The Truth About Fat

Back when I was 20, my diet consisted mostly of the following: Pepperoni Pizza Lean Pockets, Baked Ruffles Chips, and Reduced-Fat Cheez-Its.

Vomit in a box

As painful as it is to publicly admit that, I was sadly brainwashed by the no-fat monsters that took over Big Food.  And that brings us to today’s post:  Let’s talk about the F word.

I think the most important distinction when talking about fat is realizing the difference between dietary fat (the fat that you consume), and body fat (the adipose tissue that you have in your body).  What’s the difference, you ask? Doesn’t one cause the other?

In a word, NO.

Let’s take a trip back in time to the early 1980’s. No, not so we can all wax nostalgic about John Cusack and that awesome boom box, but so that we can see where this whole fat debate started.

Arguably the best movie scene of all time, but I digress.

The early 1980’s is when the whole “Low-Fat” Fad started, mostly because of some scientists who gathered some very limited information and then shouted from the rooftops that fat consumption is dangerous and leads to heart disease. This misinformation spread through the media and government like wildfire, and thus begun years of recommendations to decrease fat in the American diet.

The funny thing is, right around the same time that the average American decreased their daily fat intake, the average American started getting fatter, and fatter, and yes still, fatter. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, the increase in low-fat diets coincided  with an insane spike in the obesity rate in the country, which is unfortunately still growing today.

Throughout this time, the food industry capitalized on highly processed, low-fat foods that were cheap to make and thus led to a large profit margin for them. And we Americans, well, we gobbled it right up! Low-fat cheese! Margarine! Non-fat cookies! Non-fat chips! (Never mind the anal-leakage caused by Olestra, there’s NO FAT!!)  So what were are all of these non-fat food substitutes made of?

A whole lot of sugar and highly refined carbohydrates.

Can someone (anyone?) please explain to me that if fat is the culprit, why did Americans suddenly have a spike in the overweight/obesity rate as soon as fat was severely decreased in their diet? Wouldn’t it be a little bit more logical to conclude that fat was not in fact the culprit at all, but the ridiculously high amounts of sugar that people were now eating?

You may think that maybe it was because that was around the time that people started eating more fast food. Quite the contrary: There was actually a steady increase in consumption of fast food throughout the 70s and 80s, however, there was never a spike in fast-food consumption that correlated with the obesity rate.

During the past 10-15 years, there have been numerous studies which have found no direct link between dietary fat and body fat. They have found, however, that body fat is directly related to excess caloric consumption, as well as other more complicated conditions.  One thing that research has proven about fat is that it increases the palatability (Yumminess!) and satiety of food, which is what leads people to overeat. Yes, this may be true, but it is not the fat alone that is causing people to gain body fat, it is the beyond-excess caloric consumption that is doing so.

At this point some people might be thinking “Hey Moron, fat has more calories than carbs (9kcal/g vs 4), so of course it makes you fat!”

True, it does. I won’t fight you on that one. Caloric intake vs. expenditure is always important when talking about fat loss and body composition. However, fat takes much longer for your body to digest, so including it in your diet will help you to stay more satisfied between meals, and you will  be able to eat less throughout the day due to the satiety factor.  If your goal is fat loss, just make sure that you have a caloric deficit, and dietary fat can (and should) be your friend!

If you don’t believe me, or for more info on the glorious F word, you can find a great review article here, and I also have several PDF files of others if you would like to read them.   Or, if you’re in for a little bit of a lengthy read, check out this great article from the NY times in 2002. As this post was just a broad overview of this amazing topic, in another post I will be going into more of the specifics about the different types of fats, such as the supposedly evil Saturated Fat, so keep on the lookout for that soon!

Now I’m going to go eat some eggs. Who’s with me?!?

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15 thoughts on “The Truth About Fat

  1. Bahaha lean pockets ARE vomit in a box! 😉
    This was such a great post, I wish more of mainstream America would have this view. The low fat craze is so annoying to me, just like the whole low carb craze. The key is moderation people! I don’t know how I could survive without my eggs, peanut butter, or coconut flour haha
    Thanks for bringing this up!

    • I don’t even want to know how many lean pockets I consumed back then … I was so convinced that I was doing something good because they were “Lean”! Little did I know I was really just eating processed chemical “food products”. And I can’t live with out PB either, it’s an every day staple for me!

  2. hahahaha eating my eggs & loving this post! another factor, too, is that obesity is a legitimate disease-state in which the body has trouble oxidizing sugar & fat… so its like a downward spiral of excess caloric consumption and a reduced ability to oxidize. i read a really cool study that compared obese women with formerly obese women (those that had weight loss surgery) and then lean controls and it was amazing how the ability to use fuel remained blunted even after the weight was gone. just proves what a huge role EXERCISE plays! when we take over the world, clearly things will be better 😉

    • Clearly! The world is waiting I know… And you are so right that it is really a vicious cycle of insulin spikes, insulin resistance, and inability to metabolize nutrients, among other things. I will definitely get more into this when I do a post that is a little bit more in depth on fat than this one! Oh, and can send me a link to that article, or just the title? I’d love to read it!

  3. Great post…whenever I see any type of pocket (be they lean, hot, whatever) all I can hear is Jim Gaffigan singing “Diarrhea pocket” in my head. Stay away from those nasty things! As always, I LOVE reading your Blog! Now I’m off to share this goodness with the world!

      • “Remove packaging, place directly in toilet” Jim Gaffigan’s hot pocket bit is great. 🙂

        Not sure what you are planning for your saturated fat post, but the Time magazine cover of bacon and eggs was a big start of all that baloney in the 50’s. Check out Chris Masterjohn’s site for loads of good info on cholesterol 🙂

      • Haha, I’ve got to check out this hot pocket bit!! And I will definitely take a look at that site…I’m going to take my time with that post so that I can put some really good information out there, so it’ll probably be up next week. Thanks!

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