Being one of the only 3 nutrients on the planet that provide us energy it is only normal that the word FAT would come up in a dietitians office pretty often. However, even though fat is an objective thing, it is not always treated with the neutrality that other things may receive but more so used to convey a negative. In this blog I wanted to highlight the 4 different ways I hear the use of the word fat.


What does the word fat mean?

Dietary fat

My favorite of all the uses of fat- as a macronutrient. Macronutrients are responsible for providing our body energy (commonly known as calories). As far as macronutrients go there are only three: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

ALL foods are made up of a combination of these three.

For example:

  • Green beans- carbohydrates and protein, no fat.
  • Milk- Carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
  • Fat is found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, dairy, meats/fish, butter /oils.

There are many diets out there that limit the intake of fat in order to lose weight. To be clear fat in food is not equivalent to fat on our bodies. Our bodies need and crave fat!

Fat is important nutritionally!

  • Increases good cholesterol-HDL (think H for Healthy, we want it to be High). HDL helps the body remove the LDL (think L for Lousy we want it Low) out of the body. Heart healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, olives, avocado and fatty fish actually decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.



Fat gives flavor and moisture to food. For example having some butter on your broccoli vs. plain steamed broccoli alone- which would you enjoy more? Would you eat more salad with some tasty dressing vs. a dry salad? Adding some ranch to your salad does not negate the nutrients that you are ingesting- ranch dressing cannot take that folic acid out of those spinach leaves!


Satiety- fat is slowly digested so when we are listening to our bodies and noticing hunger and fullness, having fats in the meal will contribute to fullness and allow the body to naturally regulate portion sizes.


Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins- A, D, E, K all need fat in order to be utilized in the body.

Brain and heart health:

Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and heart health.

Hair, skin and nails?

Fat helps us maintain healthy hair, skin and nails!

Meet with your REBEL Dietitian for help determining how much fat you need and what kinds of fat to eat!

healthy fat

Low- fat

Along with the low fat craze of diets past the food industry introduced tons of low fat food options. Low fat on the label does not mean that it is healthy; in fact some of these options can actually be less healthy than its full fat counterparts! Take a look at this low fat ice cream vs. the regular ice cream.

Look at the regular vs. the low-fat ice cream

Look at the regular vs. the low-fat ice cream

  • Yep .5g of fat less! That is pretty insignificant, especially given…
    • 30 more calories
    • 40 more mg sodium
    • 9 more carbs and 2 more grams sugar

Many times when a low fat label is on the food, if you take a closer look at the label you may see that they have actually increased the amount of sodium or sugar in the food to make it more palatable.

Sticking up for dairy products. The bullet before still applies but many low fat cheeses and yogurts may be made with 1% or skim milk making them lower in saturated fat. Take a look at the label of the brand you are purchasing to find out what they may have maneuvered in the ingredients.

Health Halo:

Did you know that studies show when there is a low fat label on a food product people consumes about 30% more of the food? I call this the health halo, meaning it is assumed to be healthy- and therefore it inclines you to have more even if you are not hungry or it doesn’t taste all that great.

How can I avoid this low fat food problem? Try to increase your consumption of whole foods that have not been manipulated to increase their marketing appeal. Of course with a busy life it is highly unlikely and not even recommended that you are eating whole foods 100% of the time, but working on increasing them can be a great goal!

Do you use the word fat?

“I am fat”

The key here is “I AM fat” vs. “I HAVE fat”. Fat is what it is- fat.

You are NOT fat!

You are NOT fat!

We all have fat- and we better. Without it fatigue and illness would take over our lives. For women menstruation would end along with the ability to become pregnant. Bone health would deteriorate and hormone function would go haywire.

Stop Fat Shaming:

Squash the “fat – shaming talk”. Now that we know we all have fat, and it simply varies in amount from person to person how can we change the way we view fat? There is a movement to reclaim the word fat for what it is- neutral, not inherently negative, simply adipose tissue. Part of this is getting rid of the negative connotations that we have created as a society surrounding the word fat. The bullying thoughts coming from your self talk as well as others around you relate, “being fat” and to being undesirable. And this is not true. Stand up to fat talk- end the conversation or simply refuse to take part. Build up your body image whether it be with positive affirmations of all your body can do for you, purchasing clothing that makes you feel good, or sharing body positive articles and images on your social media.

Your REBEL Dietitians will coordinate care with your therapist who may be working with you on your body image.


Belly fat

When you have fat, which we all do it is dispersed throughout your body. This means you most certainly might have belly fat. Understanding what types of fat are on your body can help you accept your body and change the focus of your nutrition from weight loss to health.

First of all any exercise or nutrition regimen that is aimed at reducing belly fat is not being truthful. You cannot target an area of the body to reduce fat. You can target an area to tone muscles in, but you cannot eat specific foods or do certain exercises to decrease belly fat. When fat is lost it comes from the whole body. Same thing with losing muscle mass. Many quick fix diets decrease weight rapidly (AT FIRST), this means you are losing fat AND muscle mass. Muscle mass lost comes from the whole body; your heart is a muscle- do you really want to lose part of the musculature of the heart? Then WHEN (not if) weight is regained it comes back as fat mass- this weight cycling increases heart risk.

Let’s talk subcutaneous fat, this is the kind of fat directly under your skin which is unfortunately being pinched, ridiculed or liposuction out at the stomach, “muffin tops”, hips, butt, or under arms. Interestingly the amount of subcutaneous fat does not have an impact on our health.

Visceral fat is the fat in between the organs- this is the fat that can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. However, this is not fat you can see- you would need a MRI or CT scan. Visceral fat is affected gender and ethnicity. You can have visceral fat and be normal weight and you have large amounts of subcutaneous fat and not have a large amount of visceral fat. Healthy lifestyle changes such as increasing fruit, vegetables, whole grains and exercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress will decrease visceral fat, even if weight is not lost.

If you need help focus on health not the number on the scale when it comes to your eating habits, reach out to your REBEL RD’s!


The takeaways from the way in which we use the word fat:

  • We need to eat dietary fat to be healthy.
  • We do not need to eat manufactured “low fat” foods to be healthy.
  • Fat is not a feeling.
  • Fat is not an insult.

Focus on health, not the number on the scale. The two are not mutually exclusive.


Please click here or call us at 301-474-2499 to schedule an appointment with your REBEL dietitian. You can also fill out this contact form. We look forward to hearing from you.

Blog updated December 2019.


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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.

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