The Truth About Fattening Foods: They Don’t Exist!

By Jordan Syatt

A client of mine recently expressed what a pleasant surprise it was to see her figure improving despite eating more carbohydrates than she had in her entire adult life. While she trusted me and my methods, she confessed that she was initially skeptical as to how a diet relatively high in carbohydrates could actually help her lose fat. 

After all, carbohydrates are fattening right? 

Or is it fat that makes us fat?

Or “excess” protein?

Or foods with a high glycemic index (GI)?

Let’s Cut to the Chase

No foods are inherently fattening.

It doesn’t matter what you eat regardless of whether it’s high in protein, carbohydrates, or fat; high glycemic, extremely processed, or conventionally labeled as an “unclean” food.

No Foods are Inherently Fattening!

Don’t believe me? Consider this study showing that “reduced-calorie diets result in clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they emphasize.” - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19246357

Or perhaps this study which found “diets differing substantially in glycemic load induce comparable long-term weight loss.”- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17413101

Still skeptical? Mull over the astounding results of Professor Mark Haub who lost 27lbs and improved markers of health while eating a diet solely consisting of Twinkies.


The evidence is clear: No foods are inherently fattening!

Q: So what causes fat gain?

A: Consuming more calories than you expend on a consistent basis.

In other words, if you eat more than you burn you’ll store extra calories as body fat (i.e. gain weight). Conversely, if you burn more than you eat you’ll use excess body fat as energy (i.e. lose weight).

It’s as simple as that.

Granted, there are other involved factors and a variety of ways to manipulate fat loss but, generally speaking, the above will always hold true.

How can we lose fat and look great naked without starving ourselves or becoming obsessed with our diet? 

I incorporate a variety of methods to make fat loss a simple and easy-to-follow process. To help you achieve your physique-based goals, below I’ve outlined 3 of the simplest, albeit most effective, techniques that I use on a consistent basis:

1. When in Doubt, Eat Lean Meats and Veggies

One of the most common issues among dieters is not having a good fall back plan. In a pinch they aren’t sure what their best options are and may consequently make a decision that isn’t conducive to achieving their fat loss goals.

While making one “bad” decision certainly isn’t the end of the world, it’s always a good idea to have some “fail proof” meal options up your sleeve. That being the case, I tend to recommend making any meal largely consisting of lean meats and veggies a “fail proof” alternative. You can eat it any time on any day and be 100% confident that it’s a relatively low calorie, nutrient dense, and satiating meal. 

2. Incorporate Strength Focused Density Training

Consistent strength training is obviously a must when trying to lose fat. However, when you need to expend more energy to shed some extra pounds, finding the right type of strength-focused circuit training can be extraordinarily helpful.

Personally, I’m a fan of density circuits as they’re ridiculously easy to program, don’t require a lot of equipment, and can burn a ton of calories while simultaneously improving strength. 

For those who aren’t aware, a strength-focused density circuit should last between 1-10 minutes and include 3-6 compound exercises. The trainee should complete 1 set of each subsequent exercise and repeat the circuit as many times as possible within the prescribed time period. Needless to say, more rounds completed leads to more energy expended and a greater caloric debt. 

To illustrate, below I’ve provided a sample density circuit.

Directions: Complete as many rounds as possible within 5 minutes. Weight used should be no more than 75% 1RM.

  1. Front Squat x 5
  2. Straight-Leg Sit-up x 5
  3. Chin-up x 5
  4. Romanian Deadlift x 5
  5. Close-Grip Push-up x 5 

3. Practice Flexible Dieting

Counterintuitive though it may seem, studies consistently find flexible dieters to be more successful than individuals adhering to rigid dietary guidelines. Take, for example, this study which actually found that “attempts to enforce highly rigid control over eating seems counterproductive to weight control efforts and may disrupt more appropriate food choice behaviors.” - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11707550

Life is too short to let it be dictated by your diet. By all means stick to a generally “healthy” diet, but don’t be afraid to indulge in your favorite treats every once in a while.

Wrapping Up

There’s no such thing as a fattening food – in fact, the term in and of itself is a misnomer. Any food whether it’s “clean” or “dirty,” “healthy” or “unhealthy” will cause fat gain when eaten in excess. 

Knowing this is extraordinarily powerful. Understanding the information provided above can help you achieve and maintain your ideal physique while simultaneously incorporating your favorite “unhealthy” foods on a consistent basis.

Don’t allow your diet to control your life. Live the life you want to live and use your diet as a means to enhance each and every experience. 

Never Minimal. Never Maximal. Always Optimal.



Jordan Syatt is a strength training and nutritional consultant. He is a World Record Powerlifter, featured in publications such as T-Nation, Muscle & Fitness, and Men’s Fitness Magazine. He is also Precision Nutrition Certified, Westside-Barbell Certified  and owner of http://www.syattfitness.com.

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