Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Fat aint my fault - I need it

BlogHer Book Club presents:

Why Women Need Fat: How "Healthy" Food Makes Us Gain Excess Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever
William D. Lassek, M.D. and Steven J.C. Gaulin, PH.D.
Hudson Street Press, 2012

No man? Blame it on the belly fat.
Difficult birth of children? Blame it on the belly fat.
Poor health? Blame it on the belly fat.

At least that's what a quick read of several of the chapters in Why Women Need Fat would lead me to believe. Looking closer at the well-organized discussion of BMI and women's shapes, however, leads me away from these quick (and warrying) conclusions.

Like most busy professionals, I didn't have endless hours to devour every chapter of this book. So I skipped around - drawn to intriguing chapter titles and remaining for a closer read because of the content. I started, then, in Chapter Four: The Mystery of the Tiny Waist. I don't have - nor have I ever had - a waist that would be called tiny. Brick house? Yeah, unless you're looking for that 24 in the middle. I'm more like "Sistah Big Bones," the so-called pudgy gal with the barrel torso. It should come as no surprise as to why I started with a chapter about something I've never been blessed with.

I'd always believed that - as it has been said in many a passing conversation - that weight was indicative of wealth. You know thin people don't eat, right? Well, it has to be because they can't afford food. Isn't that what they say is the assumption in many cultures? A woman with some girth is ready to bare your legacy and is a showcase of your ability to provide.

But authors William D. Lassek, M.D. and Steven J.C. Gaulin, PH.D. debunk this myth quickly. They provide conclusions from a study of college men who've been asked to rate women's attractiveness. The women shown are all collegiates and have blurred faces and wear nude bra and panties. The only thing being evaluated is their shapes. The results? Well, after evaluating the tracking pictures of each participating males' eye movement (which primarily lingered on the waist just before a rating was chosen), it was determined that men are attracted to proportionately smaller waist-to-hip body types. [In a later clarification, the authors note it is "a small waist combined with quite a bit of fat in the hips, buttocks, and thighs" that attracts the visually-selective man.]

The authors add ratings of Playboy Playmates and cartoon women to these research experiments, concluding that though it "made no evolutionary sense," the smaller the waist appears to be, the more attractive a woman is. And these itty bitty waists typically mean a lower BMI. I found it intriguing that, "Women with BMIs well below 20 - like Playmates, the women men prefer in Tovee's studies, and the students with the smallest waists - tend to be less healthy, less fertile, and less able to conceive children." So though humans are supposed to be physiologically wired to be attracted to healthier mates, they're not?

I read on, hooked. In the next few sub chapters, the authors discuss the health-related cause of bigger waists - less Omega 3 DHA (needed for a baby's brain development) and more Omega 6. So my bigger-than-it-should-be belly signals I'll birth a less intelligent baby. It also suggests a riskier birth experience, the possibility that I've been pregnant before and have "used up some of [my] brain-building supplies" stock-piled in my pudgy pubescence. Oh, and if I appear as though I've had one or more kids before evaluating-man spots me for this analysis, chances are that I'm no youngster. Hold up, " gaining weight after having [the] first baby is beneficial for any other babies that follow," right? My expanding girth, then, is protecting the health of his future offspring (that's my story - I'm sticking to it.)!

Now, obviously I'm skipping a good bit of information that Drs. Lassek and Gaulin have compiled. But if I didn't, I'd just be rehashing the book, which at this point I'd decided was worthy of a thorough read through.

I'm overweight and diets aren't working because, in part, the poultry and livestock I consume is stuffed with corn instead of the grains and grasses they'd once been raised on. Corn, the authors report, is replete with Omega 6 (the bad one) and I have to eat more meats to acquire the needed Omega 3 my body craves. So that 'lean meat' I thought I was preparing? It's making me anything but.

Oh, and there's something about leptin, too. Leptin is part of the "fat gene" discovery. It tells my (confused) body how much fat I've got on reserve - and I swear it's calculations are wrong. Why else would this body of mine be holding onto every fat particle it encounters?

But wait... is it hopeless?

The simple answer is no. Drs. Lassek and Gaulin say I can reduce my Omega 6 abundance by boiling, roasting, steaming, stewing, broiling, or grilling my foods. And when I crave fried? Stir fry or braise (huh?) my food in "canola or olive oil or in butter." Oh, and fish is good, very good. Too bad I do not "do" seafood and refuse to chug fish oil (which is suggested).

Now, I am also told that my height - four feet and ten inches of pure me - is not a good thing in a small package. (Pout.) Basically, my compact frame didn't make room for essentials like kidneys, liver, spleen, or intestines like a tall woman's body does. I was destined, you see, to be a little (bite your tongue!)on the thicker side.

The doctors, of course, counter my conclusions with charts for figuring out my natural (ideal) body weight, my body type and body widths, and my body fat. So, I can figure out my ideals and then try to get there while realizing, as the last chapter title states, "it's not your fault if you're heavy, but you don't have to be this heavy."

So it would seem that I have a little work to do. With the appendix of food facts and nutrition information, and a meaty chapter on restoring my newly-calculated natural body weight, I just might have the tools to lose the hefty, hefty uncinched sack that should be my waist.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club. As always, the views and opinions expressed herein remain my own. I wouldn't write it any other way.


Keiko said...

Here via the BHBC spreadsheet. Great review that really captures the book quite well. I wasn't thrilled, and some of it came off as "I've read this elsewhere" but on the whole, it's good to know that at least most of my fatness isn't due to the fact that I refuse to give up butter... that in fact, it's actually good for me ;)

simply heidi said...

Here from the spreadsheet too. Great review! I really enjoyed the book, but was already convinced that traditional foods are better, so it was a whole lot of preaching to the choir, as far as what to eat. The why, though? That was fascinating.