My Fat Cell Obsession

How I learned to live with fat


I’ve always been trim, mostly fit, and within the range of normal, as defined by medical guidelines. I was always able to bounce back after gaining weight during three pregnancies.  Then, something changed.

I exercised more, ate less, worked out at the gym, but still, I couldn’t get rid of a layer of fat that had surreptitiously formed over my mid-section.  I didn’t deserve this, I thought indignantly, after all, I followed all the rules, this shouldn’t be happening to me, but it did.  The turning point in my approach to this middle-age dilemma came when I discovered an ominous lump just under my rib cage.  I panicked.

It must be a cancerous growth for sure.  When I went to see my primary care doctor– thirtyish, smart, chipper and curt–he said, “adipose tissue.”  Fat cell.  It was mortifying, but I was grateful he just suggested I lose a few pounds.  A quick Google search revealed the horror of fat cells: basically, they die, but are replaced at the same rate! According to Dr. Michael Jensen, an endocrinologist and obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic.

I started seeing myself as a chubby woman.  I ordered a couple of loose, flowing tops that fell just beneath my waist and bought a couple of pairs of shoes.  Maybe cute shoes would detract from the real problem: the fat cell that had invaded my consciousness like a sticky residue from the excesses of middle-aged anxiety.

You would think the diagnosis would have put my vanity in check and made me super grateful that I was a health middle-aged woman.  Instead, I fell into a pool of depression.  It wasn’t so much my appearance, after all, I can use fashion to camouflage my imperfections like a ninja, but it was the loss of control. I was unable to control my weight after years of being able to lose pounds without much real effort; I was hopelessly adrift.

Eventually, I consulted Google again and looked for some way to tackle this minor problem that was becoming a huge drain on my sense of self.  I felt guilty about making such a big deal about it, after all, countless women struggle with serious health issues surrounding weight.  Who was I to sulk over a fat cell? It was rather huge, and I imagined it growing exponentially, until one day I would wake up to the floppy skin and have to create a sling for it, carry it around like another appendage.  Ah, if I could only give up on the hyperbole and drama, I could heal myself and create a new image that would incorporate my fat.

I came across this fact from an article in Science Daily: “Why Do some obese people have ‘healthier’ fat tissue than others?

“Adipose tissue is scorned because most people see it as causing disease and obesity, but in general adipose tissue doesn’t cause people to gain weight and become obese, it’s just where we store our extra energy when we do overeat,” Horowitz said. “Our studies aren’t suggesting it is healthy to be obese or to overeat — but when we do overeat, it is important to have a safe place to store that extra energy.”

I took this as proof that my body had not betrayed me; on the contrary, I was just storing extra energy!  This was the mind trick that propelled me forward.  I could have a little bit of control and learn to live with this.  I would just make some minor changes.  That’s it.  I didn’t go to the gym or train for marathons.  I just made these three changes.

Needless to say, I am no trainer, dietician, or expert on anything that has to do with weight.  The following three changes are part of my personal challenge.   When I stopped being intimidated by the real athletes or the super seniors scaling mountains and winning races, I began to trust my instincts and simply tweak what had been working for me all along.  I didn’t have to endanger myself–I’m a bit of a gym klutz– I just had to have a good talk with myself and come up with a simple game plan.

Mind Game:  I became a food snob. That’s right.  I would reject some foods outright, convincing myself that I deserved better.  For example, I could only have the best chocolate: Lindt.  So,  M&M’s, Snickers, Hershey–I wouldn’t touch them.  I convinced myself that these were inferior to what I really deserved, a Lindt bar.  Lindt bars aren’t all that popular in the grocery stores where I shop, so the rationale worked rather well. By looking down on many popular foods, I trained myself to hold out for gourmet foods which I buy sparingly.

Diet: I stopped eating white bread, pasta, and potatoes.  I substituted brown rice and gluten-free bread and cut down the portion sizes by half.  This one dietary change has been incredible.  I don’t feel sluggish and have even lost a few pounds. I also added green tea, with lemon to my meals.

Exercise: I don’t like it.  However, I decided to do three one-minute planks, dance to my favorite songs for ten minutes a day, and take two brisk walks: one in the morning and one towards the end of the day.

My fat cell is still there, taunting me, a constant reminder and harbinger of inevitable changes to come, but I’ve lost a layer of fat and regained some ground.  The battle is real, but I feel like I won this round.

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