Why Lowfat Food Makes You Fat
This is empirical, not scientific -- but there's plenty of the science behind the sense of eating food with fat in it if you just search "Gary Taubes" on this blog.
I had an appointment at 3pm, so I went to a Starbucks halfway between my house and my appointment to write. Their pastry is just dreadful -- it's an insult to particle board to say it tastes like particle board. I was hungry, but I couldn't bear to have one of their chewy, tasteless croissants, so I ordered a piece of blueberry coffeecake. There was no sign on it, so I didn't know until two hours later what I'd eaten.
Now, if I'd eaten a croissant, I could go to my appointment and come back and then eat something at home. But, not even two hours after eating that blueberry coffeecake, I was RAVENOUS. I haven't felt hungry like this in years. Not just hungry, not even hungry like I am after I run seven miles (which is not that hungry, actually, just time to eat a little something). No, for the first time in years, I was "GET OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY SO I CAN GET TO THE COUNTER AND GET SOMETHING ELSE TO EAT!" hungry.
Now what makes the difference between very hungry and HOSTILE ANGRY BITCH hungry? Bien sur, dietary fat. I asked the girl at the counter if my suspicions were correct that the blueberry thing was reduced-fat. Sure enough: "Oops, I guess we forgot to put out the little sign."
Yeah? Easy for you to say. Gimme my Cobb salad before I reach across the counter and throttle you for it. I mean...thank you very much! Have a nice day!
Here's more on the blueberry food that is not food:
STARBUCKS REDUCED FAT BLUEBERRY COFFEECAKE VERSUS CHOCOLATE FILLED CROISSANT
Surprisingly, the Chocolate Filled Croissant at 350 calories is a better choice than the 380-calorie coffeecake. Plus, the coffeecake is made with trans fat and has 500 milligrams of sodium. Neither is a healthy choice (doughnuts, croissants, muffins and scones aren't necessarily part of a good diet), but if you're going to have one anyway, at least choose the better option.
The writer is wrong about croissants not being healthy. (Search "Will Clower" on this blog for more on that.)
Wanna lose weight? Have a croissant with some brie and jam on it for breakfast. Toast it so the brie melts. Yum. Or eat a couple pats of butter if you're in a rush to get out the door. Do not eat low-fat or no-fat crap (in which they replace the taste removed with the fat with six pounds of sugar)...not unless you're a hired killer and you have a rampage on your calendar.
No-fat, low-fat...what idiocy. Jeez. If I have a 250-calorie yeast-filled, glazed donut at 9am, I sometimes have to remind myself that I'd better eat lunch when the clock strikes 2 or 3pm. Don't even get me started on those attempted foods called Snackwells. Ever see any dental-floss-thin people eating them?
Posted by aalkon at August 27, 2005 8:21 AM
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Advice Goddess Amy Alkon has an excellent post on her blog about the dire consequences of accidentally eating a low-fat blueberry muffin at Starbucks. Fat or thin, I've never been able to subsist on a low fat diet. First of [Read More]
Tracked on August 27, 2005 8:39 AM
Hear, hear! I used to have that ravenous feeling ALL THE DAMN TIME when I tried to do any low fat regime. Yesterday I had a small latte with regular milk for breakfast (was running late for work) and wasn't even starting to get hungry until after 1.
Though your croissant with brie sounds lovely (and I'm definitely going to try that soon), I try to stick to choices with a little more fiber, like whole wheat toast with almond butter or a veggie omelette.
It's become an almost reflexive reaction over the years to choose low-fat items over regular, and I'm working on deprogramming myself. It's so worth it to not be ravenous and counting the hours till the next meal, only to feel hungry again an hour after eating.
Posted by: deja pseu at August 27, 2005 7:57 AM
Breakfast (almost) every morning: big bowl of oatmeal with whatever dried fruit I want in it (cherries this week), topped with a few pats of butter or a few tablespoons of heavy cream.
