Friday, September 07, 2012

eating dilemmas: fat, low-fat, or no-fat

well, here's another post to add to the fat debate.

i came across this minor news item that i thought was worthwhile to bring up, since it echoes a lot of things that i've come to believe in recent years:
in brief, the article brings up something that recent nutritional guidelines and medical science have started to argue: fat is not necessarily bad, and it's a mistake to eliminate it from your diet. in fact, the fat-free options for food in some ways are even worse, since they deny your body the ability to absorb nutrients and adjust your biochemistry in ways that harm your metabolic rate and sense of appetite.

i used to believe that fat was generally just bad. like so many other athletes, i had coaches who drummed into me the line that fat--either on me or, under the "you are what you eat" mantra, in my food--was the root of all evil and the scourge of all that was good and noble and right and just in this world. as a result, my nutrition plan often involved an obsessive witch hunt to eradicate all fat from my diet and, by extension, from me.

except that it didn't. if anything, it seemed to make the fat on me more stubborn. worse, it affected how i felt, emotionally and physically, with irritability, despondency, sluggishness, and sometimes outright weakness being chronic states. the result in my performance was decidedly negative.

in recent, years, i've come around to believe that fat has a crucial role to play in our body biochemistry, and that it's unwise and perhaps even dangerous to treat it as categorical anathema. it serves a function in regulating the chemical reactions in the body, and so impacts our metabolism and hormones, and thus influences mental and physical health.

the issue, however, is that there are problems with too much fat just as much as there is with too little fat, and problems with good fats and bad fats. i'll refer to this sample of useful links:
i think the key here is the ancient Greek belief in moderation. we need fat, but in appropriate quantities, and of a type that helps our body's metabolism and hormones operate in ways conducive to mental and physical well-being. which means that we need to break away from a simplistic view of fat as categorically bad, but instead as a more nuanced view of it as a nutrient that has to be understood and consumed in proper amounts and proper form to be useful.

probably not what people who lead busy lives want to hear--more study, more attention, more care. but i can tell you from my own experience that it has made it easier for me to control my body fat, and i've been feeling a lot better. while i certainly won't attribute everything to a change in how i deal with fat, i still think it is a relevant factor. one thing's for sure: ice cream sure tastes better.

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