If you think dietary fat is bad, think again.

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I spent more than thirty years yo-yo dieting. Most of the diets required I cut the fat from my diet, and even the most “balanced” called for limiting fats to a couple of teaspoons a day. I was cranky and irritable, then moody and lethargic after the initial high of a new diet and the accompanying weight loss wore off. I tried to sustain the effort to stick with it, even though my weight loss stalled, but I felt like I was failing which discouraged and demoralized me. In the end I stopped whatever diet I was on because it had stopped working. I ate to satisfy cravings without trying to understand what my body needed. I gained weight, and the cycle started again.

At the time, I did not realize I was depriving myself of essential fatty acids (EFA’s). In fact I had many of the classic signs of EFA deprivation including poor digestion, fatigue, irritability, constipation, dry hair, blotchy skin, moodiness, constant hunger, cravings for junk food, brittle finger nails, the urge to binge, and eventually the inability to lose weight. It turns out when the body is deficient in a major macronutrient such as fat, it can generate a survival response which slows down a person’s calorie-burning capacity.

Essential fatty acids are essential to life. They are the building blocks of hormones, cell walls, the brain and hundreds of chemicals that influence metabolism moment to moment. EFA’s help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. Healthy fat in the diet makes us feel full and satisfied. It warms us and nourishes us. It sustains us, as it takes longer to burn fat calories than carbohydrates or low-fat proteins. We need fat to survive and thrive.

If any of the symptoms highlighted above sound familiar to you, it is time to add more healthy fat to your diet. Get the best quality, first-press oils like olive, coconut and nut oils. Other healthy fat-containing foods include avocado, nuts and seeds, olives, wild fish, free-range eggs, butter from grass-fed cows, full-fat high quality yogurt and cheese, and coconut. Incorporate reasonable amounts of these healthy fats every time you eat – you will eat less and feel satisfied longer. Skip the junk fat in processed foods. Skip processed foods altogether, which at best are low in nutrients and at worst inflammatory. Your body will thank you, your mind will be sharper, and your spirit will soar.

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