Thursday, January 12, 2012

Weekend Reading: Why Women Need Fat

Slightly off the topic of frugality, but firmly on the topic of health and wellness, I recently acquired a copy of Why Women Need Fat: How "Healthy" Food Makes Us Gain Excess Weight and the Surprisingly Solution to Keeping it Off Forever by Dr. William D. Lassek and Steven Gaulin.  It's a mouthful of a title, but a really fascinating read.  I've always been interested in diet and exercise--don't know if that's just a side-effect of being a girl, and this book is possibly the most comprehensive look at why women are built the way they are, why our weight shifts over time and why most women gain the same percentage of weight around the same age as they get older.

I try to be a bit skeptical when I read anything that makes medical claims (as should you!), but this book is laid out so systematically and rooted in so many studies, that every time you want to say--hang on a minute-- they beat you to the punch.  Basically, the reason we currently believe that certain types of food are healthier than others and we need to avoid fat at all costs, is because of the opinion of one doctor--Ancel Keys--who hadn't really done his research.  In the first section of the book, I began to hate Ancel Keys for making America rotund.

He's the one who started the whole "saturated fat is bad for you" thing.  I remember being very aware of this back in the 80's, when I was like six, but that may have been a result of having a mother who was/is constantly on a diet.  Back then people believed that all fat was evil, and now we talk more about "good fats" and "bad fats" which is essentially what this book is all about.  When Ancel was around, people started eating less fat altogether, but people need fat--especially women because our bodies do everything to create a hospitable environment for potential babies.  When people eat less fat, they still need and crave it, and therefore eat more overall trying to sate that need.

This book is a success in that it gives you all of the information you need. It gives you the evolutionary history, the science--everything.  This book fails in that it's hella complicated, and after sitting down to read large sections at a time, I got so confused by the vocabulary that I couldn't remember whether I'm supposed to seek out Omega-3 fatty acids or Omega-6s.  Naturally, one is necessary for life, and the other is pure evil.  Omega-3s are the good ones, remember that, and that's the fat that women need (hence the title).

Best takeaways:
  • Women need fat, and taking it in the form of fish or cod liver oil works too.  So, I'm going to try that out.
  • People have a natural weight, and eating a natural diet (fewer processed foods etc.) should help people reach that natural weight without feeling like they're starving.
  • Michael Pollan was right, but this book has a bit more science to it, and it isn't as long as The Omnivore's Dilemma.
  • Eating real, whole foods is more frugal than eating processed, so that's double the reasons to do it!
  • There are some other things that I'm supposed to care about and look for when it comes to food, but I cannot remember what those things are.  This leads me to feel like this is a book you have to tear whole pages out of and bring to the grocery store with you.  Perhaps if you are smarter than me, you will retain all this information, but I just couldn't.

This is a sponsored post by BlogHer’s Book Club.  I received a free copy of the book and compensation, but all opinions are mine.


  1. Hey, I'm in this book club too! I also found it very science-y and not as easy to read as, say, "French Women Don't Get Fat". But the core point of it - that fats are GOOD and an IMPORTANT PART OF A NORMAL DIET - is a good takeaway.

    But it's written so scientifically, I don't know if that message will reach as many people as they probably want it to.

  2. Omega-6s are NOT evil - they are important antioxidants, they just have to be taken in moderation.

    The real enemy in the Western diets is sugar in all of his forms, by the way. Especially the "unnecessary" one contained in processed foods.


  3. @Annabelle I was really looking forward to reading it, but I just kept getting bogged down--especially when I got to the "what to do" section.

    @Lily this book is very down on Omega-6s, but like I said, it's also very confusing.