FATS: Confessions of an Ex Fad Dieter

I’m finally home from a long weekend in Vegas!  I passed my midterm with flying colors and have now learned all the client consultation skills.  Now I just need to practice on some clients (any takers in the Atlanta area?) until our next and final workshop in October.

Thanks to Christy Knutson and Laura Nixon for coming to keep me company in Vegas.  It was great seeing you both and regurgitating all the things I’m learning on you!

So today I want to talk about fats and how I’ve changed my perspective on them in the last year.  Everywhere we look we hear about the latest fad diet or low-fat/fat free food.  I will admit it, for years, Weight Watchers was my go-to diet.  Despite my all-natural upbringing, I bought in to their processed foods and the idea that it didn’t really matter what you ate or drank (Diet Sodas were deemed a perfect zero-point beverage option.), as long as you didn’t exceed your daily point allowance.  This plan worked for me time and time again, but I always gained the weight back as soon as I went back to my normal way of eating, not to mention the fact that I was STARVING all the time when I was on the plan.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally knocking Weight Watchers.  I think they do a lot of things right, like providing weekly accountability and encouragement, and they are starting to get wise about eating more whole foods.  I think the makers of a lot of the most popular diet plans have the best of intentions, but they’ve simply missed the mark.

Now I see that it’s not about a quick fix, but our overall health, vitality and well-being, and it’s not just about how we look, but also about how we feel and how we can best take care of the bodies we’ve been given.  One of the ways we can do that is with HEALTHY FAT.  Yes, fat is our friend everybody, despite what you might read in the magazines or see on television or in the grocery stores!  They are absolutely essential to our health and play the following roles in the body:

  • Provide long-burning energy
  • Important in the makeup of cell membranes
  • Necessary for healthy liver function (building healthy cholesterol and bile)
  • Required for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  • Required for adequate use of proteins
  • Serve as a protective lining for the organs
  • Help slow the absorption of food for proper energy regulation
  • Imperative to the inflammatory process, therefore reducing healing time
  • MAKES FOOD TASTE GOOD (If we’re more satisfied, we won’t eat as much!)

All fats and oils are some combination of three types of fatty acids:

SATURATED: Found in animal fats and tropical oils; highly stable, does not go rancid easily, solid or semi-solid at room temperature, non-essential because the body can make them

MONOUNSATURATED: Found in olive oils and oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados; relatively stable, do not go rancid easily, liquid at room temperature, non-essential because the body can make them

POLYUNSATURATED: Found in flax, nuts, seeds and fish oil (the omega 3/6 oils); relatively unstable, go rancid easily, always liquid, two are essential (linoleic and alpha-linolenic acid), NEVER heat or use for cooking

It’s important to know the properties of these different types of fatty acids so we know when and how to use them.  For instance, many people know that olive oil is really healthy for them, but they may not know that it loses it’s nutritional properties when heated to high temperatures.  That’s why it’s best to use olive oil for things like salad dressings and marinades and cook with more stable saturated fats like butter or coconut oil.  It’s also important to be aware of which oils are unstable and store them in dark containers in a nice cool place so they don’t go rancid.  Supermarket oils in clear, plastic bottles and shelved under bright lights and not refrigerated are not supporting the nutritional properties found in them!    We want to make sure we soak up all the great nutritional benefits of the fats we’re eating.

Make sure you buy cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil in a dark container and store it in a cool place!

Finally, I can’t talk about fats without pointing out the villain of all fats: genetically modified hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated oils. As time passes, more and more negative things are uncovered about hydrogenated oils from fried foods.  Hydrogenation is the food industry’s way of turning a liquid oil into a solid fat.  It changes the chemistry of the oil so that it is unusable to the body.  It also gives packaged foods a longer shelf-life than if they were made with natural oils. (Fun fact: The process of hydrogenation started during World War II, when we needed to preserve the shelf-life of foods in order to send them overseas to the troops!) Hydrogenation produces trans fats, which have been linked to a number of health problems.  Here are just a few of them:

