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Does Eating Healthy Fats Make You Fat?

Dear Coach Gila,

I look forward to reading your column and I’m impressed by the different topics that you cover within health and wellness. I understand that your mission statement is not only about losing weight, but rather about the health of the entire person, and additionally the health of their entire family. Your last article “To Diet or not to Diet” really resonated as I have been a yo-yo dieter with a heavy leaning towards emotional eating for as long as I can recall. Your answer to the writer spoke to me and I’m at the point where I want to leave my former self (old habits) behind and create a new self (new habits) based on your recommendations and advice. There is one part of me that is still resisting this change and this brings me to my question for you: I am afraid to eat healthy fat. Truly afraid. I was always led to believe and it is firmly entrenched in my mind that if I eat fat I will get fat and certainly not lose weight. I’ve tried “clean eating” for a few days in a row and I’m always starving. Logically, I believe it’s the fat that I’m leaving out, but I’m too fearful to add fat to my diet. Any help you can give me is greatly appreciated.

-Fat Phobic

Dear Fat Phobic,

I commend your desire to change your habits; this is not an easy decision to make. Nor is it easy to put into practice. But it is most definitely a commitment you will be happy you made. I hear your fear and frustration regarding eating fat. The myth that “eating fat will make you fat” has been disproved over and over again yet it persists.

To begin, let’s distinguish unhealthy fat from healthy fat. The type of fat found in processed foods, cakes, cookies, fried foods, french fries and fast foods does not promote health in any way.

So what are examples of healthy fat and why do we need to include them in our diet?

Examples of healthy fats include: extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, red palm oil, palm shortening, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds and whole eggs (yes, eat the yolks!).

Coconut products such as coconut butter, coconut flakes and coconut oil are delicious ways to add healthy fat into your diet. Enjoy fatty fish, including sardines, herring and wild-caught salmon that are rich in omega-3 fats.

There are numerous nutritional benefits to including healthy fats in your diet. Fats help with metabolic function and are a structurally integral part of every single cell membrane in our bodies. Healthy fat makes it possible for your body to absorb more nutrients, including essential vitamins and antioxidants.

Eating the right types of fat will help your body fight infection by regulating inflammation. Fats are required for the adequate use of protein and will make you fuller sooner and longer. They also slow food absorption, which helps with energy regulation as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman elucidates this matter further by stating, “In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Ludwig correctly points out that careful review of all the studies on dietary fat and body fat—such as those done by Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health—have shown that dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat. Let me repeat that. Dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat.”

When you reduce your intake of fat because you are afraid it will make you fat, you end up increasing your intake of “fat-free” carbohydrates. Your body stores excess carbs as fat. So, although carbohydrates can be “fat free,” this is misleading because excess carbohydrates end up as excess fat.

How much fat is the right amount for you? This is where your individual biochemistry comes is. Start by adding healthy fat to every single meal and assess your satiety level. Truly listen to your body and you will know if you are consuming enough fat or if you should increase your fat intake further.

Personally, one of the greatest rewards I noticed when I added healthy fat to my meals was my peace of mind. I truly enjoyed and was so satisfied by my meals that I no longer obsessed with food. When I dieted, favoring fat-free or low-fat foods, my mind used to be a swirl of “when could I eat again and what would I eat,” and these thoughts would begin only moments after I finished eating!

The bottom line: Fat doesn’t make you fat. Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. I wish you much success in reaching all of your goals.

xoxo,

Coach Gila

To learn more visit www.mainassethealth.com or call 917-647-1788.

About Coach Gila: Gila C. Guzman JD, CINHC guides busy families toward their health goals by providing realistic tools. Gila offers personal one-to-one sessions, group sessions, cooking classes, supermarket tours and pantry makeovers. Gila is available to speak at wellness parties and private, school and corporate events.

By Gila C. Guzman JD, CINHC

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