The secret life of your Fat

>> Monday, 30 April 2012

It's Monday.  The perfect day to reflect on the rubbish you ate over the weekend, and resolve to do better for at least the next few days.

Like practically every woman I know, I have a complicated relationship with food.  I know what I should eat; fruit, wholegrains, vegetables, healthy but limited carbs, fish, lean meat & poultry etc, and mostly I stick to that but every now and again - as in, every now and again every day - I cave.  I try to keep a sense of perspective about that, telling myself that as long as I follow the 80:20 rule (80% good stuff, 20% indulgence) I'm not doing too badly, and yet, in the last few months a little bit of extra padding has appeared.  Not a lot, admittedly, but it's 2 or 3 kilos that weren't there at the end of last year and which I really don't want to become my new 'normal'. I can hear you scoff from here; "2 or 3 kilos? That's nothing to worry about!" and of course you're right, except...  Well, what happens when I gain the next 2 or 3 kilos?  And the next 2 or 3 after that?  Before you know it an extra stone and a half will have crept on whilst I'm busy trying to reassure myself that as long as I follow the 80:20 rule I don't really have anything to worry about.

So I've been thinking that it's a good time to try and shift back to my preferred 'normal' before the current one settles in for the long haul and starts to invite it's mates, (kilos 4, 5, and 6) over for a visit and before they hold a party to which kilos 7, 8 and 9 turn up and decide to stay as well.

But even losing just 2 or 3 kilos can be a bit of a battle at times.

I was wondering why that might be, and then had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine who is a nutritionist for the World Bank (because that's an obvious career path, right?) and she told me about some fascinating studies that have been done on Fat recently.  Note the capital letter - you'll understand why I use it in a moment.

We all know that one of the reasons human beings can struggle with their weight is because our lifestyles have evolved more quickly than our bodies.  In fact Slummy Single Mummy just wrote about it today (click here to see her very interesting piece).  To put it simply, our bodies seek to store fat at any opportunity because historically humans did not know where the next meal was coming from.  If there was an opportunity to calorie-load, we were programmed to take it.  There was no question of Neanderthal or early Homo Sapiens Woman looking at bush full of berries and saying "You know, they look great, but I'm still full from yesterday's roasted possum, and I've been feeling a little bloated recently, so I'll pass, thanks all the same..."  No, they would have eaten as much as they could and then taken what they could carry with them. And that was fine, because they probably would have run it off escaping from marauding dinosaurs or boars or sabre toothed tigers or whatever.

Luckily for us, however, marauding boars are thin on the ground these days, and our fridges are stuffed full of berries and roasted possums (well, you get the point), so not only do we not need to do a great deal of escaping, but we know exactly where our next meal is coming from; that big white box humming gently in the corner of the kitchen.  At least - mentally, we do.

Our bodies, though?  Not so much.  We are still programmed to stuff as much as we can into our mouths at the first opportunity, even though we don't actually need to anymore. So we do that, and put on Fat.  And here is where the capital 'F' comes in.  My nutritionist friend told me that when you gain Fat, your body rejoices (again, we all know that), and tries to maintain it.  And it does that because - here's the scary bit, which I didn't know -  Fat can develop a life of it's own.  Your Fat, essentially, is an organ*.  Like your heart, lungs, digestive system, liver, skin etc.  And also like those, it gives out hormones.  Hormones that encourage you to eat at any opportunity, not only because subconsciously your body doesn't know where the next meal is coming from, but because Fat - the sneaky little beggar - wants to ensure it's continued existence.

Your body plays along with this because of it's innate survival instinct and even misses Fat when it's gone.  Once you've had excess Fat, even if you've lost it, your body will seek to regain the status quo it previously enjoyed and felt safe with.  Which is a bit of a kicker when you've worked hard to lose a significant amount of weight and succeeded, but unfortunately is how life is as an un-properly evolved Homo Sapiens in the modern world.

And which may also explain why, having read Slummy Single Mummy's piece, the next post that I read - as it was at the top of my Blog Roll - was all about chocolate, and also why I then googled the name of the store it referred to and added it to my mental 'must do' list for the next time I'm back in London.

Fat, eh? Who knew that it's such an evil mastermind..?

* Fat as an organ is not in itself a bad thing, by the way - click here to see the good stuff it delivers too.


Slummy single mumm 30 April 2012 at 08:18  

I totally get what you mean about the 2-3 kilos thing. If I eat 'normally' for me, I put on about half a stone a year. Half a stone isn't LOADS, but if I do that for the next twenty years?? I do not want to be in my fifties and weighing twenty stone...

Expat mum 30 April 2012 at 14:52  

So what's the answer then? You can't just post about the problem and not point us in the general direction of how to get rid of the fat for good.

Potty Mummy 30 April 2012 at 17:31  

SSM, me neither.

EPM, god, I wish I knew. But if my nutritionist friend tells me, you'll all be the first to know...

ThreeBecomeFour 30 April 2012 at 18:06  

I'm with you on the weight concern. Mine's been creeping up over the past year (now I know it's got a mind of it's own!!). Maybe I need to send the Fat for hypnosis? Great post - thanks!

About Last Weekend 30 April 2012 at 18:57  

I just had two donuts and banana cream pie last night. Always have eaten what I want but now hitting 50 I notice the spread...

MTFF 30 April 2012 at 19:35  

Read an interesting article in the NYT about this ver subject recently, and it basically said the same thing - we're on a losing battle against our fat - it just wants to be there more than we want it to be gone, so unless one is willing to exercise constantly and deny oneself the 20%, it's going to keep on comin' atcha. I think at one point one has to decide whether to allow a little padding to evolve or to reduce one's relationship to food to purely utilitarian (difficult) and change that ratio down to more like 94% - 6%. Depressing. Or else be a total exercise nutter. I have seen a flab creep myself in the last year since I have not been doing my mad hip hop classes 5 x week (lack of access) and it's absolutely horrifying to note the difference. Enough to make me give up sugar in my tea - one of my few indulgences. Good luck!

MrsB 30 April 2012 at 20:39  

That evolution thing was talked about in Hungry for Change movie. Makes you think... The key is sugar - sugar is what makes us fat! Sugar (and fluffy white bread as well that has very high GI) makes us crave more and more and more and messes with our insulin levels, etc. = very bad. I have been sugar free since 1st of January and I'm amazed at how my mind is free from cravings and the extra weight has not been creeping on during this awful wet spring.

End of sermon :)

Iota 30 April 2012 at 22:02  

I think Mrs B has it. My husband has lost lots and lots of weight, just by cutting out sugar. And he's kept it off. Sugar is far more evil than fat.

Irene 30 April 2012 at 23:30  

I knew my fat had a mind of it's own and an independent will. It always seemed to me that it had a lot of smarts. You've delivered the proof. Now that I know this, I will treat it with more respect.

Potty Mummy 1 May 2012 at 05:38  

3Become4 - great idea. Must find a practitioner who can help on that!

ALW - your Fat was hungry, hey?

MTFF - I know you're right. No more sugar... (reaches for low cal drink)

MrsB - have you and MTFF been in cahoots?

Iota, sugar in itself is fine. It's just it's pesky habit of 'becoming' fat.

Irene - perfectly put!

DD's Diary 1 May 2012 at 14:21  

Read a very scary article about liposuction the other day, saying basically that women are finding their fat grows back - not in the liposucked areas but in other places - seems to agree with what your nutritionist friend is saying about Fat. Don't mess with the Fat!

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