I learned a number of years ago it's best to keep all the high-fat foods you love in the house; cashews, dark chocolate, Jarlsberg cheese. I eat them when I want, one of them usually daily. I never feel deprived, and I never gain weight.
Then again, I am sitting here in my sweaty gym clothes.
Posted by: nancy at August 27, 2005 9:55 AM
I must tell you Amy that you have influenced me in a very positive way. Since your "Dress Like A Girl" challenge, I have been primping up a little more than usual. And after your admonitions to eat fat I have been enjoying my brie and dark chocolate, and popcorn drenched in real butter without guilt. The result so far? I've lost 4 pounds, feel more energetic and have more staying power through out the day, and am getting more respect at work. Hooray!!!
Posted by: Diana at August 27, 2005 10:28 AM
Wow...That's really cool, Diana.
And I think that's the secret -- if you have bread, which I don't eat all that much of, you have to have fat so you won't be a ragingly hungry bitch an hour later. Not scientific, just my opinion, from experience.
Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 27, 2005 12:04 PM
I've been focusing on protein lately. I find that if I make sure to eat some things with protein, I don't get hungry as easily. If I get hungry at work around 10:30, I'll have a few honey roasted peanuts, and bam, I'm full until lunch at 1-1:30. Meanwhile, my co-workers are constantly grazing from bags of Goldfish and other junk. Gimme something with a little protein (and fat, too!), and I'm more full longer.
Posted by: Kate at August 27, 2005 2:36 PM
Sure wish people would think about this stuff logically. The last decade has produced more low-fat, reduced-fat, sugar-free treats than ever before, and we're getting fatter. Doesn't anyone ever ask why? Yes, we're less active in our jobs, but we've got gyms on every corner nowadays.
Have you ever seen a thin person drinking a diet soda? The artificial sweetners stimulate cravings for sweet things. And fat in food helps us slow the absorption of carbohydrates. Amy's coffee cake was absorbed instantly, since it was made with white flower, white sugar and no fat to slow the absorption of the carbohydrates. All into the system at once, then purged by a wave of hyperinsulinism. And what happens? You get REALLY hungry. So hungry it's almost painful. I know exactly what Amy's describing. I've been there myself.
Posted by: Patrick the cynic at August 27, 2005 7:50 PM
LMAO! I hate 'diet' food. If you're worried about weight gain, exercise, why starve on slimfast? But I can run a helluvalot farther on a donut or a bagel and schmear then i could on Ensure. Diet food'll kill you (or, in Amy's case, make you kill someone else)
Posted by: Lia at August 27, 2005 11:17 PM
Thanks, Patrick...you explained what I was getting at (fat in food helps slow the absorption of carbohydrates).
Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 28, 2005 12:42 AM
Not to put too fine a point on it, Amy, but your story seems to be "anecdotal" - until it becomes repeatable under controlled conditions, at which point it's "empirical". You have satisfied this second term, of course. Bon appetit!
Posted by: Radwaste at August 28, 2005 2:20 AM
Yeah, c'mon, I drink diet soda all the time (well, not all the time) cuz the sugar makes my teeth hurt and I'm a very slim guy (but you know how slim Commies tend to be).
How to avoid a high sugar diet?
Just remember that practically every cheap-to-buy-because-of heavy-taxpayer-susidy bite means Big Corn's going ka=CHING! And at taxpayer expense.
That should improe your waist line. And our country's waste line.
Posted by: Mao See Tung at August 28, 2005 4:38 AM
Thanks, Rad, and I really meant anecdotal, but it turns out, empirical is correct. See dictionary.com (or your personal dictionary):
em·pir·i·cal Audio pronunciation of "empirical" ( P ) Pronunciation Key (m-pîr-kl)
1. Relying on or derived from observation or experiment: empirical results that supported the hypothesis.
2. Verifiable or provable by means of observation or experiment: empirical laws.
2. Guided by practical experience and not theory, especially in medicine.
Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 28, 2005 8:05 AM
It just occurs to me, Amy, why didn't you simply eat the counter person who forgot to put up the low-fat sign? That way, you would have solved your hunger problem with something high-protein and dealt with the incompetence at your Starbuck's at the same time!
