Loving Your Beach Bod

“Baby Got Back” was a mouth dropper when it first hit the airwaves, but today it is the anthem for voluptuous women everywhere. No longer are they fat-shamed; in fact, thanks in no small part to Kim K, Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj, big booties have now become the height of fashion for mainstream America.

But while this shift in attitude has been praised by many, and body acceptance is welcome breath of air in a world where fashion has been sucking in its gut for centuries, there are those who say that it’s still unhealthy to be overweight, self-acceptance or not. Are these naysayers right? As is often the case, it turns out that the truth lies somewhere in between. Not all fat is created equal.

Scientists are just beginning to understand how many functions fat has in the human body. Along with giving women their curves and men their beer bellies, research suggests that fat cells are biologically active, just like endocrine organs or glands. They release hormones that control metabolism and safely store excess calories for ready use when we’re hungry. However, we have several types, and each of them has a very different effect on our system.

White Fat

The is by far the most abundant fat in our body. It stores energy and produces hormones that are secreted into our bloodstream. When small, these white fat cells produce a beneficial hormone called adiponectin, which makes us less susceptible to diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, when people gain too much weight, in addition to gaining in number, fat cells also expand, causing production of adiponectin to slow or even shut down, setting the stage for disease.

Brown Fat

These cells, once thought to be mostly worthless, are now thought to be more like muscle than like ordinary white fat. Studies have shown that lean people tend to have more brown fat than overweight or obese people, and that, when stimulated, brown fat can actually burn calories. Children have more brown fat than adults – it’s what helps them burn up so many calories, along with keeping them warm. And although leaner adults have more brown fat than heavier people, even their brown fat cells are greatly outnumbered by white fat cells. A 150-pound person might have 20 or 30 pounds of fat, but only 2 or 3 ounces of brown fat. However, if maximally stimulated, those few cells have the ability to burn off 300 to 500 calories a day — enough to lose up to a pound in a week.

Subcutaneous Fat

This is the fat that health clubs measure with calipers; it is directly under our skin. Here, there’s good news and bad news. The good – that bulge in your bootie and extra padding on your thighs isn’t the dangerous kind of fat. It is not as likely to cause the serious problems that deeper fat does. In fact, if you carry fat in your butt or in your thighs, that is actually associated with better health, lower risk of cardiac disease or diabetes. The bad news – beer guts and muffin tops are a different story. Excess subcutaneous fat on the stomach may be as dangerous as what lies beneath.

Visceral Fat

This is the fat that collects in your midsection, wrapping around internal organs, including your heart. Visceral fat is a potential killer, the most serious type of fat. It drives up your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even dementia.This is why liposuction has never been touted as a solution for weight-related health issues – you can’t vacuum your vital organs. How do you tell if the fat around your waist is subcutaneous or visceral? Lie on your back. If your stomach flattens out with gravity, it’s probably subcutaneous. If it still protrudes like a pregnant womb, that’s visceral. You might want to have a talk with your doctor. But don’t be daunted! Visceral fat responds very well to diet and exercise. Your efforts will pay off.

So, the verdict is in, sort of. Ladies, those voluptuous thighs and bountiful butts are your birth right. Wave your ample derriere proudly if you’ve got it and dress to accentuate your shape. There is no reason to try to squeeze yourself into those mini clothes designed for Brazilian Barbies. Just keep in mind that too much extra weight is a burden on your heart, no matter how well you carry it.

Sadly, for men and women who are packing pounds on around the middle — bellies beware! Your fat is not an image issue, it is a health hazard just the same as smoking. For you, some lifestyle changes are a much better idea than a fashion makeover.

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