From the “Ask The Doctor” Column
Never has a molecule been so maligned as the fat molecule. We think of it as an ugly, deplorable blob, depriving us of sex appeal and popularity. The ominous threat of cellulite and flab leaves us desperately searching for the quick fix—one diet after another.
Actually, the energy in fat is a cleverly stored nutrient.
Fat has more than twice the caloric content of carbohydrates or protein. Layers of nine calories per gram (fat) placed around our bodies insure the preservation of the species, especially the all-important, female species!
Supermarkets weren’t always around. As we were crawling out of the sea, we needed energy, in the form of food, to live. The fittest—or fattest—survived if they were nourished. A good man was supposed to bring a dragon home for dinner. Mommy would cook and serve and the family would eat and eat. They ate enough so the excess was stored as fat.
There were no refrigerators in the caves, so if George couldn’t get a dragon the next week, there was no danger of death. You could just crack open a fat molecule for plenty of energy.
Fat is like money in the bank. So nature, or God, thought up a very clever system for the preservation of life. Just in case…
This soft layer provides insulation as well as energy. The cave got too cold…no problem!
Daddies were leaner than mommies. The hunt kept Dad thinner and more muscular. Mommies were left in the cave to nurture. Mom was programmed to take care of everyone. Probably endowed with more fat to begin with, and a lower metabolic rate, she could survive with just the leftovers (Sound familiar?).
Nature made sure that she could get along with a lot less, and adjusted her metabolism to stay that way. In fact, modern science has shown that the female’s set point is up 20 pounds for each child she bears.
The typical basal metabolic rate for most females is about 1,500 calories, while the male’s is approximately 2,500. That means men can eat 1,000 calories more than women and not gain weight. (that’s an extra meal of 2 beers, a plate of Alfredo pasta, and some bread)
Think of fat as a separate organ with a mind of its own, directed by primitive instincts dating back millions of years. Your fat loves you. It’s protecting you against daily fluctuations.
Not only is it money in the bank—it’s drawing interest! No matter how much you spend, it seems to keep growing!
The system is very efficient, as evidenced by the yo-yo syndrome. Just go on a diet and restrict your caloric intake. You will probably lose a pound or so in the first week, or if you’re lucky, three pounds in a month. Then it seems to plateau. Your body says, “No food! We’ll have to lower the metabolic rate.” In response, you may reduce your calories to 1,000 or 800 per day. Maybe another pound will come off, but you are hungry. The fat cells are nudging you to eat. There is nothing else on your mind but food.
Saturday is David’s bar mitzvah, or Michael’s confirmation, and you promise that you won’t eat, but once you get there, you know what happens. Unable to resist the urging of those all-wise cells, you’ll get on the scale and find that you’ve gained all the weight back in one day. It’s discouraging, isn’t it? You may give up, thinking that you’ll start again on Monday. We all know that something came up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so forth.
We have learned that counting calories doesn’t work. Calories are not all the same. Now we know to keep our fat content at 30 percent or less. However, we’re told to increase the good fats. What are they again??
If you’re eating something that totals 100 calories and contains three grams of fat, multiply by nine (the number of calories per gram of fat) times three grams to arrive at 27 calories. Divide that number by the total number of calories in the food, and you’ll find that 27 percent of the food is made up of fat.
Carbohydrates and proteins have only four calories per gram. Our bodies don’t store carbohydrates or proteins—only fat is stored. This diet means eating plenty of grains, more pasta, and breads. It works very well for some people, provided they do not have allergies or sensitivities to wheat or yeast. For many it has unraveled and attacked with the Syndrome X and Hyperinsulinemia. So the low-fat diet is not the solution, either.
Defective insulin production has been incriminated in obesity. In other words, the ingestion of some carbohydrates in some individuals causes the pancreas to pour out excessive amounts of insulin. Insulin makes you feel hungry. As a matter of fact, in days gone by, Anorexia Nervosa was treated with insulin to increase the appetite. Atkins was on to something.
Dr. Michael Weintraub published a study several years ago showing that obesity is a chronic illness and must be medically treated for life. He used anorexic agents (diet pills) on a regular basis, totally disregarding the prejudices many of us have against these drugs. His study indicated that, if the patients were properly treated, they maintained a steady, healthy weight loss, and were able to maintain that weight loss if the medication was systematically prescribed. He showed the side effects of the drugs to be far less than the side effects of obesity. I’m not sure that approach is justified.
Aside from assuring steady visits to the doctor, an addiction might be the outcome while weight stays the same!
Recently, one of the women’s magazines in the supermarket reviewed the article and showed a very positive interest in this method of weight loss. It seems that “what goes around, comes around!”
Waist fat and hip fat are other considerations in our Anti-fat battle. The more we learn the more confusion we create.
The truth lies somewhere amidst all these theories. Fat was a good thing. As we evolved, chocolates, The Big M, fettuccini, tortellini, and fried chicken at every corner of our existence made the creation of the fat molecule unnecessary. We do not need to store fat anymore. We eat 3 and more times daily with snacks in between. Our fat cells, once thrilled to add a few more cells, are now inundated with bulging excess.
Eat less or exercise more? Is that’s all there is?