Diet Myths: Eating Fat Makes You Fat

Diet Myths: Eating Fat Makes You Fat

I’m starting a new series of blog posts covering popular dieting, health, or food related myths. I think I’ll call it MythBusters, assuming that name isn’t already taken ;)

The first diet myth I’ve decided to tackle is eating fat makes you fat.

Now, since all of you are just the smartest–also worth mentioning: the most beautiful–I have a sense that you’re hip to this information. Still, I talk to people all the time who fear dietary fat, and I bet you do, too.

And it’s not impossible to understand why a myth like this got started. It even seems a little intuitive. You are what you eat, right? But this is probably the single most destructive health myth of the last several decades.

In the beginning, people turned to low-fat diets in an effort to lose weight and improve their health. But for most, the exact opposite occurred. Food companies made low-fat versions of their products and replaced the fat content with mostly sugar, which we now know is worse for weight loss. It’s likely that the “low-fat craze” significantly contributed to the obesity epidemic in America.

From the Harvard School of Public Health: “Low-fat diets are often higher in refined carbohydrates and starches from foods like white rice, white bread, potatoes, and sugary drinks. Similarly, when food manufacturers take out fat, they often replace it with carbohydrates from sugar, refined grains, or starch. Our bodies digest these refined carbohydrates and starches very quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to spike and then dip, which in turn leads to hunger, overeating, and weight gain. Over time, eating lots of ‘fast carbs’ can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes…”

When I was losing weight and especially when I was trying to maintain my weight loss–and for a time while I was in the throes of an eating disorder, I was constantly eating low-fat foods. I cared exclusively about calories, and since low-fat foods tend to have fewer calories, I filled my diet with them. I assumed lower calorie meant healthier, better. But when eating entirely low-fat foods, I noticed I was always hungry, impatiently waiting for another snack, constantly thinking about food, and I was miserable.

Over the past few years, I’ve completely changed my philosophy on fat. My satisfaction has tripled. I’ve been happier, less hungry, and have found a lot more freedom in what I eat.

The truth is: Dietary fat is an essential nutrient and a crucial part of a healthy diet.

A healthy diet, even during weight loss, should have plenty of monounsaturated (found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts) and polyunsaturated fats (found in fish, flaxseed, and many cooking oils), some saturated fat (coconut oil, meat, milk) and no trans fat (hydrogenated oils).

What’s your relationship with eating fat? Did you go through a phase of eating low-fat foods?

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14 thoughts on “Diet Myths: Eating Fat Makes You Fat

  1. Susie

    OH man, the low fat food craze.

    I tried calorie counting and weight watchers and those programs which have you counting and balancing calories. I always felt starved for more foods!!

    Then yesterday, I had some homemade guacamole with my lunch and what would normally be a snack kept me full for HOURS!! Fat makes you happy and keeps you feeling full!

    I’m still learning though — so I have to ask: What’s your rule of thumb for eating in a day?

    Reply
  2. Ashlee

    I found this to be challenging with macro counting too! I started eating low or no fat items to “bank”‘my fat for the day… And over the course of a few weeks realized that my normally clean eating habits had slipped and my energy levels were suffering as a result. It’s actually one of my August goals to return back to mostly clean eating (along w my macro counting) because I know it makes me feel my best. Thanks for the reminder about fats – I look forward to your other myths!

    Reply
  3. Hillary

    Agree 100%. I actually find that I’m most successful in maintaining a healthy weight by eating a good amount of good/healthy fats. They keep me fuller, longer and satisfy otherwise bad cravings. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  4. Amy

    I follow a ketogenkc diet and fat is pretty much the premise of the diet. Works well, and is well researched as sound dietary advice.

    Reply
  5. Laura

    It’s so confusing. I have been trying to stay to a more plant based diet. Many of the doctors in that genre I read say no fat. Then I read your blog,which I highly respect, and that makes sense too. As crazy as this sounds, I know on the rare occasion I have a milkshake I not hungry for HOURS which is highly unusual. I know just enough to make myself not know what to do any more.

    Reply
  6. Susan

    I am not eating low fat foods. I’m trying to eat cleaner. Eat foods that are high in protein. No eating at night. I do eat a little bit of sweets to keep me sane :-)

    Reply
  7. Carol Hansen

    Hey Andie!

    I clouldn’t agree more! For me when I eat a clean high protein diet with lots of veggies and don’t worry about the fats, I lose weight, feel full and have so much more energy! So glad you are doing this series! xoxoxox

    Reply
  8. Giorgia

    my story : actually i could say that .. “I’ve been there” I know exactly what you mean when you say “emotional eating ” .. I’ve tryed al lot in these past 20 years .. the last 6 years attending overeaters anonymous too .. ..I use to say that it’s not about the food! and we have 24 hrs at time.. I have a therapist that is the most wonderful thing I’ve done lately .. in a specific center and I’m working with her with the darkness part .. I’m so happy to have found you :) and I do agree with everything :) thks for sharing .. you are so inspiring (sorry for my English bt I’m Italian :) )

    Reply
  9. Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog

    Funny you mentioned MythBusters – I’m pretty sure there was a marathon on at some point last year and I feel like it was ALWAYS on in my house lol, a series on food and weight loss MythBusters would be much more useful! I think I definitely have ‘tried’ the whole low-fat thing and very quickly found it didn’t work – hey, 5 packs of 100 calorie cookies still isn’t good, I’d rather just have 1 satisfying delicious cookie. What I’ve found has been working for me is having a calorie limit – it’s helped me reign in my portions, while still allowing me to have all the delicious foods :) Always love your posts Andie, they motivate me to keep moving forward in a healthy direction.

    Reply
  10. Tara

    Dearest Andie,

    I haven’t spoken at you for months and months now via the comments. So firstly, congratulations! On everything but especially on your engagement! I was looking at your instagram (yes in a vaguely stalkerish way) and a weird thought just occurred to me. Our paths will probably never cross but if they were ever to, then I know that a) I would be lost for words and b) I would then burst into tears. Now this from a person who has never been starstruck and not much prone to public displays of emotion! You have had such a profound effect on me and many, many others. You have actually altered the neural pathways in my brain I think, so now I accept myself and dare I say it probably love myself too. In large part, that’s because of you and reading your blog. You’re my cherished friend from far away.
    Much love
    Tara

    Reply
  11. Judy

    I have read many articles that they have found we need a lot more fat in our diets, some say 30%, as our brains are mostly fat and healthy fats feed it. I feel better with more fat in my diet and less carbs. I don’t have many starchy carbs that settle well with me. I think I have food sensitivities to many of them.

    I always appreciate your blogs and recipes Andie. Reading my way through your cookbook. I like your personal stories in there and shared one of them with my son who is doing a GREAT job eating healthy and finding his way to a more full life in the process.

    Judy

    Reply
  12. Hootie

    Fat is essential to me in feeling satisfied I totally identify with what you said above. Love myth busters :)

    Reply
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