Losing weight can help lessen your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancers, but figuring out how to get the job done can send your blood pressure through the roof. There is an infinity of myths surrounding weight loss and even more claims of magical methods, but you don't need to be a wizard to melt that fat away. A basic knowledge of how and why your body stores fat is all you need to create a diet and exercise plan that works for you.
Facts About Body Fat
Your body stores fat when you take in more calories than you burn off. It will also store calories as fat if your metabolism slows. This happens when you drop just a little below your basic calorie needs, but not low enough that your body has to start metabolizing muscle tissue for fuel. That's why so many crash diets and fads like a seven-day cleanse don't work. You lose a few pounds really quickly — and then your body freaks out, thinks it is never getting fed again and starts hoarding calories. The purpose of stored fat is to protect your organs, but since cave-people days the fat was also meant to fuel your body during times when food was scarce, hence the hoarding.
There are three types of stored fat, according to Rush University Medical Center:
- Intramuscular fat is stored within your skeletal muscles and will not be burned off except in cases of extreme starvation.
- Abdominal fat is that fluffy "muffin" layer that spills over the top of too-tight jeans.
- Visceral fat is stored around your abdominal organs, and this is the first type of fat your body will burn off.
You are born with a certain number of fat cells. Your body can create more, according to the experts at Yale News, but while you can shrink them, you can never remove a fat cell once it is created. The fat within these cells is not "trapped fat," and even if it was, you cannot target which type of fat you intend to burn. So no matter what the latest body cleanse ad promises you, it just doesn't work that way.
Read More: Body Fat Calculator
Facts About Dietary Fat
Dietary fat also comes in three types, which are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats and trans fats. Unsaturated fats of both types are the healthiest kinds of dietary fats. Monounsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and can be found in vegetable oils such as olive oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds and fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon. Both types contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help scour low-density lipoproteins from your bloodstream and encourage the formation of high-density lipoproteins, which cleanse your blood of bad cholesterol.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and come from animal products such as meat and dairy. A certain amount of healthy fat is needed to help your body process vitamins A and D and to keep your skin supple and your hair shiny.
Transfats are the least healthy type, according to the experts at SciTech Nutrition. While trace amounts are found in nature, most transfats are artificially produced and appear in margarine, commercially baked goods, snack foods and chips. Transfats raise the level of LDLs, or bad cholesterol, in your bloodstream.
While it is not possible to release trapped fat in specifically targeted areas, the type of fat you take in can go a long way toward helping your body function at its peak efficiency. The better you feel, the more likely you are to exercise and eat a clean diet, which will help in your overall weight loss mission.
Read More: 20 Fat-Loss Secrets
Foods That Flush Fat
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a magical fat flushing fruit. The best way to burn fat, according to Liz Weinandy, RD, at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, is to combine a low calorie, high nutrient diet with consistent exercise. The experts at the International Sports Sciences Association recommend alternating low-intensity workouts, such as walking or swimming, with higher-intensity workouts such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) or lifting weights. This will burn fat effectively while helping you learn eating habits that help you keep it off for the long term.
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?
- Yale News: Study: New Fat Cells Are Created Quickly, But Dieting Can’t Eliminate Them
- Ohio State University - Wexner Medical Center: How to Lose Weight Without Tanking Your Metabolism
- International Sports Sciences Association: The Right Way to Burn Fat, Not Muscle
- SciTech Nutrition: The Science Behind Losing Fat Effectively
Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.