Fat: Why it isn't an 'f' word
No synonym for ugly or unhealthy.
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I recently got asked the question: Can diet help me lose fat? Those of you who follow my work would know how this question made me silently scream in agony. But then I paused, and felt relieved about two things pertaining to this question:
1. This gentleman has read enough to not see all weight as fat. He chose to focus on losing fat, not all of his excess weight, however "excess" may be defined by him.
2. He is wise enough to wonder whether diets can really pull this off.
As for why questions about fat agonise me, it is because they reek of an unchallenged fear of fat. Also, it shows we have accepted the beauty industry’s evil claim that fat equals ugly.
Healthy doesn't have a size.
In decades of work, I’ve realized that fat is not the bad guy.
Why fat isn’t an f-word: Fat has many things going for it.
- It is the channel for the crucial fat-soluble vitamins that we can’t live without.
- Eating fat triggers the satiety hormone leptin that keeps us feeling satisfied and full for longer. Basically, eating fat decreases appetite.
- Eating fat triggers happiness! Imagine eating plain toast versus a buttery one; sukhi roti versus hot ghee roti (Ah, the taste of childhood!).
- 4. Eating fat does not make us fat. Simple. Our body has all the raw materials needed to convert food, even the fat-free kinds, to fat. So a fat-free meal can still increase your body fat. In fact, it most likely will (More on that in my book The Body Nirvana).
- If you have extra body fat, you don’t just keep warm in winter, you also fight off disease better. God forbid, if you should have a heart attack, your body fat will protect you from long-term damage and make recovery faster. This and such findings are now called the "obesity paradox". (Source: Obesity Paradox Does Exist, National Institute of Health (NIH)). But if you ask me, we Indians have always called overweight kids "healthy".
- Fat tissue on our belly is our anti-stress club. We aren’t carrying scoops of butter on our abdomen. That roll of fat tissue is a hormone secreting organ that keeps a tab on the stress hormone in our body. Check this out: If you take away the fat tissue from the belly, without reducing your stress levels, you can even die. (So much for decrying fear mongering).
- If that wasn’t enough, some studies show that overweight people who never lose weight are far healthier than those who cyclically lose and regain weight on various diet programmes. And one of the explanations for it is that fat cells enclose and safely put away toxins that enter our body. Yes, those golgappas and ice-golas were harmful.
Next we must understand when fat is problematic. No, not when your slim-fit shirt stops looking flattering. It is problematic when there is so much of it inside cells, especially muscle cells, that the cells can no longer hear the message of the insulin. In brief, insulin moves food (glucose) from blood to muscle cells. If the cells do not "hear" this message the food remains in the blood. This is toxic for us. Also the muscle cell starves due to lack of food. This keeps us tired. Double trouble!
When does this helpful fat tissue become a problematic component, making muscles hungry and blood sugar high? When we do nothing to bring down our stress or pollutant levels for an extended time. To prevent ill-effects of excess fat, have a short relaxation routine. It can be anything from spa to hobbies, from sports to meditation. It can be short revitalising breaks woven into your work months.
The other part of managing body fat is to move towards natural foods, grown and cooked locally using traditional recipes. The word "organic" has not only become clichéd but also controversial. So suffice to say, live closer to nature on a day-to-day basis, as best you can.
At the end of it, celebrate all that you do! Bobby McFerrin got it so right: Don't worry, be happy.