The Virtues of Being Uncomfortable
Within my body are two different kinds of fat. Don’t judge me or become disgusted; there are two different kinds of fat in your body, too.
“White fat” stores energy in large droplets, while “brown fat” cells are smaller and produce heat to keep us warm. All mammals have white and brown fat, and those with relatively more brown fat tend to have leaner bodies.
I recently read about an interesting (depressing) study which was presented at the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society of Chicago. According to the study, putting people in cooler environments for extend periods of time caused their bodies to convert white fat into heat-generating brown fat and, in the process, lower blood sugar levels.
This study serves to strengthen my fatalistic contention that it isn’t solely “comfort foods,” that cause us to put on and retain extra pounds, but rather “comfort” itself. A summary of weight-related findings that I have read this year:
• Being snuggled up under a duvet – fattening. (If your body is warm, there is no brown fat conversion.)
• Falling in love – fattening. (Research shows that the primary hobby for new couples is eating out in restaurants.)
• Taking a load off – fattening. (Sitting down for long periods of time decreases the activity of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase, which helps burn fat. Sitting also increases blood pressure and decreases the diameter of arteries. The research goes on and on with this one. By all accounts, you’re safer juggling loaded hand guns in the dark than chilling out on the sofa during a Planet of the Apes marathon.)
• Spending time with friends and family – fattening. (See: falling in love. Same deal.)
Thanksgiving is upon us. As you guiltily consider the cheese-covered, carb-laden, whip cream-topped goodies that await next week at Grandma’s, and as you vow to abstain from, or severely limit the amounts of, these foods consumed, keep in mind that is isn’t just the food. Anything and everything that puts you at ease over the holidays puts you at risk for weight gain. The warm fire. Watching football from the recliner. Catching up with relatives. These comforts are all conspiring to keep you plump.
Will this year be the year you avoid putting on extra pounds over the holiday season? A few tips for losing weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas:
1. Shiver yourself slim. Dress in insufficient layers. It is November, and another Polar Vortex is in the forcast, so shorts and a tank top are perfect. No socks under any circumstances. You may even want to sleep with the windows open for good measure.
2. Seek out loneliness. Sure, it is nice to spend time with friends and family, but what if they want to enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of decaf while swapping stories? What are you going to do then? Better steer clear of your loved ones just to be sure.
3. Stand up. Stay on your feet. All day. All night. Chain yourself to the wall like prisoners on pirate movies. Those guys are always nice and thin, aren’t they? I mean, freedom is great and all, but those guys in the shackles have rockin’ BMIs.
4. Eat small portions of food. Your own hand is a good guide for how much food you should consume in a day. In a 24-hour period, eat no more that what fits in your hand. Try to stick to foods that are naturally dark, bitter, cold, laborious to chew, and are attached to a root.
5. Seek out other ways to be uncomfortable. While there is no research to suggest that you burn more fat from making prolonged eye contact with an unsavory-looking stranger, choosing a seat next to the only other person on an otherwise empty bus or telling a friend that you think her adorable toddler needs to be seen by the pediatrician for what you perceive to be developmental delays, the sheer “uncomfortable factor” of these activates, in my mind, indicate that they must facilitate weight loss.
The holidays are here! I wish to you (with the understanding that being thin is the most important thing in the entire world) an uncomfortable Thanksgiving, and an all-but-unbearable Christmas.