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Being able to separate fact from fiction when considering fat

October 03, 1997

The following statements may help clarify some misconceptions about body fat and weight.

OBESITY IS CAUSED BY EATING TOO MUCH.

This statement is false for the majority of people. There are many causes, most of which have one common denominator - a slow metabolism. Obesity usually is not caused simply by overeating. Today, restrictive dieting no longer is recommended because it fails to correct the cause of the problem.

GETTING RID OF CELLULITE TAKES SPECIAL TECHNIQUES.

Not so! Cellulite is fat that causes "dimpling" as it pushes up between connective tissue under the skin. It is not a special "toxic waste" of the body but it is simply body fat. The same healthful eating and exercise plan that gets rid of body fat also gets rid of most "cellulite."

YOU DO NOT GET RID OF FAT CELLS WHEN YOU LOSE BODY FAT.

Unfortunately this is true. 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.

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WEIGHT GAIN IS ESPECIALLY CRITICAL AT CERTAIN TIMES IN OUR LIVES.

Yes! 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. Body fat increase, especially during adolescence, should not be taken lightly.

When fat is lost, fat cells will empty, but the body will work hard to fill the empty cells, making weight control more difficult. Weight control is a smart move for adolescents, and extra "chubby" is out for infants.

SNACKING BETWEEN MEALS WILL MAKE YOU FAT.

Not so! Research proves that eating smaller amounts several times daily helps produce 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. Many health benefits also occur, including a decrease in cholesterol.

LEG EXERCISES ARE BEST FOR FAT ON LEGS AND STOMACH EXERCISES ARE BEST FOR FAT ON THE STOMACH.

"Spot-reducing" does not work. 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 will still protrude without aerobic and/or resistance exercise plus good nutrition to reduce the fat.

CERTAIN FOODS PRODUCE MORE BODY FAT THAN OTHERS.

Dietary fat, as well as refined sugar and white flour products, produce more body fat than other foods. Dietary fat does so because it is a concentrated food and it is the easiest food for the body to convert to fat. Remember the statement - "a moment on the lips, forever on the hips" - this is more truth than fiction. Sugar and refined white flour products precipitate an insulin reaction which not only causes a craving for more, but the excessive insulin produced causes increased fat production and fat storage as well as major health problems.

FAT ABSORPTION CAN BE DECREASED WITH FIBER FOODS.

Fiber is nature's own "diet pill."

It is important to include high fiber foods when you eat higher fat choices - an occasional steak with a tossed salad, etc. Fiber combines with dietary fat and prevents some of its absorption. Try including more fresh fruit, high fiber cereals and whole grain foods in your diet. Fill your candy dish with raw vegetables to snack on throughout the day.

Jeanne Rhodes is a nutritionist, wellness consultant, author and director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.

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