As many of you know, I am working on an exciting research study at Stanford comparing low fat to low carbohydrate diets. There is one participant who was assigned the low fat diet – she has been following a very low fat diet for a year now and having slow and steady weight loss. Very, very slow…half a pound a week…but steady. She has been in a plateau these last few weeks and we were brainstorming all sorts of things to get her back on track…she came in last class reporting she had lost 3 pounds. “Wow!” I said, “How did you do it?” and she responded with, “Eating more fat”. 

There is another participant, in the same low fat class as the woman mentioned above, who gains weight if she even adds a few extra grams of fat to her diet – 10 measly almonds – and she will watch the scale go up.

So…what is the answer? Does eating low fat take off the pounds? Or does eating more fat help you lose fat?

It should not surprise you that my response is that I do not know. It should hopefully not surprise you (and potentially comfort you) that there is not one right fit for everyone. We all have different metabolisms, genetics, activity levels, preferences, lifestyles and behaviors. Certain foods allow some of us to thrive, while those same foods could make someone else feel miserable.

Fat is an interesting topic because there seems to be quite a discrepancy as to what people need and prefer. I have some clients who are eating a LOT of fat…and others who are eating little to no fat at all. If you have not found your happy place with food, experimenting with fat might be a fun experiment to see how your body works. 

Plant fats:
Portion size – 2 Tablespoons or 1/4 cup

  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Seeds and seed butters

Plant oils
Portion size – 1 Teaspoon

  • Any oil that is liquid at room temperature

Animal Fat
Consider one ounce as a portion size for meat for simplicity to keep track of total intake
Butter – portion size is 1 teaspoon
Dairy – portion size is 1/2 cup

  • Higher Fat – Red meat, Poultry skin, Sausages, Butter, Whole fat dairy
  • Medium Fat – Dark poultry meat, Fattier fish such as salmon, Lower fat dairy
  • Leaner Fat – Poultry breast, White fish, Super lean red meat, Non fat dairy

NOTE: Fried food is not on the list! Neither is processed meat or hydrogenated oils. Sorry pals. Fried oil, fried food or processed fats are just not part of my plan for anyone…. ever.

Where to start:

  1. Assess how much fat you are currently eating.
  2. Keep a food log for 2-5 days and notice how many servings of these foods you are eating.
  3. Note the different portion sizes above and the different animal fats.
  4. Do not judge yourself or eat in a special way. Just do your normal day and note how much fat are you typically eating in a day.

Decide if you want to add more fat to your current plan or take some away. Again, I don’t know the answer here!  Are you pleased with your weight? Are you feeling stuck and not sure what to do? Are you having major sugar cravings – could it be because you are not eating enough fat? Are you always hungry? Are you always too full? Take all of these into consideration.

If you notice that you are eating many many servings of fat per meal, maybe you want to cut some off. Or maybe you notice you really only eat 1-2 servings a day and adding some fat may be an interesting experiment.

Choose a number of servings for the following groups:

  1. Plant Fats
  2. Plant oils/Butter
  3. Ounces of animal fat
  4. Cups of Dairy

Stick to a plan for a month….and see what happens. You have to be consistent with the plan for at least a few weeks to see how your body reacts. Be patient, mindful and consistent and you will find the right fit for you. 

Keep me posted!