Weight loss is always on the minds of millions of Americans, especially as we emerge from the dark, cold winter and approach another dreaded swimsuit season. According to a recent national poll from Reader’s Digest and Yahoo! Health, 40 percent of U.S. adults are currently trying to lose weight and 62 percent have attempted to shed pounds within the last five years.
When you’re trying to slim down, it’s easy to fall into a criticizing rut and blame your body instead of celebrating and enjoying it, flaws and all. Somewhere along the way, the body becomes something to use, mold, shape and fret about; you don’t see its underlying perfection, but instead look for what’s wrong with it.
So let me shed some light on why we have fat in the first place, why and where we store it, and how we may have gotten too much of it. It’s easier to stop hating something once you get to know it a little better.
Our bodies contain two different types of fat: essential fat and non-essential fat, or storage fat. Essential fat is tucked away in our bone marrow, organs, nervous system and muscles. If levels of essential fat get too low, our bodies won’t function properly. That’s why it’s essential!
nonessential fat, despite its name, is also important: It protects internal organs and converts excess calories to stored energy, creating a “safety net” for times of deprivation and shortage. But when this fat gets stored in and around our organs as visceral fat, that’s where we run into trouble.
My aim is not to scare you, but to de-mystify fat and let you know that while it plays many positive roles in our bodies, it can be dangerous.
Here are a few key points I hope will help you put this overly demonized part of the body in perspective.
n Fat Fact No. 1: Our bodies need fat to live.
Without fat, our bodies wouldn’t function properly. We can’t reproduce if body fat falls too low, so basically none of us would be alive today without it! Though our bodies create some fat, certain fats can only be gotten from foods. And having the right balance of these essential fatty acids, is important to heart health, brain development, regulating mood, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation.
n Fat Fact No. 2: Fat can make us more attractive.
In our thin-obsessed culture, you might be shocked by this suggestion. But it’s true, and it’s important to stop demonizing obesity and excess weight. Fat keeps skin and hair healthy, which enhances appearance, and if you lose too much.
n Fat Fact No. 3: The brain is fat.
In fact, about two-thirds of the brain is comprised of the stuff. Brain cells rely in dietary fat to synthesize brain and nerve tissue. Your brain needs fat to function properly.
n Fat Fact No. 4: We need fat to absorb important vitamins.
Our bodies could not absorb vitamins A, K, D and E without fat — that’s why they are known as “fat-soluble vitamins.” Though we only need modest amounts of them compared to water-soluble vitamins, they are crucial for healthy eyes, teeth, bones, skin and cells.
I hope you see now that fat is essential to a healthy, happy life. And shunning it from your diet while you try to lose weight will backfire. Research shows that people who eat diets rich in healthy unsaturated fats like MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) have less belly fat and faster metabolisms than people who don’t.
In fact, such healthy, tasty fats (found in avocados, nuts, fish, olives and olive oil and dark chocolate) are a key component of my new book, “The Digest Diet.”