Baby Fat: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Baby Fat: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

"All my other kids are so skinny," my mom loved to tell people, "she's my chubby one. But it's OK, it's just baby fat. It'll come off when she gets older." At some point she quit calling it baby fat and just nagged me for being fat. But that's a story for another day (or maybe never).

What I just learned is that, as a child who was fat before I was one year old, and who was also fat between ages 9 and 13 (the "adolescent growth spurt") my subsequent adult obesity is called hyperplastic, or hypercellular, obesity. What this means is that the number of fat cells in my body increased. The increased number of fat cells means that my body was - and always will be - extremely efficient at storing fat. I had a 55% chance of being obese as an adult, 10 times that of my thin siblings. Sure enough, all four of them stayed thin as adults, while I have struggled with my weight throughout my adult life. 

Didn't have "baby fat?" Hyperplastic obesity is also common in adults who reach a BMI of 40 or more. (Calculate your BMI.)

In contrast there's hypertrophic obesity, where you keep the same number of fat cells, but they just get larger to hold more fat. When an adult gains weight and displays the classic apple-shape (fat in the middle), it's likely hypertrophic obesity.

All the extra fat cells I've gained from hyperplasia never go away. Ever. When we lose weight those fat cells will empty, but they are still there. Waiting. Whether influenced by genetics or environmental factors, or a combination of both, hyperplastic obesity sucks. It just sucks. That's just the flat-out truth. 

But does this mean we shrug our shoulders, wring our hands and say "Oh poor me. Not my fault. Can't be fixed so why bother? Pass the ice cream."

Of course not. Come on now, we're better than that. Stronger than that. We take what control we can. We follow healthy eating guidelines. We meet or exceed exercise guidelines. We align our goals and expectations with reality, valuing a healthy body fat percentage over a dress size. We are worth it. 

The varied and multiple health dangers that come with carrying excess body fat are well-documented and irrefutable. Coronary artery disease. High blood pressure. High Cholesterol. Adult onset diabetes. Smoking is still the number one preventable cause of death, but obesity is right behind it at number two. 

Regardless of how or why we are fat, the fact remains we can choose a healthy lifestyle over an unhealthy one. We are worth the effort. You are worth the effort. 

Peace.

Source: ACE Health Coach Manual, 2013

image: modified CC BT 2.0 Flickr

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