It happened last week when I was holding my food prep seminar at my gym. I was talking about my love of pesto when one of the attendees exclaimed:
"but pesto is fattening!"
Is it really? Is any food actually "fattening"?
Hmmm, me thinks not! I will defend my beloved pesto to the grave! We LOVE to demonize certain foods and blame them for weight gain. It's the bread, the sugar, the bacon, the beer. They're to blame. This sounds like victim talk. It wasn't me, it was the donuts that did it!
In reality, it's still about energy in vs. energy out when it comes to gaining or losing fat. Eating one cookie will not cause someone to gain weight, it's going to be a caloric surplus over many days, weeks and months that causes the scale to creep up and those pants to get tighter.
Rather than saying pesto is fattening, you could say it's calorie dense. That means the calories are fairly high for a small amount food consumed. That's because fat contains more calories:
Fat = 9 cal per gram
Protein = 4 cal per gram
Carbohydrates = 4 cal per gram
Does that mean you should avoid fat altogether? No, because that sounds miserable and dietary fat has several health benefits.
Many folks find this annoying. "Can't you just tell me what's BAD and what's GOOD so I can eat that way and get my gosh darned 6-pack already!"
Um no. But IF your goal is to lose fat, I can offer some strategies that will help you hit a calorie deficit.
1) Eat Mostly Whole Foods (including lots of vegetables)
The following dietary experiments have resulted in weight loss:
The Twinkie only diet
The potato only diet
McDonald's only diet
The calorie counters will poo poo eating mostly whole foods but if you're looking to not only drop body fat while also feeling energized and taking in valuable vitamins and minerals, whole foods are your friends. Vegetables in particular contain water and fiber that will help you feel full. Yes, you can gain weight eating all whole foods so consider applying some of the other strategies listed here in order to keep from over eating.
2) Eat Slowly
This is a decidedly unsexy strategy but soooo valuable. Chew your dang food people! I'm guilty of inhaling my food as if it'll be taken away from me. Slowing down is important for a few reasons:
- Chewing releases enzymes that help with digestion.
- You'll be more tuned in to your fullness cues and be less likely to overeat.
- Greater appreciation for you food/being in the moment. This is on the "hippie dippie" end of the spectrum but it helps relieve stress to be more present and have gratitude so why not practice this when we're eating?
3) Don't Snack
I'm not talking about the planned nutritious snack you have between larger meals, especially if you're sitting and eating it mindfully. I'm referring to those drive by's through the kitchen when you mindlessly stuff your face with a few chips or a piece of candy. That shit adds up. Remember #2: eat slowly. This includes trying to sit down and dedicate at least 15 minutes to each meal, including snacks. I've gone so far as to suggest my clients make a rule for themselves: no eating unless you're sitting down. This could help reduce those mindless bites that add up.
Rather than focusing on NOT eating "fattening" foods and fearing certain foods, try these techniques. They can be applied year round regardless of whether you're "on the wagon" or off of it. You can still eat cake, just sit your ass down and enjoy it, and maybe don't finish it if you're full.
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