Are there such things as fattening foods?

‘Fattening’ is one of those words that I really don’t like. According to, ‘fattening’ is defined as a foodstuff ‘liable to make a person overweight’. I’ve often been asked if a certain food is fattening, from bananas to avocado to bread.

But guess what? Nothing is fattening. There isn’t one food that has this power, despite what people may say.

It’s our overall dietary pattern, combined with our eating behaviours and a myriad of other factors, that influence our weight. However, when it comes to nutrition and body weight, we want things to be black and white. Life seems easier if all we need to do is not eat bread or chocolate or bananas, or whatever the latest ‘fattening’ food may be. But avoiding certain foods and restricting your food intake is not the solution. In fact, these dieting type behaviours are actually predictors of weight gain! Around 95 per cent of people regain weight after two to three years, and two thirds of these gain more weight than they actually lost in the first place. Dieting just doesn’t work for the majority of the population.

We were all born knowing how much we need to eat. When a baby has had enough to drink, they push away. A toddler will leave a plate of biscuits if they are not hungry. As an illustration, my four-year-old niece was desperate to try white chocolate. She ate two squares and said ‘Arg it’s so sweet’ and went and got a drink of water. She knew what was enough and that she wasn’t enjoying it.

It’s what we are taught as we grow up, and the effects of dieting on our mind, that create an environment where we feel like we can no longer trust ourselves around certain foods and no longer know how much to eat. From this, we start to believe the idea that there are certain foods that make us gain weight and we cannot control ourselves around them.

So how do we maintain a stable weight? By listening and responding appropriately to our body’s internal cues that let us know when we are hungry and when we are just comfortably full. By eating a nourishing diet that makes us feel good. By eating mindfully and include the foods we love, rather than banning them. If this all sounds a bit mystical, I’d encourage you to read the book Intuitive Eating or check out some of the articles on my blog which explain this in more detail.

Instead of banning foods and following diets, relearning how to eat intuitively like we did when we were infants can help us learn a healthy way of eating that includes the foods we love, without the worry of things being ‘fattening’.

First published: Oct 2017

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