White Fat and Brown Fat: Let’s Gain Some Fat Knowledge

Obese individuals tend to have little to no brown fat. Brown fat actually burns calories into heat in a process referred to as thermogenisis. It can also only be detected in body scans when an individual is cold. Intrigued? I’ll get to more about brown fat in a minute.

Have you ever wondered what fat really does and how it interacts with the rest of our body, what it releases? When fat enters our body it is broken down in a process called emulsification. Fat cells are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol, only to get built up again later, this is actually because fat cells are too fat (ba dum tss) to go through cell membranes.

White Fat – or white adipose tissue (WAT) – oh we all know what this is. We’ve all seen those 5-20lb replicas of white fat, that yellow, lumpy, oh so desirable mush. Don’t get me wrong, this fat is important, too. It cushions our bones and organs, gives up a soft exterior, but in excess it can lead to health issues. Did you know that our fat cells actually change and adapt as we gain fat? If you look at the fat cells of a lean individual vs. an obese one, you will notice that obese fat cells can carry 10x the amount of fat than a normal fat cell. An extra 30lbs may make you heavier and have a greater fat mass, but it’s not actually until individuals are obese that their fat cells actually multiply. Once we reach this status it is actually harder to get rid of fat cells, aka you may still always have 10-20 million more fat cells than a lean individual, however, they can get smaller and you will be healthier at that point. Fascinating.

White fat cells don’t just sit around like couch potatoes. They actually release hormones that can aid in keeping us healthy or making us gain weight. The key hormones in this function are leptin – a protein hormone responsible for telling you “hey stop! we’re good down here! We’ve got plenty of fat to burn and you’re full!” It’s also known as the appetite hormone – remember it’s evil nemesis ghrelin? The one your body secretes when you’re stressed? Well, imagine leptin and ghrelin up on top of a cliff like in Princess Bride, swords in hand, ghrelin advances forward “you killed my fat cells, prepare to die.” Ok – so not exactly, but if your stress levels get high enough to reach the evil perch where ghrelin hangs out, then he’s going to create an army of fat cells by stimulating your appetite.


The other protein hormone that white fat cells release is called adiponectin and it is only secreted by fat cells. This hormone helps regulate glucose levels and influences how your body reacts to insulin. It’s an extremely important hormone, the problem is that when fat cells become too big like they do in an obese body, the production of adiponectin can decrease and completely shut down in fat cells. This aids in heart disease and diabetes. Low levels of adiponectin can also lead to insulin resistance.

Brown Fat – or brown adipose tissue (BAT) – the mysterious fat many people don’t know about which acts a lot more like a muscle than a fat. This fat is essential for survival. It contains mitochondria which generate heat and explains why brown fat is found in animals in cold climates, in babies who have yet to develop white fat cells, and in individuals when they are cold. Now, I’m not here to tell you that brown fat is the miracle fat and that if you have more of it, you’ll be skinny in no time. However, brown fat has been found to absorb glucose and actually burn calories, unlike white fat. Brown fat also needs more energy to survive and will actually suck up white fat around it. Brown fat is activated when the body gets cold, it’s a survival mechanism to keep us warm. One of the most interesting discoveries that is still being heavily researched is the detection of irisin which is a muscle hormone that is released during exercise. It has been found to actually turn white fat cells into brown fat cells. Please don’t go and turn your heat off and try to shiver off all those Christmas cookies. But it is interesting to know what’s going on inside that body of yours.

There is also visceral fat and the omentum that I go into a lot more detail here.

Running: Why I do it, how to start, and the amazing benefits

Usually when I tell people that I love running they look at me like I’m crazy or just flat-out tell me that I am. What started out as a way to get out of the house as a teenager, has turned into a passion and a drive that has helped me lose over 40lbs in the past two years and kept me happier in my life than just about anything else! Here are 101 reasons to start running!

Some common misconceptions I hear about running ALL the time:

Running is hard on your joints and can ruin your knees

I don’t want to mess up my hips

Running is boring

Running doesn’t burn that many calories

While it is true that when you run you are hitting the ground with 4x your body weight, running can actually help to protect your joints. There are also a lot of ways to project your joints when you run and only increase your mileage by 10% each week. When tissue that supports joints (cartilage) breaks down, it’s referred to as Osteoarthritis and can be extremely painful. Many people believe that running accelerates this process but that’s actually not true. Runner’s World has a great article on how running improves joint health. In fact, the biggest cause of OA is actually high body fat and increased weight that bares down on the joints on a day-to-day basis. Dropping just 10lbs can take 45lbs of pressure off of the knees! Running, along with exercise in general, allows cartilage to pull in oxygen, compress and expand, and stay healthy while flushing out toxins. Not to mention, running helps keep your bones strong and keep your body young from the inside out.

