Fat-Free? We’ve Learned—The Body Needs Healthy Fats : Guest Author Michelle Pfennighaus

Tuesday Oct 2 | BY |
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During the fat-free craze of the 90s, I was all about eating fat-free bagels.

Remember the 90’s? I was in high school, wearing a uniform and trying my hardest to be cool despite the plaid kilt. Yikes. It was all about appearances.

One of my strongest memories is how all the girls in school were worried about getting fat. In the lunchroom we chose fat-free plain bagels and drank Snapple. Snackwell’s cookies were all the rage. In fact, I started to refuse anything that had more than 0 grams of fat listed on the label.

My Italian mother didn’t understand.

“What about olive oil?” she said. “Olive oil is healthy!”

I said, “Mom, olive oil has 14 grams of fat per serving.”

“So what? It’s good for you!”

“Mommmmm, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

It was a case of brilliant marketing overriding common sense. With obesity on the rise, food brands got a huge boost from “educating” the public on the “benefits” of fat-free foods. And we listened, cutting back on fat everywhere we could. (Instead, we poured on the sugar, sucked down the carbs and continued, by the way, to get fat. That obesity rate? It’s only gone up. Way up.)

It turns out, fat doesn’t make us fat. Fat is actually an extremely necessary nutrient for our bodies and brains. And my mom was right—olive oil is good for you. So is coconut oil. So are the naturally occurring fats found in whole foods like avocados and nuts.

But for some reason, we’re still being told to cut back, to choose low-fat options.

I’m here to tell you the truth. Fat from real, whole foods are your friend. It’s the sugar and processed crap in our diets that need to go.

Let’s Talk About Your Brain
Your brain is two-thirds fat and requires healthy dietary fats to function properly. Now, you might be one of millions on medication for anxiety or depression. If so, please re-read the first sentence in this paragraph. The type of fats your brain needs most? Omega-3’s. Find them in walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and microalgae supplements.

Let’s Talk About Your Skin
Is your body’s largest organ feeling dry, dry, dry and not looking any younger? You can drink all the water you want, but without fat your skin can can’t contain the moisture. Try using coconut oil as a moisturizer. You can eat it, of course, but also rub it directly onto your skin.

Let’s Talk About Your Digestion
Want things to go more smoothly? Eat more fat. Want to actually absorb vitamins from the food you eat? Eat more fat.

Let’s Talk About Your Fertility
Along with so many other chronic conditions, infertility rates are through the roof. And one simple diet change could make a world of difference because sex hormones are made from cholesterol. Yes, I said it. The C word. You need that too.

So what happened to that insecure teenager in the plaid kilt?

I made it through high school and much of college feeding my body either too little fat or the wrong type of fats. (Pizza rolls, anyone?) By senior year, I suffered tremendously with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anxiety. Finally, as a young adult I made the switch to a diet of whole, real foods. I must have quadrupled my healthy fat intake, while minimizing processed food and sugar.

A few of my favorite, healthy, naturally occurring sources of fat: Olive oil, coconut oil, toasted sesame oil, avocados, nuts, seeds.

The fats I avoid as much as possible: Canola oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, corn oil.

The result is that I am the same weight now, post-baby and at 33 years old, as I was in college. My IBS symptoms have vanished, my anxiety-induced fainting spells have stopped. And you know what? I enjoy food again. It tastes good.

And life is good, too.

* * *

Picture courtesy joriphotography via Flickr.com.

Michelle Pfennighaus

Michelle Pfennighaus

Michelle is wife, mama and health coach to busy women around the world. She suffered for years with IBS and anxiety, until finally healing herself through changes in diet and lifestyle. Her life’s reinvention has been documented in the movie “Lemonade” and she’s been featured on ABC, NBC and NPR with her inspiring story. Visit FindYourBalanceHealth.com for recipes and healthy ideas.


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