FAT - A Difficult (But Reliable) Friend
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Does anyone else have a friend like this? One who is always there when you need her, who has helped you out of many troubles - but who is a pain in the rear sometimes?
That's a good image for the fat riding around with us - even tho most of us are trying to get rid of most of it.
Read The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara. She explains that fat is an actual organ of our body, like skin. It's an essential part of the endocrine system, releasing hormones that our bodies require to regulate metabolism.
Women can't menstruate or get pregnant if they have too little body fat - so we can be thankful to our fat when we look at our children. White fat stores energy to release later when we need it, which was a big evolutionary advantage; and brown fat actually generates body heat.
The way I grew up, thinking that my fat was due to my own laziness and gluttony, turns out to be wrong - or at least the very smallest part of the problem. Many things beyond my control contributed to me getting fat. For example:
Genetics - I am probably alive due to body fat. My family came here from Ireland. There was value in being able to pack on extra weight when food was plentiful so that in the lean times people could live till the crops came in. My great grandparents had that thrifty gene, so they survived and had kids, who had me! And they passed on to me that ability to store fat.
Gender - women store fat more easily than men. But guys are more likely to store it in their abdomen, as visceral fat. Women tend to store fat in hips and thighs as subcutaneous fat, which is less medically risky.
Viruses - there are viruses which cause weight gain! Who knew?
Gut bacteria - in her book, Tara cites a study of identical twins. One twin is overweight, the other not. On exactly the same diet, the twins respond differently, due to the critters in their digestive tracts. Turns out that in some people, these organisms are super-efficient, getting every little bit of nutrient from what's passing through the intestines, to be metabolized or stored as fat. In other people, more nutrients are allowed to pass through the body and be emitted as waste.
Previous dieting - when we gain & lose weight repeatedly, our fat learns to preserve itself. Also, our bodies and brains change in ways that make weight loss more difficult. This was to me the most interesting part of Tara's book.
Another interesting point she makes is that our diet - whatever it is - has to fit us physiologically, psychologically, and socially. Nutritional for our body, acceptable to our minds, and suited to our daily lives, families, social routine etc. I think when I lose my motivation it's because of a problem in one of those three areas - bears thinking about!
There's so much rejection and self-hate among people trying to lose weight. It does seem sometimes as if my body is my enemy. But my body - and the fat that is part of my body - is (as Leonard Cohen says in the song) 'really, really, really, really me!' And every good thing comes to me through this body, which can only be well when that fat organ is healthy. Appreciating that and understanding it, like a difficult but precious friend, might help me take better care of myself.