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Flow Dojo book review and summary: The Secret Life of Fat by Dr. Sylvia Tara

Updated: Feb 13, 2022

I love reading and listening to books, podcasts, and conversations about health. I feel like I learn so much . . . but unfortunately my memory is limited and possibly shrinking (I'm still not fully accepting of that). 'Why not start a blog' I thought in my epiphany of originality. If I write about some of the great research and expert insight that I encounter I will certainly retain more info and be a better resource for my clients. And so I'm starting this Flow Dojo Mojo blog to create resources to broaden the knowledge base of how to be healthy and happy.

While this may not be original I am hellbent on it being useful and practical . . . so here goes my first blog book review - The Secret Life of Fat by Silva Tara.

Dr. Tara succeeds in the difficult task of providing loads of scientific information (studies, results, research history) while telling a series of captivating stories. I knew from the first chapter that this would be an audiobook that I would listen to at least twice (I need reps for learning).

Top takeaways for me - summary notes of the Book:

- Fat is an organ, not just inert energy storage. Fat tissue comes in many forms and it is considered part of the endocrine system as it produces and influences many hormones.

- Fat is critical - without it we would die (temper the hatin' on fat!).

- Visceral fat is the most unhealthy kind of fat. This tends to present itself as fat around the abdomen although seemingly skinny people that are not very active can have excess visceral fat - the so-called 'skinny fat'.

What is Visceral Fat and Why its Important to Lose It:

- Being fat is not simply a result of poor habits or lack of self discipline. There are a number of uncontrollable factors that may be a part of why someone has excess fat - gene mutations, viruses, and bacteria.

- Of course there are things that we can do to reduce our chances of getting fat: exercise and stay active, do resistance training to gain muscle mass, eat nutritious food and avoid processed food, consume plenty of fiber from vegetables and fruit, consume sufficient protein and fat, weigh yourself daily, stay hydrated with water, curse juice and recognize it as the devil in fruity form, etc. It is also worth considering this scientific review of people that lost weight and maintained that loss for the long-term.

- Sumo wrestlers have a lot of fat but are generally pretty healthy because they exercise and they eat well. You can be fit and fat! However, when they retire and lose their active habits the negative consequences set in.

Sumo wrestlers from The Japan Times:

- Effort should be made to not gain weight. Well . . . duh! What I mean is, Dr. Tara really explains why it is so much more difficult to lose weight after you gain it compared to not gaining the weight in the first place. Fat has a way of preserving itself and even causing more fat to be stored. This can be a big motivator around the holidays. Eating that entire pumpkin pie may be more difficult to undo than we think - is it really worth the 5 minutes of mouth pleasure? I can hear my Dad's voice in my head, "why, yes!". No - the answer is no! Mouth pleasure is chasing the dragon.

Think of gaining extra pounds and then exerting the effort to lose them like letting dirty dishes sit for a few days - if you wash the dishes right away (exert the effort not to gain pounds) it requires much less effort than if you have to scrub crusty dishes (exert much more effort to lose pounds). Dr. Tara repeatedly talks about how fat will fight your efforts through hormones that will make you hungry (ghrelin), reductions of hormones that make you feel full (leptin), and reductions in your resting metabolism.

daily weigh in
How Often Should I Weigh Myself?

- Perhaps the #1 takeaway for me is that this book can help remove some of the judgement that we put on ourselves and others when it comes to weight loss. There is a fine line between judgement and acceptance so don't just throw up your arms and say, "Fat wins!". There are plenty of things we can do but don't be so quick to condemn an obese person as lazy or the parent of an obese child as negligent. Lots of factors are at play when it comes to weight gain. Don't give up but don't beat yourself up!

Best of all - you can be overweight and healthy with just a little weight loss and an increase in activity. For example, research shows that just a 7% weight loss over six months led to a 58% reduction in development of diabetes, despite half the weight being regained over three years If you struggle with losing the pounds, start focusing on feeling good and staying healthy through regular exercise. By focusing on health you are more likely to persevere when your weight loss stalls. Develop a solid base of daily activity and then you can turn to some dietary changes. Real sustainable weight loss is a long-term endeavor - don't fall for the quick fix. Dr. Tara discusses at length the consequences of yo-yo diets and how weight loss followed by weight gain can wreak havoc on your metabolism.

This is where I make my pitch to help you. I started Flow Dojo fitness and training because I love empowering people to feel healthy and happy. Let's work together to achieve your wellness goals. I'm a certified behavior change specialist as well as a personal trainer and instructor of martial arts, pilates, yoga, and meditation. Let me help you find your Flow.

More info and follow up resources:

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