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What is fat?

What is fat? Time to break the conventional wisdom of the 1980’s a let fat back into your diet and life.

The reality is that fat is an essential part of life.  We all seem to be working hard and doing things that aren’t natural to get rid of all the fat we have.  We all know that being fat can lead to higher risks for type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, cancer, and strokes.  Fatima Stanford of Massachusetts General Hospital said, “Obesity is the number one chronic disease we are dealing with.” In the entire world, not just the United States, fat is a real problem that didn’t exist 50 years ago as prevalently as it does today.

But I think it’s crucial to understand what fat is. Daniel Lieberman of Harvard University said, “fat’s been given a bad rap. We think of fat as being an evil substance, but fat is life.”  And Sylvia Tara, the author of Secret Life of Fat said, “Fat is critical to our health. It releases a whole host of hormones, important for our bones, for our brains, for our reproductive organs. Fat is a very sophisticated endocrine organ. And one of the big misconceptions about human evolution is that we evolved to be healthy. And the answer is, “not really.” The only thing natural selection cares about is how many offspring you have who survive and then produce offspring of their own. So, our bodies are beautifully adapted, exquisitely adapted to take any excess energy, and turn it into fat. Not because it makes us healthy, but because it helps our reproductive success.” 

There are so many experts online who say they have the cure for obesity, that if you take a pill and exercise that you will lose weight. Nothing and absolutely nothing will affect how you lose weight other than what you put in your mouth.  Sure the environment and stress can contribute to weight gain, and some exercise will help you get healthy, but these other factors are still sidelined by what ends up in your digestive system.  It’s not true that cutting calories will make you lose the weight you have because calories are not weighted equally. Eating a high carbohydrate, high glucose, also known as sugar 500 calorie meal, will not be handled by your body the same way it handles a 500 calorie protein and fat-rich meal.  Your body has evolved over thousands of years into the living organism you have today and digests food the way it has evolved to do over that time.  All of a sudden, in this modern age, we live in a world where we are never hungry, we never worry about getting that next meal, and we are not bound by the cycles of day and night.  We can eat almost anything we want, whenever we want, and as often as we want. If you and I were born just 100 years ago, it would still be the early 1900s, and for example, the apple we would eat had 3 times more vitamins than today’s apple. Compound that with the fact that modern farming and genetically modified seeds produce mutated produce that our bodies sometimes can’t recognize along with pesticides and pollution, your liver is working way too hard to maintain a healthy balance. And what your body can’t recognize, it stores as fat.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by obesity, and today’s diets as well. In the series Nova and the episode “The Truth About Fat,” the narrator said, “Our body breaks down food into two main sources of energy, glucose, and fat. Glucose provides immediate fuel or can be stored as glycogen in our muscles or liver. As glycogen is depleted, the body burns fat, which yields, per pound, twice as many calories. And while humans can only store about a day’s worth of glycogen, we have enough body fat to survive for weeks. So, think of fat as our battery.” Randy J. Seeley of the University of Michigan shared that,  “today, as we have stigmatized obesity, we have demonized fat. But the ability to store fuel, so that you can get away from your food supply for extended periods allows you to engage in complex behaviors and the development of the complex cultures that humans have. So, fat is a feat of evolution. It frees us from the tyranny of having to eat continuously.”

Stephen O’Rahilly of Cambridge University said, “Most of us think of our fat as our enemy. It’s not; it’s our friend. We need our fat to store any extra calories so that we can use them in the future to keep our heart beating, to keep our brain working. And what we’ve been learning over the last 20 years is that the fat cell isn’t just simply a storage organ; it’s a highly intelligent cell talking to our brains.” He also said, “Over the centuries, we’ve had a wide range of views of what the optimal body shape and the optimal body fatness is. Right from the Rubenesque period through to the flappers of the 1920s and the heroin chic of the 1980s. So, across time, our views of what is an attractive amount of body fat have varied enormously.“  A person who suffers from a condition called Lipodystrophy, for example, is unable to produce fat normally.  Elif A. Oral, University of Michigan, states, “We always think about thinness as something good, but, in generalized lipodystrophy, it’s beyond thinness. It’s actually, absolute lack of fat under the skin, so the excess energy doesn’t have a place to go.” 

The point of this lesson was to share what fat is, I’ll share in a future lesson, how to control the amount of fat we store to be healthy. In the meantime, I’ll share that it’s time to enjoy food and fat again by eating natural fats and leave the non-fat and low-fat foods at the grocery store, don’t bring it home.  Cut instead your sugar and carb intake drastically.

Feel free to checkout the YouTube video on the subject here.