Fattypuffs and Thinifers: don’t fear the fats

Fattypuffs and Thinifers is a book (written I thought by Roald Dahl, but really by a guy named André Maurois) that I read as a child and it somehow became inextricably linked to how I select the foods that I eat. Allow me to explain…

In brief, the book is set in a secret world where people are segregated by size; the Fattypuffs are a round, fleshy people who do and eat things for the pleasure of doing and eating them- a very Epicurean lifestyle- while the Thinifers are a lean people who take pride in exercising and denying themselves pleasurable foods. The FPs regard the TFs as grumpy and condescending and TFs view the FPs as lazy and indulgent. The two sides are at war with one another, and the book is worth a read, so if you want, you can buy it on Amazon (what can’t you buy on Amazon?), but I’m done synopsizing it because I’ve explained enough to arrive at how this children’s book became ingrained in how I choose what I eat.

After reading this book, I came to view my food choices as either a Fattypuff choice or a Thinifer one. The mound of mashed potatoes in which I hid a pat of margarine until it liquified was a Fattypuff choice. The green salad without dressing, a Thinifer one. At Thanksgiving, the acorn squash, turkey (those were the pre-vegetarian days), and asparagus were Thinifer choices while everything else (stuffing, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, Pillsbury crescent rolls…) were Fattypuff choices.  As a child (I think I read this book as a third or fourth- grader), it was just a funny distinction, but as a young adult, I began to use these as guidelines to help in my decision making. When rummaging through the kitchen for a snack,  I’ll ask myself if I want to make a Fattypuff choice or a Thinifer choice and then I’ll eat either the banana or the brownie (admittedly, I sometimes eat both).

Unfortunately, since there seems to be new information about what is and is not healthy, what we should and should not eat, what a body needs and what a body should run like hell away from every day, the list of Fattypuff choices is now drastically longer than the Thinifer choices. It is really difficult to know what we should (according to science) be eating these days- low fat? no fat? gluten-free? carb-free? paleo? south beach? vegan? butter? margarine? raw only? juice only? fish = good because of omega 3? fish = bad because of mercury? high fiber? high fat? organic?- when every day it seems like some new way of eating that will guarantee health and happiness has been discovered and previously lauded ways of eating have been criminalized.

It is hard to know where to set-up camp among all of these conflicting views, and,  in the absence of real knowledge, I have just come to view it all as bad- as a Fattypuff choice. When I met with my fitness coach, Kim, this week, and we discussed my further nutritional goals, she remarked that I seemed hard on myself for not just the ‘bad’ food choices I make, but for all of them. And it is true that, unless I’m eating an apple or a fresh salad without dressing, I feel that I’m making a bad choice; but, really, there are varying degrees of bad and it all depends on perspective (for example, a serving of Nutella, not so bad, an entire 13 oz jar of Nutella, pretty bad).

The thing I’ve criminalized most is fat. As a child of the 90’s, I grew up in the era of low-fat. But, as Kim explained to me and as I read in a Newsweek article over the summer, scientists are realizing that fats are actually not as bad as we thought, and in fact, they are necessary. Eating a little more fat, as Kim explained, might actually be beneficial in losing weight. We can eat just about anything and fill ourselves up, but fats are what tell our body that we are satisfied. There is some sort of hormonal conversation that goes on between our stomachs and brain involving fats, and, when we’ve had some fats, our stomach tells our brain that we don’t need to eat any more. This is why when you eat a big salad, even though you might be full, you still feel unfulfilled and want to keep eating. I tested this theory over the weekend and had an egg and avocado sandwich for breakfast on Saturday… and I made it all the way until LUNCH without needing a snack which is very unusual for me. My normal schedule of meals is similar to that of a Hobbit.

I should probably say that Kim didn’t give me permission to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every day. What she did recommend is to not necessarily try to seek out fats, but that I should stop trying to avoid them. If I avoid them at every meal, I’m never going to feel satisfied and never going to be able to control my snacking choices. In light of this information, here are a few things I’m moving off the Fattypuff list (keeping in mind that all should be consumed in moderation):

Peanut butter (made without hydrogenated oils), eggs, cheese, salad dressing, avocados, butter (yes, butter!), cooking oils, yogurt.

These guys won’t end up on the Thinifer list, but I’ll stop beating myself up Dobby-the-Elf-style over buttering my toast or drizzling blue cheese dressing on my salad. No more fearing fats!


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