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Is Fat Making You Fat?

By Julie DuBois


Many people have a very negative perception of fat. Whether it’s fat in foods or fat on their bodies, the word “fat” has a negative connotation in most people’s minds. The truth, however, is that dietary fat alone is not making people fat, and neither are carbohydrates or protein for that matter. Increases in body fat are simply a result of consuming more calories than are being burned.

It’s the calories in, calories out rule of thumb. If you consume greater calories than you burn in a day, you will put on weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you should lose weight. Now keep in mind that you don’t ever want to eat below your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you need to sustain your bodily functions without activity).

As far as dietary fats go, some fat sources are better than others. Fats are classified into two different categories: saturated and unsaturated fats. There is a third “man made” category of fats called trans fats.

Saturated fats are what most people consider bad fats. These fats come from animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, butter, whole milk, whole milk products and products from coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils. These fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Unsaturated fats can actually improve your overall cholesterol and improve your HDL (good) cholesterol. These fats come from sources such as corn, safflower, sesame, olive, canola, and nut oils as well as avocados, fish, and nuts.

Trans fats is the newer category of fats that are formed during the process of partial hydrogenation (adding hydrogen) of liquid fats to create solid fats. This is a man-made process and these fats act like saturated fats in your body. Trans fats are found in processed foods and especially in cakes, cookies and other baked goods.

A diet higher in unsaturated fat sources and lower in saturated fat sources is recommended. Heart healthy diets incorporate unsaturated fats as the primary source of fat.

There has been recent controversy over whether coconut oil is good for your health. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which traditionally is thought to have negative health consequences. Proponents of coconut oil say it aids in weight loss and boosts immunity. The oil is made up primarily of medium chain fatty acids, versus the traditional long chain fatty acids that we consume regularly. Further research needs to be done on medium chain fatty acids in relationship to weight loss and heart risk.

Fats that are proven to be healthy include avocados, nuts, fatty fish, olives, and olive and canola oils. These have been extensively researched to help reduce LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol, and improve overall total cholesterol. A diet high in mono and poly unsaturated fats can reduce risk factors for heart disease and obesity.

Keep in mind that a well balanced diet along with a regular exercise routine is the best way to a healthy lifestyle.

Julie DuBois, RD, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with Nutriworks Comprehensive Nutrition Consulting and a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Coordinated Dietetics from Texas Christian University. Julie enjoys coaching her clients to reach their personal health and fitness goals in a way that is both fun and challenging at the same time! You can contact her at, follow her on Twitter (@JulieKDuBois) or check out her website,

This article originally appeared on, founded by Olympic gold medalistGarrett Weber-Gale and his family, who believe that good taste and healthy food really can go together.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.