In 1987, scientists revealed that fat cells change sex hormones in the human body: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/45/1/277/4694899?redirectedFrom=fulltext. In the past 34 years we’ve discovered that fat cells tell other tissue what to do. Namely, body fat directs the central nervous system, the immune system, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and heart: https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/89/6/2548/2870285. Fat tells your body how much pain it should experience, how lean it will allow you to get, and even what thoughts and feelings to have. Hormones run everything we call life. They are the signaling agents, the communication managers, the directors of all body systems. And their boss is the fat cell.
Since body fat adversely impacts so many body systems, we can see why we may want as little as possible; and we can also see why a person with more body fat can work significantly harder on exercise and nutrition than a person with low body fat and receive less reward. It doesn’t mean that lean people can’t experience health issues and mental health problems any more than people who wear seatbelts will never get harmed in a car accident. It just means that we have to be more sophisticated in our understandings of risk and reward.
Fat cells secrete self-supportive growth factors. More simply, fat makes more fat: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9843879/. If your fat cells had their way, you would be 90% body fat. Make no mistake: that’s precisely their aim. They inhibit the growth of all other tissue, attempting to whittle away bones and muscles and tendons and other critical organs. While the body remains under 10-15 percent body fat, adipose tissue is a sort of symbiotic cancer. It will begrudging work with us, even toward our well-being, if we are active enough and eating sensibly enough. Above 15-25 percent body fat, the combined message of fat cells becomes a terminal metastatic cancer aimed at its own enhancement to the demise of the host.
Calories cannot represent this appropriately. I have underweight peers who get leaner while eating 4,000 calories per day; and I have overweight clients who are MORE active and who’ve gained body fat while eating 1,200 per day. The communication from hormones is no small thing.
Body fat is the most narcissistic of all cells and tissues. It hates all other tissue. All it cares about is itself. Unlike all the other organs which are happy to serve the greater purpose of joy and contentment and health and fitness, body fat is hellbent on a single proposition: grow and/or make your life hell.
Thus, it must be eradicated. It can’t, mind you. That’s the type of narcissistic sociopath we’re dealing with. You can never destroy it completely, not until some time after you die. This is yet another window into how pernicious adipose really is: every other organ will one day fail and lead to your death; but only your death will lead to the complete failure of body fat. This enemy, therefore, must at least be cut back as far as it can be.
Always keep in mind the visualization of an evil monster whose tendrils run through your entire body and mind, influencing your every act, and your every lack of action, every decision, and every thought. Fat isn’t content with preservation. Its singular focus is proliferation and domination at whatever cost. Reference the body systems influenced by fat cells and it becomes clear what type of war we are in. Why would fat tissue signal the kidneys? It wants to raise your blood pressure and force you to experience stress so that you will eat and behave in a way that grows the fat cells. It thrives on your pain and anxiety and depression. It wants this. It demands this. It yearns for these malfunctions. It requires that you feel helpless and hopeless. How else would it continue to grow?
The average American loses a pound of skeletal mass and gains 1-2 of fat every year after age 25. You think we choose that with a clear mind?
It is a difficult confrontation. This parasite, this cancer, this infection, this enemy within will make you see reasonable changes as unreasonable. It’s in control of your hormones, after all. And hormones run your brain. Sex hormones direct the neurotransmitters which tell you to be empowered or disempowered: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2015.00037/full. What do you think the fat cells want? You think they want you to feel empowered over your life so that you can destroy them? Come now. Let’s be reasonable.
I understand this battle firsthand. My fat cells are so virulent and so dark that they demand a sacrifice from me on any concerted cutdown. Even with lifting heavy and eating perfectly, I’ve many times lost well over 10lbs of muscle while cutting over 20lbs of body fat, ending up 30lbs lighter, but only feeling 10lbs leaner. Fat cells HATE to be reduced. HATE.
It’s such an unfair ordeal. But an obese person can eat 800 calories per day, burn 1,000 from a two hour walk, and still get fatter. They’ll just burn skeleton and muscle. The body will use that 800 to try to grow more fat. The hormonal signaling is so against this person. A lean athlete can eat 8,000 calories per day, burn 500 in intense training, and get leaner. Their hormonal signaling is stacked against the fat cells.
But, there is good news. For those who persist through a weight loss journey to low enough body fat, all of the inverse can become true. And this does happen, by the way. That is, once the percent of tissue in the body represented by fat cells is less than 10-15% (depending on the individual, and for how long they fought to maintain this point), it can become difficult for fat to grow. Signals are inverted. There just aren’t enough votes from the tyrannical fat cells to outweigh the democratic constituency of other tissues. Fat cells are still an evil cancer; but they’re more like the rare crazies at a town hall meeting, instead of being the widespread voter suppression efforts to destroy all others.
Body fat directs your hormones. So tend to it in kind.