Why you need to stop obsessing over your body fat

Lady Gaga got both rave reviews and nasty comments for her Super Bowl 2017 performance. The nasty comments were from trolls calling her “fat” and body shaming her because the soon to be 31-year-old entertainer doesn’t have a hard, plastic body like a Barbie doll.

No matter how tight Barbie's clothes are she will never have a bulge, a roll or even an indent.

No matter how tight Barbie’s clothes are she will never have a bulge, a roll or even an indent.

According to some fat phobics the human body should be 100% fat free. It should be covered in an organ that is taut and will not even bulge, even the slightest bit, over the elastic edge of clothing. 

It’s time we get real. It’s time we stop hating our bodies and shaming other women’s bodies because of visible body fat. Visible body fat is normal and more importantly, it’s healthy.

The only time in our life that we can be fat and sitting in a recliner without being judged!

In the beginning of life our body fat makes us cute. As we grow our perception of cute doesn’t include fat cheeks, a Buddha tummy and chubby things.

There are 200 different kind of cells in our body but none are so hated and feared as are our fat cells. We pinch them to measure their inches. We talk about burning them and slashing them and sucking them away. In extreme cases some people admit they’d rather die than carry 100 extra pounds of body fat – and they say it as though they mean it!

We need body fat

We need body fat.

What really are these fat cells we profess to hate so much? Why do they plague us? Why can’t we get rid of, if not all of them, at least enough to make us look good in our bathing suits?

The problem isn't the fat, it's the shorts that are too tight.

Too fat or just too tight?

First, you should know that only vertebrates have adipocytes – fat cells. We’re the chosen! Yeah, I know, fat’s a gift you’d like to exchange or regift to your frenemy. You may not realize all of the good things fat does for you.

Fat fights infections

Yup, that fat we call “ugly” works hard for us even while we wish it would all go away permanently! Fat is stored in cells that play a leading role in how our body fights infection.

Battling an infection uses up a lot of energy and this is supplied by fat cells. Love ’em or hate ’em, fat cells are your body’s power station. These fat cells surround the main immune centers of the body called the lymph nodes. These are located in your neck, armpits and groin.

Get this, fat cells can also sense a bacterial or viral attack and join in the fight by producing proteins that cause inflammation to kill off the infection. You need some fat to stay well. While you’re fighting your fat, your fat is fighting for you.

Fat protects your organs

There is no escaping the battle cry, “Lose the fat. It’s unhealthy and it’s going to kill you.” There seems to be no difference made between normal, healthy body fat and excessive body fat. The message is “all fat is bad” and the message is wrong.

Keith Frayn, professor of human metabolism at Oxford University, explains that as many as 20% of the overweight population have no signs of metabolic problems. All the important health indicators – blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, etc. are well within the healthy, lower levels.

This doesn’t seem to jive with what we hear about health and fat, so why isn’t obesity always a huge health risk? The answer appears to be in the kind of fat cells and how much storage capacity they have. Studies suggest that some people have more fat cells naturally than others.

These cells have more storage capacity and that’s why they are healthy. On the other hand, chronic or metabolic illnesses (such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes) occur when the amount of fat in the body overwhelms our body’s fat storage facilities.

Fat might help you to live longer

You know how you never had to worry about your weight when you were younger and then around 40 everything changed? As far as you knew your eating and physical activity stayed the same but every time you stepped on the scale it creeped up a little higher. That can’t be good, right!?

Some healthcare professionals disagree with thinner is always better. It might be that being slightly overweight at this stage in life can give you a reserve for older age that can keep you alive for longer. More weight can increase bone density, due to the extra load you are carrying and that helps to prevent brittle bones,  particularly in older women

Fat can act as a reserve of vitamins and minerals, helping to counter malnutrition in later years. In addition, it acts as a layer of insulation for the major organs.

You might be interested to know that a Japanese study of over 600 – yes 600!!!!! – centenarians found that many of those who made it to 100 were quite chubby in their 50s.

You can be fat and fit. They are not mutually exclusive. I’m not suggesting it’s healthy to keep gaining weight and living a sedentary lifestyle. I’m saying it’s time to stop obsessing over body fat. It’s time to focus on health, not fat. Body fat isn’t the same as unfit. It’s not fat we need to shed, it’s fit we need to embrace!

You may never have this belly and that's okay. Stop obsessing over getting rid of all body fat and focus on fit and healthy body fat instead.

You may never have this belly and that’s okay. Stop obsessing over getting rid of all body fat and focus on fit and healthy body fat instead.

Let’s stop being so critical of fat. Some fat looks good on our faces and other places!



Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.