For years fats were my enemy, and it didn’t help that at one time, diet culture demonized this essential nutrient. Now the demonized food group is carbs, but in the midst of my eating disorder fat was the thing to avoid. In my mind, the less fat (and calories in general) that I ate, the more weight I’d lose or the less fat I carried. For those of you who have struggled with an eating disorder, especially restricting, you understand the extreme fear of gaining weight. You avoid all “bad” foods that you think will make you gain x pounds in one sitting.
For me, one of the “worst” food was fat. I lived by rules like how much peanut butter I could eat per day and how often I could have a pastry (i.e. rarely). For a time, I excused not eating peanut butter or avocados (oh my goodness!) because I “didn’t” like them. I remember once freaking out because my dad cooked the pancakes in butter or oil, and I had to use cooking spray. And don’t get me started about baking – low-fat baking is not delicious. This all sounds silly now, but when you are in the midst of an eating disorder, your mind is literally consumed with these thoughts. I only saw food as calories and fat grams; good or bad, not as something to be enjoyed or give me energy.
This story doesn’t just relate to those with eating disorders. Sadly, the majority of the population have rules surrounding food. Fats are not only delicious, but they’re essential for healthy skin, hair, organs and development. Fats also play an important role hormone health and periods for women. Without enough fat or energy, the body cannot produce sex hormones. Personally, I didn’t have my period for years because I was underweight and didn’t have enough fat or energy in my diet. It wasn’t until I was at a healthy set weight and consuming enough calories and nutrients that my period came back.
Outside of health reasons, fats make food taste delicious and leads to more satisfaction. Think about butter on toast or ice-cream made with real cream or that avocado on your sandwich. Those fats truly up the flavor in my opinion.
I introduced fats back into my diet during treatment and when I faced many fear foods. It was a slow and scary process, but over time I’ve realized how much I love foods like nuts, avocados, butter on toast, and real ice-cream, and through intuitive eating I see how my body craves these satisfying foods.
Fats are now an essential part of my eating (I don’t like saying diet…). Every meal and most snacks contain fat because it adds flavor and the staying power I need to fuel my activities. One of the best discoveries I’ve made is full-fat yogurt. I love yogurt, and yet for so many years it was fat-free only, then I graduated to low-fat, and now I love full-fat plain yogurt. Full-fat dairy is so creamy and flavorful! I remember when I made the switch not that long ago (it was scary), and you know what? My body has not changed one bit and I eat it most days of the week. And salads – I love adding nuts, cheese, and a good dressing! So incredibly flavorful and satisfying.
I’m no nutrition expert, and I can only speak from my experience. But allowing fats freely back into my diet has only added good. I have a regular menstrual cycle (so important, ladies), I can think clearly, and I can enjoy absolutely delicious food. Not only that, but since eating more fats, my hair and skin is so much healthier! Everybody is different and has different needs, but I am completely of the belief that all foods are okay. Fat isn’t bad or good, it’s food and an essential part of balanced eating.
I want to hear from you! Have you reintroduced a food back into your diet?