Getting to Know Fat

Let’s talk about fat.

We talk about it quite a bit in this program. We look at percentages of our total weight, we look at the number of pounds that equates to, and we know it’s important to see these numbers decrease. This is valuable—but do we really understand fat beyond our own numbers? Our body fat–how much we have, how we’ve accumulated it, and where we keep it can tell us a lot about our health. Our fat cells have a mind of their own. Releasing factors associated with inflammation, and hormones that dictate hunger and energy levels. This is actually a reprinted post from about 2 years ago, but there has been a lot of questions on the topic so I thought it was time to bring some attention back to this issue. I hope it’s helpful!

The basics:

Fat, or triglycerides, are insoluble in water. These compounds are composed of glycerol and fatty acids—which we can store and use for energy. Adipose tissue, or body fat, is composed of connective tissue and fat cells—which house the triglycerides we store for fuel. Excess nutrients are often sent to our adipose tissue to be stored for later energy use. When we do not need to use the stored fat for energy, or when our body stops responding to normal cues to use the fat (think hormone issues), excess fat can begin to accumulate and grow. Not only do we each have different amounts of this tissue, but we all hold onto fat in different areas. Some individuals notice abdominal fat accumulation, while others see more accumulation in their hips, bust or thighs.

Different kinds of fat:

Subcutaneous fat is the fat right under your skin, and visceral fat surrounds your organs, and is most commonly associated with abdominal fat.  While it’s important to target both when you’re losing weight, it’s especially important that we see the visceral fat decrease. This is because visceral fat is most commonly associated with risk factors for issues such as insulin resistance.   You can target and decrease both using diet and exercise. (You’re shocked, right?) You cannot have one without the other in order to see major results. Why? This is because abdominal exercises strengthen muscles, but this isn’t fat loss, it’s muscle growth. So following a whole foods, blood sugar balanced diet is key in order to burn that abdominal fat. The effect is that you tone muscles as your fat decreases, and this is when your waistline decreases.

Factors dictating the fate of our fat:

  • Our endocrine glands: These are glands that release hormones. And guess what? Technically fat is one of them! When we have too much, or too little, hormones are released, and they tell our bodies to eat more or less, as well as move more or less depending on the state of our fat cells.
  • Stress: Cortisol is a stress hormone, and when it’s elevated it triggers abdominal fat storage. So one way to reduce fat is to balance your hormones. How? Taking time for yourself and knowing what helps you keep your stress levels under control.  We cannot emphasize enough how important your lifestyle is to your weight. Many people feel they cannot change their lifestyle, but really, you can.  You can set boundaries at work, letting your colleagues know that you leave every day at 5pm.  You can make sure you get 8 hours or more sleep per night by turning off the TV or stepping away from the computer or book.  You can take 5 minutes- 4 times per day to stretch, breathe deeply, take a short walk, or laugh.  Although we feel at times that we cannot change our life, it IS possible.  We’ve had clients who realized this and changed their job, their relationship, or their daily schedules to add in relaxation, exercise and laughter– all to reduce their hormonal load.  It’s all a choice.
  • Blood sugar: When our blood sugar is imbalanced, our body responds by working to store fat more efficiently. This is one reason why we emphasize blood sugar maintenance. We want our blood sugar to be even throughout the day so that our bodies do not have to spend time storing up fat in case we don’t eat, or eat too much!
  • The correct ratio of lean meats and fruits/veggies: With sufficient protein and a slightly insufficient supply of energy from carbohydrates, our bodies get the extra energy needed from fat stores instead of sending excess fuel to them, which would happen if you ate more carbohydrates than needed. When we are in ketosis, we know we are burning fat efficiently and supporting a quick metabolism.
  • Alcohol: When we drink alcohol, our liver spends time processing the alcohol, which means it cannot spend the proper amount of time metabolizing fat. So where does your fat go? Adipose tissue for storage.

This is a lot of information to take it at once. So if you remember anything, remember to take time to breathe and plan ahead. Gather your support, and look ahead at your week. Schedule time to move your body, prepare your foods, do something enjoyable…and the rest will fall into place. 😉

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