“Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live” – Jim Rohn
It’s a weathered story. And while there are yet endless arguments on whether the focus should be on staying fit or losing fat, everyone has a perspective driven by a health goal & a following experience. A perspective born out of their unique experiences, their successes and their acceptances. I have one too, not just from the point of view of a nutritionist and a health activist but as an individual who has walked her own health journey.
Before I move this discussion any further, let’s dig out the roots of the title argument and understand the role of fat in the body.
Body fat is distinguished by it’s differences in colour, White and Brown fat.
White fat has poor mitochondria, lower blood vessels and is the predominant fat in the body, the not so good fat.
As opposed to common view, fat doesn’t sit in the aisles mirroring a silent spectator. It is an endocrine organ that releases the satiety hormone leptin that controls appetite and thus the amounts of food eaten and resulting body weight. Fat is ambitious in it’s goals of insulation and protection for all internal organs and hence a certain amount of body fat is imperative.
But fat in excess is not what must meet your fate. 75% of state of disease can be changed by losing the excess fat, around the abdomen, the extremities, the deeply embedded, undesirable white fat or excess adipose tissue. Excess white fat is inexcusably associated with increased risk of diabetes, cancer, knee arthritis, blood pressure and heart disease.
There’s enough reason to not want the excess fat to make your body their address!
Brown fat on the other hand has iron containing mitochondria and a mightier concentration of blood vessels, is found in the neck region and upper back and it’s aim in life is to burn calories to generate heat. Quite the opposite to it’s counterpart!
What is worse is that when one eats unthinkingly over and above the body’s need bordering on indulgence with little or no scope to burn all that has been ingested, the white fat is increasingly generated. At a point when this visceral/white fat concentration shoots to higher standing percentages, the brown fat decides to give up and stops performing it’s primary duty of burning calories.
This cycle is completely counterproductive to the principal existence of brown fat!
And how do you generate this wonderful brown fat?
The same lessons that you have heard of time and time again. By exercising, sleeping well, eating whole fresh foods and blocking the generation of white fat.
In a nutshell, the body fat percentage of men should be between 12-25% and that of women should be between 15-30% and this stands without debate. Eating must be mindful, nutrients need to be sufficient and obesity is not a choice, however fit you maybe otherwise.
Exercise has commanding advantages in our daily lives. Better focus, hormonal balance, enhanced and efficient organ functioning and much more. Exercise gets you fitter and to breathe better. But is not an excuse to stay overweight.
Fitness is a culmination of the ability to last longer at physical activity, improved core strength and a fat percentage well within acceptable limits. Fitness also means reduced risk to disease and a well powered immunity.
But exercise can never burn your excessive indulgences in food. Mark this in red and be sure this concept is never going to change.
A desirable Fat % and Fitness cannot and must not be seen on different pages, they are but two sides of the same coin. The right eating practices and fitness schedule for your body must be given equal priority.
Size zero is not the goal but health is. One must never stop enjoying life. You must indulge in the pure bliss of what the heart desires on a plate every once in a while without paying homage to guilt, hardly refuse the sweets offered when there’s joy in the air and life rolls out reasons to celebrate, let your eyes twinkle at the thought of new cuisines and find only ecstasy in the revelation that you are a foodie at heart.
Balance is the key. Good Food Eating practice is a skill, it must be horned, it must be practiced day in and day out to perfection until it is embedded so deep that your choices are not determined by conscious thought but by seemingly involuntary actions.
Without thought you wake up to a run, you can’t function when you are sleep deprived, when the belly calls for food you gladly slide your hands over the fruit instead of over a packet of chips, when hunger strikes a pastry is the farthest thought from your mind as you walk over to a counter that spins the best bowl of salad, beans and soup! And when the weekend waltz in, you party and let the child in you say no to nothing!
When fitness is thus achieved, fat loss and an acceptable body weight can only follow. Why should even try and separate the two? When you can have both birds in the bush!
Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach based in Mumbai and Bangalore offering sustainable nutritional plans with 3 chEATs per week. To book an appointment call 9902060225 or follow her on Instagram @iamanupamamenon