Somewhere during the ever changing "what is healthy" debate, the 80's chose fat as their main enemy. Fat free this, less fat that, that's fattening, don't eat that. Turns out the 80's were wrong.
They were wrong about a lot of things, and by now most of the mistakes from then have been corrected. We no longer wear sideways pony tails, or parachute pants, unless it's as a parody, but somehow we still believe fat is fattening.
The problem I run into with people is the misusing of the word fat. Fat can be used to describe both fat on our bodies, and fat as a nutrient, even though they are different things. It sounds the same, and in many cases looks the same but it is not. Which I don't think is really fair. We don't do this with other food and body parts; We don't refer to our muscles as protein. I think the distinction of fat being used for both terms can cause some confusion.
So whats the difference?
Fat as a nutrient is a source of energy for the body, just like carbohydrates, and proteins.
Fat on our bodies is stored failed energy from not moving in general.
All food is potential energy. Different types of nutrients fuel different types of movement and processes, but in the most simple terms, food is potential energy. You moving, in anyway shape or form, converts the food into active energy. If there is potential energy left over when the moving stops, it gets stored, regardless of if that potential energy came from fat.
In other words, eating too much in general is what leads to fat and weight gain. There is no such thing as a fattening food. This is the biggest point I want to share with you. It is not the food you eat that is fattening, it is HOW you eat that is fattening.
As foods go, fat is dense in calories (1 gram of fat is 9 calories, as opposed to 4 calories for carbohydrates and proteins.) and highly filling, which may lead you to believe it is easy to over consume. However! Because fat is so dense, it satisfies your appetite faster, and takes longer to digest, which means you end up eating less but feeling full longer than with carbohydrates or proteins. This means that not only is fat not fattening, but it can be very helpful in your weight loss journey.
Don't believe me? Try switching out your oatmeal and berries, for full fat yogurt and nuts, and see how long it takes for you to feel hungry again. Make sure to keep the calories the same.
Now this is going to be an overly simplistic description of how your body uses energy, and I will have separate posts to go into detail about carbohydrates and proteins, but here is a breakdown of how the different nutrients work:
As a fuel source fats are most responsible for powering steady, slower moving actions, and homeostasis. Carbohydrates are a fuel source most responsible for powering higher energy, heart rate rising movements. Proteins are most responsible for the initial burst of maximum energy and recovery from movements.
If you honestly look at your life, how much does your body need fuel for your heart rate rising? How often does your body need to repair itself from the workload you give it? How often do you sit, stand, type, wiggle, breathe, sleep, and sometimes walk?
Now I would of course prefer that you be able to say you are doing all three types of movements on the regular basis, but chances are that's not the case. Based on an honest analysis of your life, which of those three energy spending options do you use? Now which of the three macro nutrients are you cutting out the most? Food should taste good, and make you feel good, but first and foremost it should fuel your lifestyle. Base what nutrients you should be eating on how you currently live your life, not how someone says you should be living your life.