No food is independently fattening. Gasp! Just let that sink in…
I hear this word several times every single week, if not every single day, from someone. If you are one of those who are uttering the word “fattening,” stop it. Please stop it.
What I assume people mean when they say “that word” is that if one eats the food in question, one will for sure get fat. Unless you are eating copious amounts of one food (i.e. eight candy bars in one sitting), then that food cannot and will not “make you fat” or be “fattening.” It simply cannot and will not.
In the example of eating eight candy bars in one sitting, it is not the candy bar itself that is responsible for the presumed weight gain one could experience from that binge. Rather, the over-consumption of the candy bar potentially causes the individual to exceed his or her body’s energy needs. A surplus of energy compounded over time typically results in a gain of body fat unless it is coupled with significant (several hours daily, most days), of moderate to vigorous strength training exercise.
For the most part, you can enjoy just about anything you like IF you are making an effort to eat mostly vegetables, some fruit, some whole grains, some healthy fats, and some protein-rich foods. However, the old adage “calories in versus calories out” is misleading. Many factors influence weight loss or gain. Certain hormones are involved (leptin, ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, etc.). One could presume that eating a diet within your estimated energy needs could maintain a healthy weight no matter what; however, if you attempt to sustain yourself on candy bars and soda, more factors begin to come into play. Conditions such as insulin resistance aka prediabetes start to change the metabolic dynamics within your body, for example.
Furthermore, just because a food contains a large amount of fat does not automatically qualify it as “bad for you” or “fattening.” I once heard someone say to me in utter disgust, “How can you eat that avocado? Don’t you know it is all fat? It’s so fattening.” Lest we forget that the avocado has an average of 14 grams of fiber, anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids, TONS of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, and countless other vitamins and minerals. Oh, and including avocado as part of my (hopefully) balanced meal aids in me feeling fuller longer, reduces the insulin response of the carbohydrates consumed during my meal, and potentially aids (in part) to me having less sugar cravings throughout the day.
Try to undo the mentality that foods high in fat or carbs are “bad for you.” Although I don’t recommend living on candy bars, having a bit sometimes won’t kill you dead. Having a lot of candy bars a lot of the time might eventually kill you, especially if you wash them down with soda. What you are doing MOST OF THE TIME matters the most in terms of overall health. And no, that does not give you a green light to have a “cheat day.” If you need a “cheat day,” or a “cheat meal,” then you are doing life completely wrong. If you are so incredibly restrictive throughout the week that you need to binge-eat one meal or one day is simply not a healthy lifestyle. You can argue with me if you want, but it’s not healthy. Sorry, not sorry.
An unhealthy relationship with food is that which requires you eat “healthy” foods that taste awful to you, requires you to suck down awful-tasting-protein-powder-and-freeze-dried-vegetables smoothies, and allows you to completely binge eat and/or binge drink to take a break from your “diet.” An unhealthy diet is one in which you are constantly obsessed with what you are eating, and one in which you panic at the thought of eating a piece of birthday cake.
As always, a healthy meal/healthy diet is one that is mostly non-starchy vegetables, a little whole fruit, some protein-rich foods, some healthy fats, a few whole grains and starchy vegetables and lots of water. A healthy relationship with food is one in which you eat mostly healthy foods, and things that you like and that taste good. If you have a piece of white bread or a soda once in a while, have a small portion and enjoy it without freaking out.
Until next time…