The Reason We get Fat

Fat man measuring his belly
Freepik.com

Besides the obvious answer of eating more calories than we consume, what is the reason we get fat? The truth is, we were designed to carry extra fat since our early ancestors lived a hunter gatherer lifestyle – evolution has never caught up to our modern lifestyles.

For thousands of years, our ancestors lived during times when food could be quite scarce. The modern phenomena of overabundance simply did not exist until quite recently in human history. Therefore,  our genes that control our eating behavior were shaped by those times. Our bodies are genetically designed to accumulate fat based on the days when we had to forage for food in the wild.  With an abundance of food today, we can’t ignore this fact. When we do, we experience hazards to both our health and our waistlines.

We can control how much fat we retain in our fat tissues!

To be successful with weight loss, and weight management, we have to know what biological factors regulate the amount of fat in our tissues. Ignorance might be bliss, but it also leads to obesity in this matter. It is imperative that we know how our diets affect our bodies, in order to know what we are doing right, or wrong. If we do not know what we are doing wrong, we will simply remain fat.

Obviously, we know that overeating and being sedentary lead to obesity, but there are more factors that get overlooked. There is a science to how fat tissue is regulated. To get lean, you must understand the science of how we regulate our fat tissue.

Simple Question

If being fat is unhealthy, why do we get that way? Is it a means to insulate our bodies from the cold? Or, is it because we need padding to protect our fragile structures from within? Those would be sound reasons, but why in the world do we get fat all over? Do we really need an abundance of fat around our waistline?

The reason we get fat now is because we have forgotten how to keep ourselves in balance with our needs. In times past, our body fat could be looked at as a savings account to be drawn from in times of need.  Our ancestors would consume more than they needed, and the excess calories were stored away as fat since there was a good chance you could find yourself undernourished. If you lived in a cabin and found yourself snowed in, then your fat was mobilized to provide your body with fuel. In modern times, this is not a worry, therefore it is now incumbent upon us to keep our fat at a healthy level all year round.

However, there is even more to the story than what you have read already. It has been known since the 1930’s that fat is continuously flowing out of our fat cells and circulating around the body to be used as fuel. If this fat does not get used as fuel, it simply returns back to the fat cells. This is a continuous process within the body whether we have recently eaten or not. The German biochemist, Ernst Wertheimer, put it this way: “Mobilization and deposition of fat go on continuously without regard to the nutritional state of the animal”.

During any given 24 hour period, fat from your fat cells provide a significant portion of the fuel that your cells burn for energy. Most nutritionists will say that carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for the body, but this is not entirely accurate.  This belief stems from the fact the body burns carbohydrates for fuel before burning fat. This is actually because your body needs to keep your blood sugar levels in check after you have eaten.  And when we consume a bunch of carbohydrates, there is a lot to be burned before getting to our fat. The carbohydrates actually require immediate action, therefore they get burned off first while the fat is sent to fat cells for storage. If your body does not keep up with the overwhelming rise in blood sugar by burning off the carbohydrates you have eaten, you will experience high blood sugar and insulin levels.

The role of insulin

Insulin is the most powerful hormone in the human body and plays more than one role. But it’s most critical role is to keep our blood sugar under control. As we eat carbohydrates, insulin signals the cells throughout the body to increase the rate at which they are pumping in glucose from the bloodstream.  Some of this glucose is burned for immediate energy, some of it gets stored for later use. Our muscle cells store glucose in the form of glycogen. Our liver cells store some glucose as glycogen, and convert the rest to fat to be stored in our fat cells.

When blood sugar decreases, insulin levels also decrease. In turn, fat gets released by fat tissues to continue giving us energy to function. Our bodies are uniquely designed for optimum performance. Some fat begins life as carbohydrates, other fat begins as fat in the diet.  However, no matter their origin, the fat in the cells is indistinguishable from whence it came.

