Keeping the Fat in Your Diet

As a trainer, I’m not one for stocking unhealthy snacks, baking sweets or making fattening meals. I shop the perimeter of the store and keep our diet as clean as possible. I’ve always been a firm believer that if you stick to the natural products and control your portions there’s no need to go for the ‘fat free’ or ‘sugar free’ options.

GASP, right? Eat fat? Eat sugar? What kind of advice is that coming from a trainer?

Let me explain…

When things like fat or sugar are removed from foods, the flavor changes. So to make those foods more flavorful, artificial ingredients are added. Our bodies are designed to process nutrients in their purest form. While we can digest artificial ingredients, we don’t process them as efficiently as products that exist in their pure form without modifications.

The other thing I have experienced is that when consuming foods that consist of artificial fillers to replace the missing flavors, I’m not as easily satisfied. I tend to eat more for two reasons 1) the craving isn’t satisfied as quickly and 2) it’s fat or sugar free so how bad can it actually be?

So while I don’t approve of snacking on junk, or eating foods prepared with heavy sauces, I do think that eating full fat yogurts and using olive oil are good choices. And so it seems Swedish scientists agree.

On December 6th, Sweden became the first Western nation to reject the low-fat diet dogma, in favor of low-carb, high-fat nutrition. The switch in dietary advice followed the publication of a two-year study by the independent Swedish Council on Health Technology Assessment. The committee reviewed 16,000 studies published through May 31, 2013. Click here to read more about their findings.

Here’s what I hope you take away from my blog today:

  • Stick to what is natural and drop the artificial additives
  • Be mindful of your portions – fats are only bad when consumed in excess portions

goodandbad fats

The Scale Isn’t Everything

Does your body image revolve around the number on the scale? Or is your ultimate success in healthy living only determined by how much you weigh?

If so, I would encourage you to broaden your thinking a bit.

Don’t get me wrong, I think weighing yourself is an effective means of keeping tabs on your progress, or in some cases, the slipping back into old habits. But there are a number of other things that you can actively monitor to help you gauge the changes happening in your body.

A great way to see progress is by taking before and after pics. And in the age of digital cameras you don’t even have to worry about printing them or anyone else seeing them (well except the photographer unless you use a tripod). I recommend taking three shots wearing fitting clothing.

  • Head shot: this is the best way to see weight lost in and around your face
  • Straight-on shot: this angle allows you to get a perspective on your arms and legs
  • Profile shot: taking a look at this angle will give you the best perspective on your abdomen and butt

Another way to measure progress is by taking your body fat. There are a number of methods and scales available for this type of measurement.

  • Water submersion: this is the most accurate but also the most expensive and difficult to locate testing facilities
  • Skin fold test: there are 3 and 7 point skin-fold tests (you may remember these from elementary school) that can be performed by most personal trainers and doctor’s offices; keep in mind the margin for human error
  • Hand-held devices and scales: these devices take into consideration your age, weight, height, activity level and gender, when you grip the device or stand on the scale it sends a small, painless current of electricity through your body to measure the subcutaneous fluid (or body fat) under the skin; these types of measurements can have a +/- 2 percentage error depending on the factors surrounding the test

The last type of measurements I will suggest is to get out an old fashioned tape measure and record your results for the following areas:

  • Neck: measure mid-way between chin and clavicle
  • Chest/Bust: measure the area of the largest circumference
  • Biceps: measure mid-way between elbow and shoulder
  • Waist: measure 1 inch above belly button, or at the lowest circumference area near waist
  • Hips: measure the largest circumference area near buttocks
  • Thigh: measure mid-way between knee and bend of hip
  • Calf: measure mid-way between knee and top of ankle

Note: as a rule of thumb when doing measurements, the only area that you want to measure the “smallest” circumference is the waist, every other area you want to measure the largest – this will help you to identify the “mid-way” point

Keep in mind with these types of measurements you aren’t going to see progress on a daily basis. I would recommend taking photographs every couple months, measuring body fat one to two times a month, and taking measurements on a monthly basis.

Reading the Labels

So how many of you actually read the food labels on boxed and canned items? If you’re not taking the time to read what you are putting in your body, chances are very likely you are making some pretty unhealthy choices with food.

Let’s work from top to bottom on a food label and discuss the major areas you should focus on when deciding on a food.

First check the serving size and number of servings in the container. There are a number of products that you may consume every day that have more than one serving in their packaging: Vitamin Water, soda, canned soups, chips, etc. Knowing the serving size is important because it’s possible to consume double or maybe even triple the amount of calories without knowing.

You should also pay attention to the portion of calories that are “from fat.” You certainly want to make sure that the majority of calories are not attributed as fat calories.

It goes without saying that it’s important to keep both saturated and trans fats to a minimum. Both types can clog your arteries and lead to a number of health problems including obesity and heart disease.  I caution you about “fat free.” Just because it is “fat-free” doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want!

You will also notice that the “% Daily Values” column. The numbers in this column are calculated based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. These values are just an estimate but provide you with a good guideline to know how much of the daily allowances you are consuming with a portion of that food.

Another dangerous ingredient often found in pre-packed foods is sodium. Healthy adults should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day and anyone with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes should try and keep their consumption to around 1,500 mg per day. Take a good look at the listing of sodium on some of your favorite packaged products and I think you might re-think that purchase.

When it comes to sugar a good rule of thumb is the more sugar the more calories. Keep your sugar consumption to a minimum. Many fruits and even vegetables contain natural healthy sugars. What you want to avoid is the white granular sugars and thick syrups that are added to food to preserve the product and enhance taste.

Dietary fiber found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes has a variety of positive health benefits including normalizing bowel movements, lowering blood cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels. Depending on age and gender you should consume 21 – 38 grams of fiber per day.

When it comes to protein many Americans far exceed the recommended daily amount. Depending on your sex, age and gender you need between 40 and 70 grams of protein per day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some foods that you can’t avoid buying pre-packaged so tomorrow I’ll give you some advice on the types of ingredients to look for and those to avoid when it comes to purchasing manufactured foods.