What is Fat?

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I’ve never been one to avoid the term “fat.”  In fact, when someone would use the term overweight, I’d often pose the question – “Over what weight?”   I’ve always thought the term overweight was actually more subjective than the term fat.

So I don’t avoid or shirk the label – I am fat.  I have fat on my body – too much of it for my long-term health.  I don’t believe I will die from being fat, per se, but I do think that extra fat makes it harder to move, it’s hard on the joints, and it’s correlated with other health conditions like some heart diseases and diabetes.  If you’re paying attention, you’ll note I used the word correlated.  Excess fat is correlated with various health conditions, but there isn’t a lot of evidence of its causation.

I get very irritated when I read about how fat causes diabetes and heart disease and blah blah blah.  And then you read the news article and it’s all correlation and not causation.  The important take-away of understanding this difference is one, journalists aren’t that smart (apparently) because they often don’t understand the difference between the two, either; and two, what this really means is that if you’re not inclined to try and lose tons of fat for whatever reason, correlation tells you that you will probably not need to be crazy on fat loss to see your risk reduce tremendously.

Put another way – you don’t need to lose as much fat as you think to improve your health.

Let’s say you had 70 pounds of body fat and should only have 30 (to be within a normal range) and you lose down to 50 pounds of body fat.  For most risks, that loss of 20 pounds of body fat would probably be fine.  Now you could be the one person for whom it wouldn’t be enough of fat loss.  It’s possible.  Your risk profile might need for you to be down to normal amounts of body fat – and guess what?  That might still not be enough.  Because fat, per se, doesn’t necessarily cause all the bad stuff anyway.  Genetics plays a huge part and if you have a sister and mother with diabetes, you still might get it even if you’re not fat.

Let’s be practical.  I could be the lucky one who, being fat, has no other health issues.  In fact, with modern medicine working for me, I actually am a pretty healthy fat woman.  (And this may be because I am a woman, not a man – gender does play a role in many health conditions.)

But I have a very thin aunt who struggles with her blood sugar – she takes a reading every morning and lets it guide her as to what she should eat for the day.  She’s pre-diabetic who doesn’t want to be a diabetic, so she does the practical thing – she keeps her numbers in line.

I’ve struggled in the past few years with my blood sugar.  My A1C which is a measure of blood sugar over time, and my blood glucose numbers have consistently put me in that pre-diabetic category, too.  I’ve not always had this problem and I don’t know that my elderly aunt did, either.  But you can see there is more than just my being fat at play here.  I’m somewhat insulin resistant which means that, although I’m not at the level of a type II diabetic, I’m going to do better if I watch what I eat.  And exercise regularly and do all the other things that I know I should be doing.

It’s tough, though.  I like sweets (my aunt and mother do, too – but only my mother who isn’t insulin resistant at all is able to eat them with impunity!)  I always thought women were more on the sweets loving side of the scale while men liked fat and salt more (there is some thought on this), but I married a sweets lover, too.  It would be easier if he didn’t love them as much as I do (and he has no insulin issues with them, at least not yet . . .)  He’s also not particularly fat.  So go figure.

I’ve veered off my original topic here a bit – sorry about that.

I started asking “What is fat?” and as you can see – it’s certainly a measure, but not the only one, of health.  But in a larger, more inclusive sense, fat is simply – energy.

Of course it’s energy that is stuck in the cells – it’s not necessarily freely moving around, elsewise it wouldn’t be fat!  But really, excess kCals are stored as fat and that is exactly energy.  The trick is to figure out a way to utilize the fat as energy to help us fuel our days.

A friend of mine used to say that her goal was to free up the stuck energy (fat) and to use some of this every day as well as the kCals she ate.  She kept this in mind when she was hungry between a meal – she had to force her body to release this energy – and at first, it wasn’t that easy.  The body likes to keep it stored up, especially when you add in female hormones, for the inevitable scarcity that all bodies have as part of their DNA – that primitive part of ourselves that remembers we were always feast or famine until recent times.

So I’m going to keep remembering this as I move through my days – I’m just working on getting at the stuck energy and getting it moving and working for me, not against me.

 

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