There is No Such Thing as a Fattening Food

I know this sounds like a particularly bold statement so bear with me. People are often concerned with having fat on their bodies and then eating foods that people associate with being fat. One way to handle this concern is to not give a flying fuck (sorry mom) what anyone thinks of your body or what you eat.  For people who are not quite there yet (and it's ok - it can take awhile), they might be caught in a bit of a catch 22.  They want to relax and eat foods they enjoy, but they are still worried that these foods might be responsible for their size. The good news is, there are no such thing as "fattening" foods!

Before I explain further, let's explore, why is the concept of a "fattening" food a problem? It's a problem because if you don't like your size, and you think it is because of what you are eating, you may stay stuck in a deprivation and binge cycle - big or small. For example, I had a conversation with someone last week who felt that since they ate pasta and ice cream and cookies, that is why they had fat on their body, and more fat than they wanted.  They were sure of it. All the diet talk out there in the world had them convinced it was all because of the "fattening foods." So every time they ate one of these foods, they felt guilty.

The guilt is a problem because it may impact your eating. You might try not to eat "too much" of these foods and restrict yourself and then end up too hungry later and eating more than you wanted. This reinforces the idea that these foods are a problem and that you can't stop eating them. Or you might eat more than you wanted right away thinking - ok this is the last time I am going to eat this food! Or you may not enjoy the food if you feel bad about eating it and this can impact digestion and nutrient absorption.  Satisfaction when we eat is also an essential ingredient which is affected if we are feeling guilty about eating. Overall, viewing foods as good or bad can keep us stuck in our heads and keep us from learning to really listen to our bodies. 

Luckily, we don't have to worry anymore or feel this guilt since as I said, there is no such thing as a fattening food. How can this be true? Here's how. 

First, do you think that thin people never eat pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream or cake? Of course they eat these foods.  So why don't they gain weight? As my mentor and colleague Tracy Brown RD likes to say, "there are no magic weight gain foods".  There are no foods with a special ability to put weight on your body. 

Oh but I can hear the arguments now……

"But what if that is all I eat? It must be why I have a fatter body!"

Nope. Some thin people only eat these foods 24/7 too.  If you eat to fullness most of the time, and you are satisfied, then you are unlikely to gain weight even if all you eat is ice cream 24/7.  Again, no food has the magic ability to make you gain weight. 

You could eat cake every meal and if you take in the calories that are right for your body - you wouldn't gain weight. You could eat broccoli every meal and if you take in more calories than your body needs - you could gain weight. It's not about the food, it's about the combination of hunger, fullness, and most importantly - satisfaction. AND -(this is big), it's about what size body your body wants to be, something you can't control.

Your body knows how much it wants to eat and what foods it wants to eat and if you eat to your comfort level of anything, your weight will stay pretty stable. That is what set point weight theory is all about.  Your weight may go up or down based on a wide variety of factors but it's not going to swing wildly and it doesn't change up or down just because you ate kale or a cheeseburger. 

From a health standpoint, you are not going to want to eat ice cream 24/7, but amazingly, your body knows that too! When you trust it, it will guide you to a wide variety of foods. If you ate ice cream 24/7, it would actually tell you when it has enough and doesn't want anymore.  This process is called habituation. 

Please note that eating to your comfort level does not mean it's time to go on the "hunger and fullness diet." If trying not to go beyond fullness takes up all of your mental time and energy and it's a struggle and you have to concentrate on it, you are making it into a diet. If you worry excessively when you are super full, or if you are hungry enough to eat, you are making it into a diet. Normal eating includes eating beyond fullness on occasion, and eating too little sometimes too. If either of these become the norm more than the exception, it's time to see what else is going on in your life, but it's not about the food.

As I have already said, regardless of how much you eat, you may already have a fat body type.  So you are thinking it's the foods you are eating but that isn't true. 

When I told the person I was talking to that all foods were ok to eat, they asked,  "well then, how come I lose weight when I don't eat those foods (cake, ice cream, pizza etc.)"  Simple. You lose weight because you are eating less food. It has nothing to do with the types of food you are eating. When people diet, they cut out the foods they think are "fattening" but in reality, they are cutting their calories and that is what leads to the initial weight loss (until biology kicks in and they gain it all back plus more).

So how do you incorporate this information into your daily living? Keep in mind the goals of normal eating, and eating without fear or guilt. One goal is to eat without restricting to ensure you get enough calories for your body to function properly. Another goal is to be attuned to hunger and fullness so your body is satisfied and feels good, not too hungry and not too full.  Another goal is to eat with pleasure and joy and without really thinking about it all that often.  And last, we want to trust our bodies that they know what is right for us. When you are doing all this, you still may have a fat body. 

What does all this mean for you? Freedom. Relief. You can finally let go of the fear that food is making you fat.  You can let go of the self recrimination.  You can let go of that little voice in your head saying - "um, I wouldn't eat that if I were you."  Or the one that says, "well this is why you are fat." You can stop worrying when you order the Pasta Alfredo in a restaurant. If people are staring, they are probably just jealous, so enjoy! 

As you are pursuing your Intuitive Eating journey, I hope this information helps you with the principles of Making Peace with Food and Discovering the Satisfaction Factor.  I give you full permission to eat, your body gives you full permission, can you give yourself full permission?  No one food is going to save you or kill you.  Can you put the good food/ bad food dynamic behind you and start to explore what you like to eat? This is the fun part of the work and I wouldn't want you to miss out. 

Have more questions you'd like to hear answered about food, weight and fat? Send me an email and let me know!