. Otherwise just enjoy! Let’s hope this summer lasts till October – I will never forget last year being in a summer dress late September and catching mince pies in the supermarket – now that is keenness!

What are you up to this weekend in the sun? BBQs all round? I know over in the US they have a healthy summit. I would love to be there one day, not least because I have never even been to America, but to meet all these fabulous blog-savvy women that have truly inspired me this week. Ahhh one day!