You’ve probably heard by now that we are one of the fattest countries in the world with 70% of us being overweight.

So what makes us so fat? Eating a diet that causes us to be insulin resistant (read: high in sugar and starch.) Insulin is your body’s number one fat storing hormone. When you’re shoving your body full of sugar and starch your body becomes numb to the effects of insulin, so your body has to produce more and more insulin to keep up. Insulin is a necessary hormone for your body to function, but too much insulin creates an environment for many leading diseases including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, when your body is flooded with insulin, it’s putting excess fuel from the foods you eat into the stubborn belly fat you’d rather not have. We want our bodies to use fuel efficiently and not feel the need to hold on to excess weight because, like the clothes you still have in the back of your closet from 10 years ago, when are you ever really going to need it?

What makes me sad are the people who want to do something about their weight, but end up on a low fat diet consisting of low-fat yogurt and cheeses, Slim Fast shakes, and crazy chalky tasting protein bars, (all high in sugar), which is only exacerbating the problem. Or people who continue eating whatever they want, which is generally the good stuff: sugar, processed carbs, pizza, cake, donuts, pasta, etc. and then punish themselves on a cardio machine, which just further slows the metabolism. This is like trying to fix your clogged kitchen sink by just bailing water out with a cup. It’s pretty useless, a lot of work, and not actually fixing the problem. With all the health information around now, I think inherently people know this is not the answer, yet many people feel powerless to their food choices, they think they won’t enjoy life without burgers and pizza every day, or just go back to the Slim Fast or Weight Watchers way of life because it’s helped them in the past.

So Then Why Fat Instead?
The most devastating thing about the low-fat movement is that your brain is 60% fat and needs fat to function properly. A low fat diet denies your brain of this essential macronutrient. Think of the times you were on a low-fat diet, you were probably moody and irritable and maybe a little hard to love. Low-fat dairy products are also incredibly processed, since removing the fat renders a substance that doesn’t quite resemble milk.

Additionally, fat does not raise your insulin in the way starch and sugar do. Eating fat (and high quality protein) actually builds muscle and helps you lose fat and helps you feel satisfied.

In order to restore our metabolism and hormone function, the best strategy is to add in healthy fats and avoid harmful fats and added sugars.

Read labels! Watch out for sneaky sources of sugar and all of it’s various names. Other than the obvious sources, unsuspecting culprits include, canned vegetables, fruits and legumes, dried fruits, protein and energy bars, canned soups, pasta and tomato sauces, yogurts, fruit juices, (even organics options of these foods!!!!) just to name a few. I cannot stress this enough, even if it’s a brand you trust or looks healthy from the packaging, the only real way to know is to look. Since sugar can go by as many as 61 (!!!) different names, you could memorize them all but the best solution is to go for products with the fewest ingredients and most recognizable possible.

Avoid at All Cost

Trans fats need to be avoided at all cost. They are contributors to many modern health problems and can be deadly. If trans fats were eliminated from the food chain, heart disease (#1 killer in America) would decrease by 50%! Trans fat is used as a preservative to increase a food’s shelf life and profits for the manufacturer – with no regard to how they affect your health, which is criminal. You’ll find trans fats in almost all processed foods and fast foods.

Trans fats act like plastics in your body, invading cells, making them stiff and hard and clog proper cell metabolism, causing inflammation and disease. All organs and tissues in the body are affected, especially your brain, given that it’s 60% fat. The body has no way to metabolize or break these deadly fats, or rather plastics, down. What you are eating is not food!

Once again, read your labels! The nutrition fats on foods divide fats so you can clearly see if here are trans fats. Additionally, there are many names for trans fat including partially hydrogenated oils, shortening, fractionated oil, interesterified fats, and di- and monoglycerides. Even if the front of the packaging says “Zero Trans Fats” you cannot always believe the marketing hype, as there are hoops companies can jump through to skirt the rules and make these claims. So do me (and yourself) a favor, take an extra minute to flip whatever you’re thinking about buying around to the back and do a little light reading. There’s almost always a better option or a healthier recipe to make that boxed mac and cheese at home.

Add to Your Pantry

Your best sources for good fats are going to be avocado, nuts and seeds – specifically macadamia, walnuts and flaxseed, olives and olive oil, coconut oil, and wild caught salmon. Avoid other vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy, sunflower, cottonseed. Also steer clear of conventionally raised meat – the cows you see grazing on the country side are not likely to be the ones you find in the grocery store or served to you on a bun at McDonalds. These cows live on a diet of mostly corn and grains. Opt instead for grass-fed meat and dairy.

There are so many delicious food choices with the healthier fat options. Sauté veggies in grass-fed butter for added flavor, add coconut oil to your home baked goods or blend in your coffee, or make your own olive oil based salad dressings.

About Jenn Haralson

Jenn is a design nerd and food enthusiast who is obsessed with ultimate health. She hates diet food and putting on pants. She lives just outside of Austin with her husband and two dogs, Cosmo and Dot.