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Fat Cells and Weight

There is so much amazing scientific information out in the world about weight these days. As an evidence-based person, I’m a big fan of science and love to understand the workings of the mind/body. Another scientific bonus is that it helps keep our heads on straight by disproving myths about fat and thin, and gives us a fact-based reality from which to set our goals. So, heads out of the clouds and feet on the ground.

A May 24, 2008 Science News article entitled “Fat Cells Gain Weight” is a case in point. It’s short, so I’ll share it here: “Even when people lose weight, they don’t lose fat cells. The cells just shrink. Kirsty Spalding of the Karo-Linkska Institute in Stockholm and her colleagues figured out the birth dates of fat cells in adults. The team reported online May 4 in Nature that, in adults, as fat cells die, the same number is replenished. Obese people have about twice the number of fat cells as normal-weight adults, and fat cells are bigger in obese people.”

For those of you who are overweight, this may be just about the worst news you could ever hear. Why on earth is she blogging about this depressing stuff, you might wonder. To help people face facts. It would be great to learn that losing weight makes fat cells shrink and disappear. The study’s conclusions may not be the best encouragement for you to try to lose weight, but they sure help put into perspective why it’s so difficult, why you’ve been struggling to slim down your whole life, and why you haven’t.

Now I understand your wishing you could unknow that fat cells replenish. On the other hand, maybe the fact that you have a set amount of fat cells will shift your energy in two directions. First, stop focusing on losing weight and start focusing on eating “normally.” When you end your weight preoccupation and develop “normal” eating skills, you’ll feel better about yourself and will likely shed some pounds. Second, quit blaming yourself for not losing weight or keeping it off. You can now concentrate on getting healthy and fit and accepting your body—all while you’re working to eat better.

The fact is that overweight people do lose weight and keep it off. They do it by cutting portions, making healthy food choices most of the time, and exercising regularly. This is not new information. Studies tell us that the people who are successful at keeping weight off have goals of feeling better about themselves and being fit. Their goals are not thinness and appearance. So, give yourself a break and stop obsessing about weight. Ironically, that kind of thinking is one of the things keeping you fat.