The "Skinny" On Fats
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

If you are eating just the right amount of fat, and the right kinds of fat… good for you!! Did you know that not all fats are bad for you? In fact, the kind of fat that is found in beans, nuts, seeds and some fish and vegetable oils are crucial for optimal health. Eating fats is one essential part of a healthy eating lifestyle. Calories from eating fat should make up 15-30 percent of your daily diet.

Eating too little fat can be as unhealthy as eating too much fat. If your fat intake is too low, it may be because you are not eating enough food in general, or enough foods containing fat. Keep in mind that:

  • Fat is a nutrient like protein, carbohydrate, minerals or vitamins.
  • Fat is part of every body cell.
  • Fat supplies energy.
  • We need fat to be able to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Fat helps control body temperature. It insulates the body and the organs to keep them warm.
  • Fat is digested slowly, making us feel full.
  • Pubescent girls need enough fat to sustain an adequate amount of estrogen in the body to be able to reproduce and carry on the species.

It is normal and in fact, essential for adolescent girls to gain 40% of their weight in fat. A person’s neurological development is an on-going process that occurs throughout childhood and adolescence and into one’s twenties. Healthful neurological development requires the regular and appropriate intake of fats in the diet. Any extreme behavior around food and eating is unhealthy.

Eating too much of the wrong kind of fat can also be dangerous to your health, causing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and colon cancer. If this is the case for you, that does not mean you have to go on a diet, but only that you eat differently, more moderately or with clearer intention. You may need to cut back on eating saturated fats, or fats that you get from foods without nutritional value.

What makes a fat good or bad is its level of saturation, which refers to the number of hydrogen molecules a fat can accept.

Saturated fats can make the body produce excess cholesterol, a primary factor in heart disease. In general, you are better off with unsaturated fats. Tran -fatty acids come out of a process called hydrogenation, where polyunsaturated oils are converted to saturated fat. These harmful substances increase cholesterol and are found in processed foods with hydrogenated oils, such as chips and cookies. Monounsaturated fats, such as are found in olive oil and avocados may help to decreases blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats are good for you. These are found in corn, safflower, and sunflower and soybean oils, in walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts.

Remember that there are no “bad” foods. Any food can become “bad,” however, if it is eaten in excess or somehow apart from a moderate, varied, balanced and nutritionally dense eating regime.

Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 28 years. She is the author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. October 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at her web site at To order visit

Home | About Abigail | Press Kit | Articles | Ask Abigail | About the Book | Services | Empowered Parents| Empowered Kids

All Contents © Copyright
Abigail H. Natenshon