Fat: Important New Findings

The group of people to whom this information is potentially most important includes those among you who think you may never get your weight under control. If you wonder what the point is in continuing to try, this article is especially for you. What follows is a powerful argument for always doing what you can, regardless of whether you think the resulting weight loss is sufficient to be worth the effort. It is. 

Here’s what you probably already know: Excess fat, by simple virtue of its mass, causes what could be considered basic mechanical problems for the body. It crowds the internal organs, putting excess pressure on the heart as it pumps, and leaving the lungs less room for expansion when we breathe. It interferes with digestion as evidenced by GERD, wherein partially digested food gets pushed back up into the esophagus.   Fatty deposits around the throat and back of the mouth make it hard to breathe while sleeping, contributing significantly to sleep deprivation and cardiac stress. Extra weight is hard on the skeleton, especially the weight-bearing joints like hips and knees. 
What You Probably Don’t Know
We now know that fat does more than just sit there taking up space, creating problems like the ones listed above. We’re learning that fat causes serious systemic problems for the body as well. As it turns out, fat is very active tissue; it secretes a variety of messenger chemicals into your system, including hormones and a closely related substance known as cytokines. These substances alter communication between cells, thus affecting the functioning of your body at the most basic level.
Cytokines are known to create chronic, low-level inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation means that any weakness in your system will be attacked, any pain you have will be magnified, and any necessary healing will take longer. This is a big deal. Processed foods, in addition to likely having contributed greatly to your weight problem in the first place, are a concern because most of them will raise your baseline inflammation levels dramatically and quickly after consumption. What we’re talking about here, though, is inflammation that is with you at all times just because of the excess fat on your body, independent of what or how you eat.
Cytokines and other hormones are released into your system by excess fat in quantities that are essentially toxic. This can create numerous disease processes, all of which reduce or destroy quality of life. Here are some of the most serious: 
We now know that excess fat is an important contributor to disability and disease, not just because it’s a mass of tissue where it doesn’t belong, but because of the substances it actively releases into the body. 
But what about the normal levels of fat carried by any person of healthy weight? The fat carried by a person of healthy body composition has greater structural stability and is therefore more inert; it secretes less into the system. What this fat does secrete occurs at levels that the body can more readily manage; at normal levels, these substances even have useful maintenance functions. 
There are any number of substances – oxygen, water, various vitamins, and various medications, for example – that are beneficial and even required for sustaining life when present in proper amounts, but which become dangerous in excess. Such is the case with the substances released into the body by fat – when there is too much fat, the secretions become too much for the body’s systems to accommodate and systemic damage occurs as a result.
Therefore, any amount of excess fat you can get rid of is well worth the effort. Let’s say you have 100 pounds of extra fat and “only” lose five of them. That is five fewer pounds of fat to release harmful substances into your system. The more excess pounds you lose, the smaller the volume of these harmful contaminants playing havoc with your body.
Every single pound is worth losing, even if you never get your body to where you’d really like it to be. Every pound lost makes you just a bit safer. Every effort you make, matters.
"Atherosclerosis: What's Weight Got to Do With It?" WebMD, 19 Sep. 2009. Web. 15 Feb. 2011.
Kane, Andrea. “What’s Fat Got to Do with It?” Arthritis Today January/February 2012: 56-61. Print.
St. Charles, Annelle. “Diabetes, Obesity, and Heart Disease.” Institute for Natural Resources. Marriott Hotel, Pittsburgh, PA. 21 May 2011. Continuing Education Conference.  
Some other articles you may find useful:

Are You a Compulsive Eater?  Test Yourself and See...

Basic Strategies for Managing the Urge to Eat

Compulsive Eating and How I Treat It

Compulsive Eating: Serious Health Issues
Essential Truths about Your Body
Grocery Shopping 101

Loving Each Other to Death with Food

Raising Kids to be Emotionally Balanced with Food  

Why You Love Exercise, but Don't Know It 

Your Weight May Not be the Problem
Self-Help for Intense Anxiety
Depression Series, Part One: Depression -- Myths and Facts 


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