Portrait of young African-American woman sharing story during support group meeting with mature female psychologist comforting her, copy space

What’s the fat story? Why do some gain pounds while others stay thin?

Ok, I’ve been sitting on some info about fat cells, their growth and how it’s controlled for many years now. I’ve also added to it from my own experience in the way my body generally seems to work and how other systems in the body also seem to work compared to the fat cells, etc.

What am I babbling on about? Well, read this article: http://www.livescience.com/health/080530-fat-cells.html It’s naturally presented as new research, but I’d heard of this around 10 years ago during my degree. I can remember being in the library looking for some studies re a module I was taking. I noticed in a journal a few studies on leptin and its relation to fat loss. I know it’s sad, but this stuff just fascinates me. It’s basically why I did the degree.

Anyway, the research papers I read, which for the life of me I can’t remember what they were, etc., explained that at the time, Leptin was believed to play a key role in fat maintenance. There were theories that your body tried to keep each fat cell full to a certain degree, say 50%. There is growing evidence that you can grow new fat cells but very little showing that you can remove them.

The theory goes that once you have increased the number of fat cells in your body, how does your body know what fat level to maintain? i.e. does it care about maintaining the same percentage of fat that it always aimed for? Say 15% or something. A little higher for women. Or does it just care about how full the fat cells are. E.g. when the cells are below a certain percentage, say 30%, then this triggers something, maybe the brain to raise the levels back up again.

At the time, it was a big debate, and my guess is that the debate is still raging.

My belief is that it’s much more complex than this because I believe our own habits, behaviours, and lifestyles get in the way. We just seem too good at overriding the natural drivers that we have, and this has been shown in animals. Many of these aren’t so good at overriding their natural instincts compared to us.

Anyway I really liked the explanation I got from these articles because it explained clearly to me why it is that some people can readily put on weight and others can’t. Maybe it’s not the reason but it works for me. The idea is if you have already put the weight on before and therefore have the extra fat cells required then putting weight on is easy because your body is already able to store a load more fat than it already does. However, people who have never been overweight will not have enough fat cells to store the excess fat. They will have to build new cells before the fat can be stored. This is going to take both time and a bunch of energy. So in the short term, maybe a month or two, they won’t appear to add on any weight. Then, all of a sudden, they’ll join the fatter classes of society and become like the rest of us.

I find this idea works in every situation I try to apply it.

  • It works perfectly for my own body.
  • It works for the idea that young children who are overweight are predisposed to being overweight when they’re older
  • It works for many people I’ve met who either find it easy or difficult to add fat weight
  • It follows the general principle I have found in the body that once a solution is found, it never seems to forget it. In this case, it’s how to store excess weight

As for whether you can stick at a lower weight or whether your body will always try to maintain an equilibrium at a higher weight than before. I feel that the former is possible. I firmly believe the body is more interested in surviving and that its mechanisms are tuned for that. The levels of fat in our body are crucial for functioning, but I expect the storage vesicles to be just that. I don’t expect the body to take too much interest in a particular cell. I expect it to add up the total amount of fat, make sure it’s available where it’s required and that there is enough to go around.

That’s my opinion anyway.

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