If you're in the “more-experienced-than-30” category, you're likely familiar with the term, “fat free”. There was a time back in the 80's and 90's where we were told without a doubt, that fat was bad and should be avoided as much as possible, if not eliminated from out diets altogether. Originally, the fat everyone was talking about were saturated fats – the kind naturally found in animal products. Butter, cream, sour cream, eggs, beef, cheese are all examples of foods containing saturated fats. And of course you can guess from the list that very few people wanted to give up these foods, especially if they weren't yet experiencing any significant health problems.
What happened next was intended to give people healthier options, but instead turned out to be one of worst food-related fiascos to date. And so the “fat free” movement began. Because beef and dairy products were such a mainstay, scientists came up with “low fat” and “fat free” options of the same types of foods. Margarine replaced butter, whole milk went to skim, creamer was invented, all so people could continue to enjoy some of their favourite foods without the risk of ingesting too much fat. Fast forward a few decades and we are now beginning to feel the effects of such changes. Not only did this new movement replace a real food with a chemically manufactured substitute, known as trans fats, they really didn't seem to solve the problems. In fact, weight and waistlines continued to grow rather than become a thing of the past as was the goal. Add to this, a great many low or “no fat” options now had added sugar, which increases the number of carbohydrates making it more likely to cause a spike in blood sugar which ultimately stores fat.
Fast forward a few decades and currently North America is home to the greatest number of overweight and obese people than at any other point in history. With that, the number of weight-related diseases is also at an all-time high and continues to climb. Clearly the initiative was not as effective as envisioned. So what caused the obesity rates to skyrocket when all fats were thought to have been removed long ago? The answer lies clearly stated in the question.
Our bodies are very complex machines and albeit can withstand an extraordinary amount of abuse, in order to function optimally and thrive, we need to be balanced. And removing entire food groups, such as fats, does not allow for that balance. Proteins, fats and carbs are all important and all vital to our overall health. Combine them correctly and your body will run like a well-oiled machine. Metabolism is turned on and burning fat, energy is high, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar are low and the chances of developing any weight-related diseases melts away like the extra weight around your waist. Eliminate or substitute one of the components for a non-food option and the lack of balance created causes fat storage, low energy, elevated tri-glycerides, increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels and then of course, weight gain.
Our bodies are amazing in that they are designed to keep us alive at all costs. If we do not give it the right fuel, we force it to make adjustments internally in order to be able to send the right amount of nutrients to the brain and vital organs. Forcing our bodies to do this extra work without the correctly balanced nutrition is almost like allowing your car's oil levels to drop dangerously low and continue to drive around like that for days each time before topping up. Will your car get you to your next destination? Most likely yes. Will you get the same engine life and performance out of your car if you do this on a continual basis? Likely not. Our bodies are much the same.
Physiologically, our bodies achieve homeostasis (balance) and all systems function optimally when we consistently fuel with a combination of a protein, fat and carbohydrate every three hours. Just as driving on the highway and using cruise control will give you the best fuel economy and smoothest ride for your vehicle, fuelling your body with PFCs every 3 stabilizes blood sugar, balances hormones, releases and burns fat, increases energy and gives you a much smoother ride through life.
Not all fats are created equally. Forty years ago, saturated fats, a real food, turned out to be a better choice than the trans fats created to take their place. And today we know even more. Choosing things like olive or coconut oil, avocado, nuts and nut butters, sesame and pumpkin seeds are much healthier choices and will actually help you lose weight and lower your risk for weight-related diseases when enjoyed in small amounts with your meals.
So if you've been duped into thinking that eating fat will make you fat, and then wondered why it's been impossible to get rid of the extra middle around the middle, now you know the truth. Fat is your friend. Everything else was just a big fat lie.
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