The more time that passes after a meal, the more fat you will burn instead of glucose. This is especially true when you are sleeping at night. If not, you would find yourself needing to get up every few hours to raid the refrigerator. The fat flowing in from your fat cells keeps you fueled until you rise and get out of bed in the morning.

To simplify our thinking in regards to fat tissue, let’s think of it as a wallet. Like cash going into and out of a wallet, we are continuously doing the same with fat and our fat tissue.  The difference is, we actually end up storing more fat in our tissue than we do cash in our wallets. In a perfect world, our fat reserves would always be in perfect balance. We do not get fatter, nor leaner. Our bodies would always be at a perfect balance of body fat to lean muscle mass ratios. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.

How does our body decide which fats will come and go?

If our fat flows in and out of cells all day, which ones get to flow, and which remain stored?

Fat in our body is in two different forms that serve different purposes.  Fat flows in and out of cells in the form of fatty acids which we burn for fuel. The fat we store is in the form of triglycerides which are composed of three fatty acids bound together by a molecule of glycerol.

Triglycerides are too big to flow through the membranes of fat cells, whereas fatty acids can easily flow out. Fatty acids flow in and out continuously and get used for fuel, while triglycerides remain stashed away for future use.  Triglycerides have to be constructed inside a fat cell from their component fatty acids. This happens when a fatty acid either flows into a fat cell, or gets created from glucose, and then gets bound with two other fatty acids and a glycogen molecule. Once this occurs, the triglyceride is now too large to be released by the fat cell.  Eventually, triglycerides will fall apart and then the fatty acids will be able to flow back out of the cell.

What happens when fatty acids keep getting into your fat cells?

Anything, and everything that drives fatty acids into fat cells increases the amount of fatty acids that will get bundled together as triglycerides. This is the reason you get fat. You have to eat in such a manner that you slow this process down. There are several hormones and enzymes that are also involved in this process, and when you disturb their balance through poor nutrition, you are setting yourself up to be fat.

The simple reason we get fat.

We get fat simply because carbohydrates make us so. Therefore it is up to you to be wise in your consumption of carbohydrates. Protein and fat do not make us fat!  Complex carbohydrates are not the problem so much as simple carbohydrates and sugars are.

Most people find success with weight loss on the diets they choose because they are cutting carbs whether they realize it or not. When we go on a diet, or begin a new exercise regimen, we usually eliminate carbohydrates simply because they are the easiest to reduce. When we eliminate added sugars from our diet, it is actually hard to eat enough to gain weight when your foods are all low calorie, and nutrient dense. There is never a reason for anyone to be hungry when losing weight, unless they are still consuming simple carbs and added sugars. And as long as you are still doing this, the processes you have just read about are still in play.

When restricted calorie diets fail you, as they do most people, the reason is you are also restricting foods that do not make you fat. It is a recipe for failure when you restrict the amount of protein and fat you consume.  These macronutrients have no effect on insulin and fat deposition, but they have everything to do with energy and the rebuilding of cells and tissues.

The reason we get fat and remain that way despite our dieting is usually because we do not know how our body operates. We starve our body of nutrients and energy, rather than simply targeting the fat tissues themselves. This kind of dieting only leads to failure every time it is tried.

You can, and should keep eating foods that are complex carbohydrates since they provide you with energy and fiber to keep your body healthy. What you need to dump, if you are serious about weight loss, is simple carbohydrates and foods with added sugars. These foods are calorie dense while providing little in the way of nutrition for the body. The smart thing that anyone serious about weight loss has to consider is they should let nothing pass their lips that does not provide benefit to the body.

Missing Small Details in the Big Picture

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2 thoughts on “The Reason We get Fat

  1. Excellent post! Very informative and researched and written in easy to understand language.

    1. Thanks Jimi. I take the drudgery out of these topics by putting them into easily understood language. I have stacks and shelves full of books for study and research. I’m glad you enjoyed this brother.

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