  • Women with higher levels of trans fats in their cells are much more likely to develop breast cancer than those with low levels.
  • Trans fats are incorporated into the cells and make them less resistant to bacteria and viruses.  They are a source of immune system problems.
  • There may be a link between trans fats and ADD, depression and fatigue.  Brain and nerve tissue have a high content of fat, and some researchers believe that when trans fats are incorporated into the nerve cells, they affect certain functions and create problems.
  • Muscle fatigue and skin problems are also linked to hydrogenated oils.
  • Pain and inflammation become much worse for clients who consume hydrogenated oils.  They chemically prevent the formation of natural and anti-inflammatory substances that are normally produced in the body.

Most chips and fried snacks contain hydrogenated oils.  They are found in many packaged foods like crackers, cereals and bread and condiments like margarine, mayonnaise, bottled dressings and marinades.  It’s so important that we READ LABELS and avoid giving these foods to our kids.  We should also avoid cooking and baking with highly unstable vegetable oils.

So take it from this ex-Weight Watcher and go eat some good fat today!  My favorites are avocados, almonds and coconut oil (great for stir-frying or in smoothies).  I’ve found that since I started eating more good fats, I’m not only more satisfied at meals, but I’ve lost weight!

Do you have any suggestions for recipes/snacks with healthy fats?  If so, drop me a line!


Filed under Healthy Tips, Rants and Cravings

6 responses to “FATS: Confessions of an Ex Fad Dieter

  1. Holley

    Wait, Joanna, I’m confused. I have avoided “vegetable oil” for years because I found out that it’s made mostly with cotton oil (cotton seeds absorb tons of the pesticides/herbicides used in conventional farming). During this time, when I needed a little oil in the pan, I reached for canola. You mention “we should avoid cooking and baking with Canola”. Can you explain more about why? Thanks!

    • Hi Holley! Thanks for reading my blog! You are absolutely right to avoid the vegetable oils at all costs. Here’s what I’ve been learning about canola oil:

      In addition to the genetic modification, the process of making canola oil involves a combination of high-temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extract, usually using hexane. Even after considerable refining, traces of the solvent remain. Like most vegetable oils, canola oil also goes through the process of bleaching, degumming, deodorizing, and caustic refining, at very high temperatures. This process can alter the omega-3 content in the oil, and in certain conditions bring the trans fat level as high as 40 percent.

      Please let me know your thoughts on this as I am still learning and there is so much controversy out there. It’s hard to figure out the truth sometimes and I’m no expert yet!

      Have you ever tried coconut oil? It’s a highly stable fat, so it’s great for cooking at high temperatures. I’ve also used red palm oil, which you can get at Whole Foods.

      Hope you and Baby are doing well!

  2. Whitney Williams

    JoAnna –

    I’m loving your blog! I am becoming more focused on eliminating processed foods from my diet…little did I know canola oil is a culprit! Excellent info, and I’ll be using your tip of cooking with coconut oil.


  3. Jan Hurley

    I am so fascinated by your blog Joanna! I am always looking at nutritional tips and the whole oil issue is very confusing! I usually use olive whole as a whole in our house and I am still reading all your wonderful information to clarify the controversy about healthy fats vs unhealthy! Thanks for sharing this valuable info with us! I LOVE it and will continue to read all your updates. Congratulations on your journey to become a nutritional therapist! Can’t wait to read more of your blog! I am sure I will have questions but right now I am just trying to absorb it!!! Thanks!!! Janice Hurley

  4. Thanks so much Jan! It’s so fun to see all kinds of people reading my little blog! Olive oil is definitely a great choice, but like I said in the blog, it is less stable than other oils and loses it’s nutritional properties when heated to high temperatures. Keep using the olive oil for dressings, marinades, etc., but try to cook/grill with a more stable option like raw butter or coconut oil. Whole Foods also carries some other good saturated fats like red palm oil for cooking at high temps.

    Thanks again for tuning in and hopefully I’ll see you tonight at Zumba! I’ve been hearing about this new dance of yours, and I hope I get to see it tonight!

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