Fat – It’s a tiny, three-letter word that is much maligned and misunderstood. We wage a daily war on it with diet and exercise, but the right fats can make actually make you sexier, smarter and healthier. Here are some facts about fat that might surprise you.
1. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
The same golden rule for real estate applies to fat cells. Location matters when it comes to where you store fat on your body and the impact it has on your overall health. There are two primary types of fat stored on our body, subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Think of subcutaneous fat as padding underneath our skin that forms a protective wrap around our bodies. It’s the fat you can pinch between your fingers or between calipers. Visceral fat is also known as organ fat because it pads the spaces between your organs in your abdominal cavity. While the fat on one’s thighs, butt and upper arms is subcutaneous, abdominal fat fits into the visceral category.
So that muffin top or beer belly is actually metabolically active fat that triples the risks of bad cholesterol (LDL), certain cancers, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. The good news, while you can’t “spot reduce” an area, belly fat is often the fastest to lose with regular exercise and diet.
2. FAT CELLS NEVER DISAPPEAR
When you lose weight, fat cells will shrink in size, but those cells never die or disappear. You can create new fat cells, but you can’t kill them off once you’ve created them (not without surgery or liposuction). They’re like a dormant undead army of fat cells waiting for your next moment of weakness at the drive-thru. This is why it can be so challenging to lose weight AND to keep it off. Your best strategy is to maintain a steady, healthy weight throughout your adult life and not deal with the shrinkage issue at all.
3. YOU HAVE A FAT HEAD
It’s not an insult, it’s the truth. Did you know that 2/3 of your brain is composed of fat? In fact, our neurons are composed of fatty acids molecules. Essential fatty acids are fats that must obtained through diet or supplements since our bodies can’t manufacture them. Cold-water fatty fish like salmon and sardines, seeds and nuts, whole-grains, fruits and vegetables and olive oil are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – which are essential to cognitive functioning and stabilizing mood swings. Cutting out all fats won’t lower your BMI much, but your IQ is likely to suffer.
4. FATS ARE ESSENTIAL FOR BEAUTY
For women who spend hours slaving at the gym to whittle their waistline, this may seem counter-intuitive. But our fat phobia often comes at the price of two features that are the foundation of beauty: radiant skin and lustrous hair. Those Omega-3 fatty acids that make you so brainy, also make you beautiful. They regulate oil production in your skin, keeping it hydrated, and also act as antioxidants to prevent free radical damage and even repair UV damage. Radiant, younger-looking skin starts at the cellular level so you can save money on topical beauty treatments if you eat right.
Since Omega-3 fatty acids aid in blood circulation and cell growth and increase nutrient absorption in hair follicles in your scalp, they’re also essential to a fat, glossy head of hair and who doesn’t want that?
5. “FAT-BURNING” IS A MISNOMER
The term “fat-burning” is thrown around carelessly in fitness and dieting industry all the time, but there’s really no way to directly “burn fat.” Before you can burn fat, you have to burn calories. Whether you are eating less or exercising more, you have to create a calorie deficit that burns carbohydrate stores and stored fat in the body. Ultimately, when it comes to weight loss, what matters is how many calories you burn, not whether they are carbohydrate or fat calories. This is why experts are recommending HIIT (high intensity interval training – like Barry’s Bootcamp) to make the most of calorie burn. This kind of workout can double the number of calories burned as a traditional steady workout in the same amount of time.
So when you’re deciding what to put in that gorgeous body to keep it gorgeous (or make it gorgeous-er), don’t skip over fat just because you’ve always heard it’s bad for you. Pick the right kinds of fat – fish, nuts, seed oils, olives – and watch your intake of the “bad fats,” artificial saturated fats like the kinds found in fried foods, baked goods, and packaged snack foods.
Minsun Park is a blogger, writer and a black belt in taekwondo who gets her ass handed to her daily by her two sons. She’s written for iVillage, SheKnows, ePregnancy and is featured in “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” by Jessica Denay. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter