Does Fat Make Us Fat?

By Michelle Pfennighaus, DivineCaroline

Imagine it. You’re watching Friends on prime time and wearing Doc Martins, Snapple iced tea in hand. In front of you is a box of fat free Snackwell’s cookies. Ah, the nineties. It made perfect sense. We were all going to get fat unless we stopped eating foods that contained fat! Perfect logic.

The fat free craze didn’t begin in the nineties though. For decades, scientists were warning of the dangers of fats. Saturated fat was deemed a killer, clogging the arteries, and causing our pants to get tighter.

Never mind that for thousands of years indigenous cultures ate animal fat at nearly every meal and only in recent times had obesity become a problem and heart disease become a number one killer. So, we ate less fat. I did, anyway. Snackwell’s cookies were super, right? Eat all you want—zero fat. The food industry had a field day, manipulating processed foods until they were marketable as “Low” or “No Fat.” And we bought them at a premium! We declared with glee, “I Can’t Believe its Not Butter!” The century ended full of hope for trim waistlines and healthy hearts.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what happened.

It didn’t work. We are fatter and sicker than ever before. Many of us (myself included) ended up with dry skin, constipation, and a cold feeling in our bones. Our bodies’ need for fat manifested itself in magnificent cravings we satisfied at 3 a.m. with French fries and Ben & Jerry’s.

Hey Science, what gives?

Here’s what happened. We replaced fats that were maybe unhealthy with darn near fatal fats (think hydrogenated trans fat in margarine) and plenty of sugar, fillers, and chemicals. What brilliant ideas will we think of next?

I’d like to stop thinking of what’s next and reflect for a moment on what has come before. For thousands of years, populations around the world have thrived on indigenous diets of all sorts. Meat-based, plant-based, or a combination of the two, they all included fat. It was not until processed food was introduced that we encountered the diseases of excess that plague us today.

I encourage my clients to eat more foods that their great-grandparents would recognize and fewer foods created by modern science and advertised by big business.

Some of the ways oils are processed include adding hydrogen atoms or using chemical solvents. Does that sound like food you want to put in your body?

Newfangled fats to be skeptical of, or downright avoid:

  • All hydrogenated oils, including margarine
  • Soy and corn oil
  • Peanut oil
  • Canola and Grapeseed oil

Traditional, naturally occurring fats full of nutrients the human body needs:
(Always favor organic!)

  • Butter and Ghee
  • Coconut and sesame oils
  • Olive oil
  • Flax and Fish oil
  • Chicken, goose, and duck fat
  • Beef and lamb tallow

It has been an interesting shift to start eating fats again. After years of a “No Fat” mindset, it feels naughty to throw a pat of butter into my oatmeal. But good quality organic butter from grass-fed cows is exactly the kind of fat the body needs.

When I started eating more butter and taking fish oil, my skin really showed a difference. Lines in my face actually went away! Another great benefit is that I started to really enjoy my food. It’s no coincidence that fats taste good—we are programmed to enjoy them because we need them!

If you are worried about weight loss, look to the (highly refined) white flour products and (highly refined) sugar in your diet. Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions and founder of the Weston A. Price foundation, encourages us to use plenty of olive oil on our salads but skip the roll. And like my mom always says, “Everything in moderation.”

By Michelle Pfennighaus of WomenCo.


William C
William C1 years ago


W. C
W. C1 years ago

Thank you.

Ruth R.
Ruth R7 years ago

Saved and emailed to save.

Ruth R.
Ruth R7 years ago

"It has been an interesting shift to start eating fats again. After years of a “No Fat” mindset, it feels naughty to throw a pat of butter into my oatmeal. But good quality organic butter from grass-fed cows is exactly the kind of fat the body needs."

Read more:

Good! That is what seems to work -- quality certified organic foods -- including the fats -- and only the healthy ones.

Treii W.
Treii H7 years ago

I totally agree with Diane K - Eat REAL food in moderation.

martyne bailey
Martyne bailey7 years ago

Very interesting.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

Well, no fat makes you constipated. You NEED at least SOME to keep your intestines lubed.

But anyway, you have to be careful, because with "fake fat", there are so many chemicals that it causes a different problem. You should have stuck to the natural stuff and just use a little less of it is all.

Other items that say low fat may "recover" the taste by adding sugars, syrups, MSG, and other things that are just as bad or worse.

It's about the moderation. If you're eating your veggies, you can take more "fat". Just remember, an apple a day is good for you. Eat the bushel, you have ickies.

Can someone pass me the avocados? Those things are delicious.

Betty Ing
Past Member 8 years ago

The key is to eat more natural food - it's processed food that is killing us. Fat has gotten a bad rap. We all need to eat healthy fats (eg. olive oil, avacado) to survive. The government and medical industry has done a poor job of educating people on the difference between good and bad fats.

Nellie K A.
Nellie K Adaba8 years ago

Fat is bad. Even if there's good fat. Even healthy food can make peope fat those who have the gene.

Steven Gregory Davis

Very good article, thanks for sharing, but could you explain why we should stear clear of •soy, corn, peanut, canola and grapeseed oils?? I thought that soy, canola and grapeseed were considered healthy!!