By Pam Kelle, R.D., C.D.E., Nutrition Therapist
Our society continues to live by the all or nothing code. If fat is bad, then it is very, very bad. That means if you do not eat fats, you are very, very good.
The bottom line is as old as time itself; moderation in all things.
First released in the 1990's, the food guide pyramid was the general guide for nutrient intake. Recommended fat intake was about 30 percent of total dietary calories —; some believed 20 percent to be even better.
Nutrition books often recommended a high carbohydrate and low fat diet.
Some researchers began to report the difference in the types of fats we should consume, but the message was loud and clear. FAT IS BAD.
Something else happened in the BAD FAT heyday: Some people developed an intense fear of eating fat. Others developed a moral high ground they feel they deserve because they eat “healthy”. This fallout remains today.
A male client of mine, for example, says he has as guilty after eating French fries as he would feel if he were a cheat or a thief. Another client boasts her refrigerator and pantry holds no food product with fat.
She had plenty of fat free products, she reports, but put even one gram of fat on her plate and she is in a full-blown panic attack.
Young adults tell of a life without any fat in the house. And some children are growing up with intense fear of fat.
What is going on?
Some consumers are making decisions without really thinking things through. In "pop-culture", whether consciously or subconsciously, most of us perpetuate the ideal of thinness or nutrition superiority through our conversations, judgments and teasing of peers and other family members. The obsession about weight within families makes grocery shopping and restaurant selections a harrowing experience.
I suggest a different approach.
Ask yourself: What is my prime motivation for restricting fat or carbohydrates? Am I trying to protect my heart? Reduce the risk of diabetes? Promote weight loss?
After establishing your goals, design a strategy tailored to meet them, using commonsense guidelines and realistic expectations.
Current nutritional guidelines call for limiting trans-fats (called “hydrogenated fats” and found in many cookies, donuts, and fast foods) and saturated fats (animal fats) to between 7 and 10% of daily total fat intake.
Eat some plant fats every day. Monounsaturated fats from plant sources (like nuts, seeds olives and their oils) tend to be healthier than fats that come from animals. An exception is the saturated fats from palm and coconut oil.
If you make a day of high fat choices that are not in your best interest, don't do it again for a while.
Guilt, fear and panic need to be reserved for greater things than food. How can one feel a sense of virtue and moralistic superiority over choosing fat free chips?
Do not be too restrictive or guilt ridden if your diet is not perfect. It does not have to be.
Try to be reasonable about your weight. Yes, we live in a time of great concern about obesity. However, we need to be "weight neutral". If not, you might be perpetuating the myth that you can "read" a person's character from the size of his/her body. Or live under the mistaken notion that you are a better person because you ate “fat free” this morning.
This is a form of prejudice in which we are all well-read. You might be even be bring about this myth on yourself, associating "good" traits with thinness and the "bad" ones with fatness.
Base your motivation for your diet on your best health. You will be a more content and happier guilt free person and you will raise more nutritionally balanced children.
Pamela Kelle R.D., C.D.E. is owner of The Psychology Center, (423) 870-5650, firstname.lastname@example.org and a registered dietitian, nutrition therapist, and certified diabetes educator specializing in weight issues of children, teens and adults.