When I was in college, my roommate and I would go to the store after Valentine's Day and scoop up all the marked-down bags of conversation heart candy. We'd gorge on handfuls of those pastel sugar bombs for weeks.
Those days my diet pretty much consisted of Twizzlers licorice, Frosted Mini Wheats, frozen yogurt with hot-fudge sauce (dinner following Jazzercise), bagels dipped in spaghetti sauce (dinner while watching 90210), pretzels and Diet Pepsi.
If you can believe it, I thought I had a healthy diet!
Because everything I ate was FAT FREE.
The fat-free 80s and 90s deeply embedded in me (and many others) a ferocious fear of fat.
For years following college I lived on fat-free flavored yogurt, pasta topped with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, bagels smothered with fat-free cream cheese, and fat-free tomato soup with fat-free cheddar cheese swirled into the bowl.
Nights during this fat-free era often ended with my hand inside a box of Snackwell's mini chocolate-chip cookies.
I merrily pigged out on all these foods assuming as long as there wasn't any fat in them, I had nothing to worry about. Today I refer to this as the "Snackwell's Syndrome."
Misguided Fat Phobia
My fat phobia was driven by the belief that dietary fat would not only kill me, but it would also make me fat. Hey, that's what they told us!
When in reality, research indicates that dietary fat doesn't have the negative impact on health that was once believed. And, a bigger contributor to excess weight is an overconsumption of unhealthy carbohydrates which get stored as fat.
Fat equals flavor. When food manufactures removed the fat from food, they swapped it for sugar. As a result, we ended up a fatter, sugar-addicted, carb-crazed nation. And a malnourished one. Because when you banish fat from your diet, you lose not only the bad fats but also the good ones.
Do You Have a Fat Deficiency?
Fat is essential to human health and cutting it out of your diet can have serious health implications.
If you've been avoiding fat, you may have a fat deficiency. Here are some possible signs:
- Joint pain
- Hair loss or dry, dull hair
- Rough, dry or scaly skin
- Soft or brittle nails
- Redness around eyes
- Strong carb cravings
- Inability to lose weight
- Low libido
- Menstrual irregularities
- Cold intolerance
Bring Back the Fat
It was only in recent years that I began to enjoy avocados, nuts, whole-milk yogurt and real ice cream without a hefty side of guilt.
If you've been on the anti-fat bandwagon it's time to start incorporating a variety of high-quality, natural fats from whole foods into your daily diet such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, coconut milk, olive oil, coconut oil and fatty fish like salmon and sardines.
Enjoy two-percent or whole-milk plain yogurt. Replace your margarine with real butter. Bump up your skim milk to whole, or at least one or two percent. Cook whole eggs. Savor some grass-fed meat.
Naturally, these foods taste better and are more satiating and satisfying (so you're likely to eat less--moderation is still key). More importantly, they provide vital nutrients and building blocks your body needs to thrive.