The common misconception that “if you eat fat, you’ll get fat” has contributed to the obesity epidemic in a multitude of ways. Healthy fats are an integral part of a healthy diet. Healthy fats are responsible for proper hormone production, cell structure and vitamin absorption. Fats are also our bodies most abundant and slow-burning source of energy.
When we are afraid to eat fats, we have to make up the calories from a different macronutrient. For most people eating a SAD diet, this means more processed and refined carbohydrates. We also have to recognize that as fat was being vilified in the American diet, manufacturers needed something to replace the fats in their products. They replaced the fats with sugar and lots of it. As consumption of low-fat, high sugar “healthy” foods such as fat-free flavored yogurts, SnackWell cookies, and pasta increases, so has the obesity epidemic.
When we don’t eat healthy fats and do eat lots of processed carbohydrates we are setting our bodies up for blood sugar dysregulation, weight issues and eventually, disease. Our bodies are not designed to handle the amount of sugar that we are feeding them. Simple sugars such as sodas, sweets, pasta and white flour products break down very quickly in the body leading to quick rises and quick falls in blood glucose levels causing a hormonal avalanche to ensue. Fats help maintain blood glucose levels by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping our bodies maintain a gentle rise and gentle fall of blood glucose levels.
We were designed to use a balance of unrefined carbohydrates along with good fats and proteins as our primary sources of fuel. Our body wants to use both dietary and stored fat as fuel. Diets high in refined carbohydrates turn our bodies into sugar burning metabolizers and this sugar burning metabolizing turns off our fat burning metabolism, meaning our body does not have access to its stored fat for energy. When we are running on sugar, the body is forced to make many hormonal and metabolic changes one of which results in the formation of new fat stores or “lipogenesis”. This means that the glucose that exists in the cell can’t be used for energy but will be converted into adipose tissue. And the cycle continues with weight gain and insulin resistance and then eventually Type 2 diabetes.
High-quality fats, such as fats from grass fed cows, pastured pigs, eggs and meat from pastured chickens, avocados, wild caught fish,butter from grass fed cows, coconut oils, nuts, and seeds are necessary to maintain a healthy weight. When we remove them from the diet, the body does not feel nourished, it does not feel satiated, it lacks in fat-soluble vitamins A,D, E, K and B12 and minerals that are necessary for optimal health. Replacing fats with highly processed carbohydrates stresses out the body, stress causes the body to down-regulate other systems in the body such as digestion and immunity, causing more dysfunction. We are more than the sum of our parts, every shift our body makes, for better or worse has a profound effect, for better or worse, on all the systems of the body.
Educating my clients about the negative impact that sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption have on their body is a key step in empowering them to make some big shifts in their health. I will continue to educate my clients about the importance of healthy fats and how increasing consumption of healthy fats can help them manage their weight, have more energy, feel more satiated and improve blood sugar regulation.