Human physiology is beyond description. There is nothing that happens without a reason. Every chronic disease is an expected outcome given the circumstances we create in our bodies. Even fat has a reason to be.
Just ask a bear. Or a camel.
In bears, fat is a storage depot for extra calories during hibernation. In the Inuit Eskimos of Greenland have a tendency to store fat, and for the same reasons (no–they don’t hibernate, but would YOU go out looking for food when even the penguins are dying from the cold??).
In the rest of us, excess fat is almost always a result of bad physiology. Again, the body does nothing without a good reason. In the case of fat, it is the equivalent of a castle under siege.
What happens when a castle is under seige? Energy is conserved (which can lead to fatigue despite a massive amount of stored energy). The armory, weapons and soldiers gear up (inflammation levels go up). This begins the long term problems with excess weight.
In today’s society, excess fat is usually the result of mixed up messages. The calories we take in are low quality with low phytonutrient value. As a result, our cells get lazy and the mitochondria within all of our cells are less efficient. The analogy I give is with computer programs. Years ago, with less available memory on our computers programs were smaller and more efficient. As memory capability has expanded, so have the sizes of the programs. That’s how our cells work–too much calories and they get lazy and slothful.
When cells themselves are burning off energy less efficiently, the resultant excess calories become stored as fat. These fat cells then begin to run out of good blood flow (this is actually the most current theory as to why abnormal fat storage begins to wreak havoc). Less blood flow means less nutrients which leads to a panic state within the fat cell. The fat cell then begins to crank out inflammatory messengers that wreak further havoc on the current path towards chronic disease.
Sounds just wonderful, huh?
Here’s the problem. So many people, especially around this time of the year, begin an exercise routine in an attempt to lose weight. Many become frustrated when no real noticeable weight is lost in the first month. It’s at this point that many people quit.
You should exercise because it is the right thing to do for our health, NOT because it is a means to losing weight. Get that thought out of your head right now. Exercise boosts mood, increases energy, increases sex drive (and really…isn’t this reason enough..??) and improves other markers of health such as blood pressure and inflammatory markers like hsCRP.
This particular article illustrates this concept wonderfully. Basically, the researchers looked at two groups of overweight patients. The first group was overweight and unfit (based on VO2 max–a marker of aerobic capacity) and the second group was overweight but fit.
Overall, the overweight but fit patients had better cardiovascular markers (HDL, triglycerides, ALT, insulin resistance markers) than their unfit counterparts.
The bottom line is that exercise has very clear, strong benefits to your health, even if they do not instantly translate into a leaner you. So don’t quit when the scale doesn’t change. Just make sure you’re doing something you love so that it never feels like exercise.