Little Things: a Nutrition Series — 4 of 4; Fats

Making little changes in nutrition for long term habit making — Fats are Fuel!

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Welcome to my 4-part series in which I share what I’ve learned about nutrition. The 8-week program, Simply Nourished Like a Mother, offered by Train Like a Mother and Registered Dietician Ellie Kempton (MSN RD) walks through the dietary Macros and how to incorporate each into your daily routine. I had worked with Ellie one-on-one before, and much of this program was a strong refresher course. Let me share with you what I’ve learned and relearned.

High school for me was during the “Low-Fat, No-Fat” boom. Every item in the pantry touted these words because somehow it was determined Fat = Evil…that dietary fat MADE you fat. For Diet Culture, this was probably one of the darkest times, in my humble opinion. Ultimately, science won out and determined that Fat in Food does not equate to unhealthy weight gain. In fact, since our brains run on fats, it is critical to our overall health. However, Fat’s bad reputation has been hard to overcome, even now.  

If you grew up in the “Snackwell’s” era, you might know what I’m talking about. High-fat foods were thought to lead to being overweight. While I was indeed overweight for a period of time in high school, it was just a matter of eating junk food most of the time plus not yet embracing my inner athlete. 

Fats have broken through recently, though. We now know that healthy fats like Omega-3s (from avocados and fish) help improve brain function. If the muscles use Proteins for fuel, the brain uses Healthy fats.

The last two weeks of Ellie’s program explained what a serving of fat is, where to find them, and when you might optimally consume them. Here are just a few of the tips I learned and re-learned.

In the #EllieEconomy, a serving of fat is about the size of your thumb or the amount you might hold in your cupped hand. Think of a serving of Nut Butter, half an Avocado, or a yummy sauce. If the “Carb Crescendo” taught us to increase our carb intake throughout the day, this macro comes in the form of a “Fat Fall Off…” (not sold on the moniker I came up with, but I tend to gravitate toward alliteration). Starting the day with several servings of fats helps keep energy and brain function up all day, then dropping down in consumption later on in favor of carbohydrates. 

Before a morning run, especially if it’s speed work or a long run, fat sources help top off the tank. So a packet of nut butter and a banana, or Avocado Toast might be the right option to get you primed and ready to perform. I can say that this works, because I had half a banana and a packet of Almond butter before my most recent 10k race…check out what happened here

Replacing the usual carbs with fats in the morning helps keep your mind humming all day long. My morning smoothie contains around 4 servings of fats between the avocado, MCT Oil, and Cacao Powder. The result is a creamy, chocolatey smoothie that fills me up. 

Lastly, and probably the hardest part for me to embrace…or at least apply at all times…is the Oil Sources. Vegetable, peanut, and canola oils don’t break down as easily, and can cause other digestive problems, while Olive, Avocado, and Grapeseed oils provide all the “good things.” Remember, I’m not a dietician or a Nutritionist…This part is still hard for me to understand. 

Overall, I remember a lot from working with Ellie 5 years ago. Her knowledge of science is vast, and I know I still have things to learn. I also know that what I have learned can be tough to lock in at times. For example, I brought a lot of my own food for a Disney trip so I could reach for healthier snacks when I was hungry. This worked to a point, but I didn’t realize how hard it was just to get a side of veggies. Eating out anywhere, I try to make healthy choices, but I don’t always have control over how things are prepared. 

In the end, I don’t obsess over my nutrition all the time. In another blog, I’ll talk about the “Sparkle” that Ellie encourages us to add. Like with all things, I do the best I can with what I got in the nutrition department. While I hoped to lose a little Perimenopause weight, even though I haven’t…yet(?)…I learned that when I have my nutrition dialed in, I feel immensely better, mentally more alert, and emotionally more even keel. 

So I hope you enjoyed this little series about my Nutrition Journey. I would love to hear from you! What do you think?

Heather Jergensen

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