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Can you separate the facts from the fiction on fat?

June 06, 1997|By Jeanne Rhodes

Fiction: Obesity is caused by eating too much.

This statement is false. Research is finding many causes, most of which have one common denominator - a slow metabolism!

Fiction: Getting rid of cellulite takes special techniques.

Not so. Cellulite is fat that causes dimpling of the skin as it pushes up between connective tissue under the skin. It is not a special "toxic waste" of the body but good (or bad) old body fat. The same eating plan and activity plan that gets rid of body fat also will get rid of most cellulite.

Fact: You do not get rid of fat cells when you lose body fat.

Fat cells empty when fat is lost, but once cells are created, they are ours for life, and we only can change the amount of fat that is in them.

Fact: Weight gain especially is critical at certain times of our lives.

During infancy and again during adolescence, fat cells are produced more abundantly than any other period of time. Once the cells are produced, they remain for life. For this reason, fat gain, especially during adolescence, is not to be taken lightly. Once fat cells are created and body fat is lost, these cells will empty. But the body has a tendency to attempt to fill the empty cells, making weight control more difficult. Weight control is a smart move for adolescents, and extra chubbiness is out for infants.

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Fiction: The scales are reliable in telling how fat you are.

Many people of average weight lose body fat, which is very light in weight, and gain lean muscle, which is heavier, having no change in weight but ending up smaller around the waist and hips with a much firmer, shapelier body. Also, many athletes have a low body fat percentage, but weigh more than the ever-popular height/weight tables suggest. Other people look thin, weigh less than they should but have a "flabby" appearance because their body fat percentage is too high. Consider the sedentary 75-year-old with thin arms and legs but a noticeably protruding tummy.

Fiction: Snacking between meals will make you fat.

Research proves that eating smaller amounts several times daily produces weight loss, whereas one large meal daily increases the tendency to store fat 25-fold. In addition, metabolic increases occur more often and the thermic effect of food "wastes" more calories when eating occurs more often. Healthy snacks between meals also provides many health benefits, including the reduction of cholesterol.

Fiction: Leg exercises are best for fat on legs and stomach exercises are best for fat on the stomach.

Aerobic exercise is necessary to lose fat wherever it is. You can do leg exercises from now until the cows come home and you will not get rid of the fat on your legs. Stomach exercises will firm the stomach muscles, but the layer of fat on the top of those muscles still will protrude without aerobic exercise to reduce the fat.

Fact: Certain foods produce more body fat than others.

Dietary fat, sugar and refined white flour products produce more body fat than other foods. Dietary fat does so because metabolically it is the easiest food for the body to convert to fat. Remember the statement - "you may as well spread mayonnaise on your hips" - more truth than fiction! Sugar and refined carbohydrate foods precipitate an insulin reaction that not only causes a craving for more, but insulin is a fat-promoting hormone causing fat production and fat storage. These foods give a double whammy.

Fact: Fat absorption can be decreased with fiber foods.

Always eat some high-fiber foods when you eat foods containing fat - steak with a tossed salad, etc. Fiber combines with dietary fat and prevents some of its absorption. But don't add fiber so you can have high-fat/fiber meals. You'll get too much fat.

Jeanne Rhodes is a nutritionist, author, owner and director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute and a nutrition consultant for the state of Maryland. Write in care of The Herald-Mail Co., P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741.

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