It can strike fear in the heart of the most level-headed, body-positive person. Wrapping your body just under its outer covering of skin is a gentle, gelatinous blanket of fat. Serving as insulation, cushioning, an energy reserve, and the focus of intense social scrutiny, fat is one body component that the average person spends more effort to remove than to understand. But fat is no lightweight—although it gets a lot of bad press, it’s as essential to your survival as any of your more popular organs.
Fat is also at the heart of a controversial body mystery. Unlike the fine tuned processes in the rest of your body, fat storage is the one mechanism that frequently goes completely off the rails. In the process, excessive fat sets up ordinary people for a dismal collection of health troubles.
It’s hard to overstate just how big the problem is. Compared with other animals, obese humans are biological wonders—pound for pound, the fattest creatures on earth. (If you aren’t already feeling self-conscious, consider this: The percentage of body fat of the fattest humans tops that of even the generously proportioned beluga whale.) Still more remarkable is just how common excessive fat is. Despite billions of dollars, high-powered research, and some seriously good intentions, people are getting fatter year after year, in countries across the globe. In the U.S., more than a third of the population is overweight and another third is obese, leaving less than a third of the population to give everyone else disapproving looks in line at the all-you-can-eat restaurants. Clearly there’s something about the modern world that’s throwing the body’s carefully tuned mechanisms seriously out of whack.
You’ll start to unravel this riddle. You’ll learn why you need fat, how it works, and why your body is so keen to hold on to every ounce of fat it’s got. You’ll also measure your body-fat percentage and learn some techniques that can help you battle excess weight. Along the way, you’ll explore some common questions, like: Do diets really work? Who’s to blame for your bulging belly? And why do some people struggle to count calories while others can down an entire cheesecake and get away scot-free?
The Purpose of Fat
Fat elicits contradictory emotions. Oh, we like it well enough when it coats our fish sticks, but it’s not nearly as appealing when it’s wrapped around our midriffs. And even though fat’s a visceral part of us, we treat it as an unwelcome intruder. Consider how most well-adjusted people can agree with both of these statements:
Every part of the human body is good, proper, and has its own beautiful purpose.
Fat is an evil, evil thing, and I’d do anything to eliminate it.
But before you call the local liposuction clinic, consider this: Fat—a modest amount of it, anyway—is your friend.
The fat in your body cushions your organs and joints, absorbing shocks and protecting them from damage. It also insulates your body against temperature extremes. Less critically, body fat gives you a cushion to sit on and covers hard bone with padding, making hugs much more pleasant. The fat in your diet helps your body absorb certain vitamins, produces compounds that regulate blood clotting and inflammation, and builds structures like cell membranes. Your brain is literally filled with the stuff— by weight, your brain’s more than half fat.
Most important, fat is the body’s energy storage system. In times of plenty, your body stores extra calories as fat, ensuring that none of the effort you spend cooking, chewing, and digesting goes to waste. When food is scarce, your body taps into its fat reserves, burning them to fuel everything your cells do.
This energy storage system kept our distant ancestors alive through tough times and countless famines, while the nibblers and picky eaters perished. The problem is that famines don’t come along as often as they used to. As a result, average people spend most of their lives planted firmly in the first part of the energy-storage equation, hoarding fat for food shortages that never come.
Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual (08-2009)