Should you fret over your body fat?

The answer depends on why you are fretting. If you don’t like the way you look in your clothes, that’s one thing. If you suspect that the fat is detrimental to your health that is another.

Extra body fat isn’t necessarily harmful.

Those 600 lb people on TV, believe it or not, are not usually diabetic – at least not yet. That doesn’t mean they are healthy exactly because the human body was not designed to carry around so much weight. But it does mean they have been (so far) protected from a lot of conditions that automatically come along with diabetes.

We all have a limit to the amount of body fat we can store and our individual limits are different depending largely on our genetics. Some people can expand their fat cells a lot. For some people there isn’t much capacity at all and they remain “thin.”

Some people can even make more fat cells when the originals are too full. Those 600 lb folks have been able to make more fat cells. In any case, you can be in real trouble  when you reach the fat cell storage capacity.

When you reach absolute capacity you stop gaining weight. The whole fat storage process gets all messed up; fat can’t get into the fat cells. Insulin is supposed to keep the fat stored away but it can’t do its job. So fat overflows into the blood stream where it meets up with the fat accumulated by your liver from the (usually inevitable) excess energy in your food. Thus we have all this fat hanging around in our blood stream with nowhere to go.

For all the diabetics in the audience, the “normal” arrangement calls for keeping fat stored away when there is glucose in the blood stream (from a meal). When the glucose is cleared then the fat cells can release fat for fuel, when you are in a “fasted” state. Works like a charm until the fat cells ignore the insulin (are resistant) and allow fat to enter the blood stream at the wrong time. Then there is both glucose AND fat in the blood stream.

And blood sugar goes up and stays up, waiting for the fat to go away. What happens to fat when it can’t be stored in your fat cells?

The extra fat gets “stored” instead around and eventually in your body organs — like in the liver itself, the pancreas, the muscles, even the kidneys or the heart. In case you didn’t know it, that isn’t supposed to happen. This is medically called “metabolic syndrome” or fatty liver. By the time this happens, diabetes and a variety of other dangers already have a big foot hold.

Most of us don’t really know what our fat capacity is. Sometimes we just keep gaining weight and avoid full body mirrors. Eventually, usually before we reach 600 plus lbs, the weight gain stops and we have hit the wall.  Shazam, you have some sort of medical crisis and your diabetes is diagnosed along with some other problems.

This is a bit like when you get a leak from your roof after a big storm. The nice roofing guy points out some significant underlying (and expensive) problem underneath that “leak.”

If you empty out those fat cells, the “overflow” eventually stops and your liver has somewhere to put the extra energy (fat).  As you lose weight, the first fat to go is the misplaced fat in and around your organs. Then and only then will the (adipose) fat cells start shedding their fat.

Perhaps you are familiar with a common accounting term, LIFO, which stands for last in, first out. That is what happens. The last accumulation of fat in and around your organs is the first to go once you reduce your energy input below your output requirements.

How do you do that? Change your diet so that the amount of energy consumed is less than your whole body needs.

This does not require an engineering or math degree. To make it simple, the healthy and easy way to do that is to minimize if not eliminate processed food. A diet that leans heavily (sometimes entirely) on processed food is significantly more energy dense (caloric) and nutritionally deficient than any other food you could possibly eat. This is commonly referred to as the Sad American Diet (SAD).

You will know that a new diet is working for you when the size of your waist reduces – without even getting on a scale.

Unfortunately some things that may have become normal in your chronic conditions, stuff like medications, steroids, immune and vitamin/mineral deficiencies, hormone deficiencies, etc. etc., will gang up together and get in your way. But the first step will always be diet.

Ideally the weight loss process will be slow and you can maintain your new way of eating for the rest of your life.  Your body will insist on saving you from starvation, establishing a weight “set point” below which you probably won’t continue to lose weight. Of course, if you fall back into your old habits the fat simply accumulates again.

Gastric bypass surgery physically reduces your stomach’s capacity to hold food. You are in a permanent state of “fasting” which is the slam dunk fastest way to treat genuine obesity. The surgery forces the patient to reduce the energy consumption well below the body requirements. All kinds of negatives attached to that surgery but it really works unless you eat your way out of it, stretching your stomach until the benefit is gone.

If you find yourself continuing to gain weight every year, now is the time to nip the trouble in the bud. Why? Because you don’t know what your fat capacity is!

If you start to lose weight without taking any purposeful steps that is a different situation that requires the immediate attention of your doctor.

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chair of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

 

Leave a Reply