Posted by: Practical Patrick at August 28, 2005 6:27 PM
Believe me, it crossed my mind.
Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 28, 2005 9:08 PM
Amy, I remembered reading something a while back about how a low-fat diet also impedes proper brain function. I've been googling unsuccessfully to find the original article where I read this a couple of years ago, but did find this:
The human brain is 70% lipid (fats), and requires a regular intake of certain fats and cholesterol to function properly. Inadequate intake of these fats have been proven in many research reports to lower IQ levels, and are precursors to many mental illnesses ranging from short term memory loss and loss of concentration, through to depression, increased suicide rates, bi polar disorders and schizophrenia, and in the longer term, even Alzheimer's Disease. (The single biggest predictor of the onset of Alzheimer's Disease is now known to be brain size ten years prior to the first outwards symptoms of the disease. Lack of appropriate fats feeding this fat-based organ results in shrinkage of the brain and eventually to dementias such as Alzheimers.)
Numerous essential Vitamins will not be absorbed by the human body unless accompanied by fats. These include the fat-soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K. No matter how many vitamin supplements you take, or how many vitamin rich fruits and vegetables you eat, if you have a low fat diet you will eventually suffer the degenerative diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. Osteoporosis is one of the many of these degenerative diseases. Calcium requires the presence of Vitamin D to be absorbed in your intestines, and the presence of Vitamin K to "glue" it into your bone mass.
Posted by: deja pseu at August 29, 2005 7:13 AM
I have stayed away from discussions on diets & obesity because I find the subject extremely boring with its vocabulary filled with carbs, proteins & calories. From my 5'2" frame carrying 110 lbs, I also do not feel competent to discuss a problem I have not personally encountered and yet I am beginning to wonder if I should not share the common sense that has driven me for nearly three-quarter of a century. I can assure you that it is neither luck nor family genes that have kept me slim but habits I adopted when I was a teenager. I was about thirteen when I became distraught at the sight of fat women & swore that I would never let myself get overweight. I kept to my word & was rewarded with health & a lean body to this day. My secret? Miracle diets? Fad dieting? No! I simply watch what I eat, eat when I am hungry, which is at very regular hours & in small portions. I do not turn my nose at chocolate or delicious French pastry, and eat only the best, which usually comes in small size. The result is that I never stuff myself while always feeling satisfied. I apply the same principle to liquids, do not measure the amount that I drink, do not carry a bottle of water with me, only when it gets too hot. And no soft drinks ever, *naturellement*! An early riser & late to bed, I move a lot, walk at a quick pace, avoid elevators & mechanical stairways.
When traveling in the States these past few years, I have been appalled at what is stocked in groceries stores. These huge cakes dripping with thick sugar! Reading the ingredients on boxes & bottles upsets my stomach. It does not list food but chemical products supposed to keep you slim, or get you there, or whatever. No sugar, no fat, no food! And yet, half of America is getting fat. I recently told the manager of a super market that if I could manage his store for one day, half the products would go in the trash (the diet food & dripping cakes) & be replaced by real fresh natural food. Of course, he did not propose to hire me.
Undoing the habits of overeating & of eating the wrong food is a very difficult process that can only begin when one assesses the problem correctly, usually with the help of a professional who speaks honestly, like the doctor the woman is whining about. A mirror would have been as honest. By the way, would she have sued the mirror maker? Political correctness does not belong in a medical office while the bare hard truth does. I would thank any doctor explaining to me the dangers of smoking, overeating or going in the desert with no hat & no water. That poor woman should know that the truth hurts and, instead of attacking the doctor, should follow his advice.
Posted by: Frania W. at August 29, 2005 10:34 PM
It's so interesting:,
Posted by: Sindrug at May 5, 2008 3:10 AM