Why Your Healthy Eating Is Making You Fat
40% of America is obese.
Not overweight- obese.
71% of America is overweight.
That means 7 out of every 10 Americans are unhealthy-- let that sink in for a moment.
Now, get this- the commercial “weight-loss program” segment of the market is worth about 3 billion dollars, meal replacements (shakes, bars, pills...) are continuing to grow in sales year after year, and online dieting (such as WeightWatchers.com) is estimated to be worth $990 million. Companies within the weight-loss market, from programs to books to services and supplements, are continuing to prosper as Americans are estimated to spend over 60 BILLION dollars to lose weight every year.
But yet, the majority of us are still overweight. What gives? How are we all, as a country, still so fat if everyone is trying to be so healthy?
Could it be because we’re just trying to be healthy, without fully grasping what that looks like?
Sure, there are a lot of factors which lead to the obesity epidemic in America, but one of the biggest ones I’m noticing? Fad diets mixed with uneducated consumers.
It seems like America’s restaurant industry is starting to get its act together in regards to hopping on the “clean machine”, and it is also following suit with some of the biggest trends out there. Look around and you see fast food chains offering “healthy” options like salads and oatmeal, restaurants all marketing their “under x-00 calorie” menus with turkey burgers and grilled chicken entrees, companies cooking with organic and “clean” foods- heck, even frozen food companies are joining in on the fun. You'll also notice more specialty “healthy fast food” shops popping up left and right- offering avocado toast breakfasts and quinoa bowl lunches, fresh-pressed-juices or protein-packed-smoothies (with no artificial sweeteners or preservatives !!!), or açaí bowl and froyo shops promoting healthy, clean treats to satisfy that sweet tooth...
How could we be so obese/overweight with so many healthy options out there?! How could we be so obese/overweight when we’re making such an effort to “eat clean”??
How? Because there is such thing as too much of a good thing.
Take an açaí bowl, for example. Açaí berry base topped with a sliced banana and 1-2 tbsp of natural nut butter, sprinkled with unsweetened coconut flakes, granola, and flaxseed, finished off with a handful of fresh berries and nuts.
Healthy, right? Well, in isolation, yes- all of these ingredients are perfectly fine, healthy, and beneficial for you-- the key words being "in isolation”. However, take it altogether and you’re staring at upwards of 500 calories, 16-20 grams of fat, anywhere from 80-100g of carbs, and just about 10 measly grams of protein. Just for a point of reference, a good ole, greasy slice of a medium cheese pizza from your favorite local pizza shop will likely run you almost 300 calories consisting of about 10g of fat, 30-ish grams of carbs, and 12-15g of protein.
Am I saying go out and eat all the cheese pizza you want because it’s better than an açaí bowl? No, of course not- but you wouldn’t eat a cheese pizza multiple times a week to help you lose weight, so why would you do it with an açaí bowl? Society has gotten very good as masking junk or things that should be treated as special-occasion-foods (like açaí bowls) as “healthy, everyday staples”.
It’s this mask that is screwing us all over, and it has a lot of people assuming that, because the calories they’re consuming are “clean” calories, the calories they’re consuming essentially don’t count-- “because they’re from healthy foods”.
People are overeating their healthy foods, and when the body is overfed, guess what it is going to do? It is going to hold onto the extra calories and store them as fat- even if the extra calories were from a sweet potato or a tablespoon of flaxseed.
To kind of diverge with a brief, “Bioenergetics/Nutrition 101”, lesson here, our bodies need calories. Calories are what the body uses to create ATP- the ultimate energy molecule. It takes the protein, carbs, and fats that we eat every day, breaks them up and turns them into energy for both our voluntary and involuntary activities such as walking up a flight of stairs or pumping blood through our bodies.
Think of the body like a car and the calories/macronutrients as gasoline. If we want a car to run it’s best and furthest, then we need to fill the tank with gas, right? However, if we fill the car with too much gas, then it starts to overflow or spill out- the car can only hold so much gas. Same with our bodies. In order for it to run efficiently, we need to be feeding it appropriately, but it also has a max limit for how much “gas” we can put in, and once we put too much in, it will “spill out” in it’s own way-- by storing the excess as fat.
So, let’s jump back to healthy, clean eating with this completely hypothetical situation…
Meet Jane Doe, she is a 35 year old woman who considers herself active and healthy but has a goal to lose a few extra pounds. She takes spin class 3x a week, dabbles in barre and circuit workout classes a few times on other days, and eats clean. She’s frustrated, though, because despite how much she’s working out, she can’t lose weight. When asked about her nutrition, she assures you she’s healthy and doesn’t undereat (another common issue leading to failed weight loss and people being overweight: chronic dieting/under eating-- but that’s another topic for another day). She proudly shares what her day looks like…
Breakfast: 1-2 whole eggs with 2 slices of sprouted, whole grain toast topped with ½ of an avocado
Mid-morning snack after morning barre class: A Larabar or RX bar on the go
Lunch: A lentil, chicken and quinoa bowl from the local “healthy fast food” place by work. A serving of dark chocolate covered almonds for a little dessert
Mid-afternoon snack: Some whole grain crackers and cheese and a handful of nuts
Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, 1 serving of brown rice, steamed broccoli and a sweet potato
....by this point in the day, Jane has already shot far past what would be recommended for her daily fat intake, even though it was all good fats like whole eggs and almonds, she's "overflowing". As well, her glycogen (carb) stores were pretty much filled up before that seemingly healthy dinner, which has since sent her over on her carbohydrate intake as well.
Anything beyond this point in the night will just send her even further over the caloric intake she needs for energy and her goals, and her gas will continue “spilling over”. Even with the most healthy of calories, too much can still, and WILL still, result in body fat.
Jane's healthy eating was hindering her, but you don't have to fall into the same trap! The keys to making your healthy eating work for you are learning the correct portions for your body and your goals and seeing through the marketing bullcrap.
Don’t fall for the meals, foods or drinks packing a million “superfoods” into one- all they are doing is packing too many servings of too many ingredients into one.
Don’t fall for the juice bar smoothies, shakes, juices claiming to burn fat, build muscle, heal you, and replenish you all at the same time- most of the time these are basically just glorified milkshakes or grown-up versions of Juicy Juice packed with sugar, carbs, and fat!
And don’t fall for the thinking that just because it contains healthy ingredients or “clean” ingredients means it, as a whole, is healthy and “clean” (sorry for my over use of quotations around this word, but I really hate labeling foods as clean and/or dirty...but, again, another topic for another day…).
Be a smart consumer and don’t give into the fad diets/foods. Know what you need and when you need it, and remember...
just because a food is considered “healthy,” doesn’t mean you can eat unhealthy amounts of it.