For me, I run for the challenge, the runner’s high, and the feeling that I have competed with myself and accomplished something whether it’s a 10 minute run or a 40 push through the pouring rain. The endorphins that are released during your second wind on a run are something that I live for. Sometimes a good run is just what I need to reset my mentality, mood, and get my head back in the game. I’m also always more motivated to eat healthy and there’s nothing like a good sweat to flush out toxins in your body and skin.

Here are some of my favorite benefits of running:

  1. Stress reliever/eliminating depression – the best time to go on a run is when you are in a bad mood, no really, trust me. Within minutes of getting outside or hitting the treadmill, you will start to feel euphoric and that feeling will follow you for the rest of the day. You’ll also be able to sleep easier and deeper at night after you’ve put in a good run for the day.
  2. Growing your mind/training your brain – running is a great time to throw on some headphones, zone out, and think about your life, your goals, what you want, and how to get it. I can’t tell you how many realizations I’ve come to by going on a long run on the weekend. It also creates an environment for you to focus and train your mind. You will need determination and perseverance on longer runs and up those steep hills. Often times, overcoming our minds is the hardest part for runners. Learning to turn off the part of your brain that says “I think I’m tired” or “we can’t do this” – you’d be surprised how far your body can actually take you. Running and aerobic activity can also make you smarter. The more you exercise, the better your ability to make sound judgements, be less indecisive, and boost your concentration and memory.
  3. Improving balance and coordination – can you stand up and hold your foot behind your body without tipping over? The more I run, the more I notice my ability to balance and function improves. Running outside and on varying terrain requires your body and stature to constantly re-adjust. It also greatly increases your core strength.
  4. Improve your immune system – the more active we are, the healthier we are, and therefore more likely to fight off those nasty colds before they take us down hard. When I’m running on a regular basis, I hardly ever get sick.
  5. Boost your confidence – run tall and suck in your stomach and over time you’ll feel the results. You’ll also be impressed with your own efforts, distances, and your mood. It’s hard not to feel confident, powerful, and sexy when all of this happens. You’ll be more motivated to keep running, eat healthy, and have more energy.
  6. ENERGY! – Yep! You’ll have more of it. You’ll want to do more and will be surprised at how much more alert you are. Suddenly that 2-3pm slump isn’t so bad anymore and falling a sleep becomes a breeze.
  7. Muscle definition and a flat tummy – there’s nothing like running on a regular basis and starting to see the fat melt off, getting that defined line in your legs, and seeing the muscle underneath start to show. You’re a beast and it shows! Running is a great way to increase your lower body strength and lose stomach fat.

So maybe now you’re thinking “maaaaybe I could run” – you don’t have to be hardcore about it to call yourself a runner, either. Runners are people that run once a week, run marathons every year, or occasionally go on jogs. They are ALL accomplishments and something you should be proud of. Here’s a few tips on how to get started and some things to think about:

  • Start off slow – don’t get crazy and try to go on some 4 mile run on your first bout
  • Stay off the pavement – although the outdoors provides a better challenge and burns more calories than running on a treadmill, it can be a scary place to start. If you are going to run outside, find a track or run along the road on the dirt or gravel if you can.
  • Get some sweet kicks and fun running gear. Invest in that arm band for your MP3 and make that workout mix you’ve been meaning to get to. I spent a pretty penny on some neon/glow-in-the-dark Asics last year and I cannot tell you what a great purchase they were. Plus, I’m always more motivated to hit the trails when I know how cool my shoes look 🙂 81CZ6UmqqIL__SL1500_
  • Download a running app (like Nike Training Center) or find ways to log your runs, distance, etc.
  • Set a goal or find a race that interests you. I still want to do the Survivor Mud Run, the Warrior Dash, and the Zombie Run at some point. Get a group together to train and then celebrate when you actually make it through the finish line!
  • Track how you feel before and after a run. Monitor your mood and see how running challenges you and changes your outlook.

The most important thing about exercise, health, and fitness, is finding something you love and can be passionate about. Running isn’t for everyone but I’m constantly enthralled by the stories I read of people that are 50 or older who have never ran a mile in their life and are suddenly training for half-marathons and 5ks. YOU CAN DO IT! Consistency in anything is key and the more you do something, the better you will get, the stronger you will become, and the happier you will live your life.

Keeping a Healthy Body Image: A reminder we ALL need

bodyimageI rarely make statements like this but I think this is important. In every woman there is a 12 year old girl who once thought that the images in magazines were what was beautiful, and were what she should strive for. This has affected every woman more or less and differently in many ways. But as we’ve gotten older, whether we’re 25 or 55, we realize that these images aren’t what we should strive for. They aren’t realistic and they aren’t the only thing that men find desirable. But every now and then, the 12 year old inside us creeps back and gains a voice; we forget that with all of the images and constant pressure to be fit and have a certain body type, we too, are still beautiful in every way.

We may know that these images aren’t what we HAVE to be, but it doesn’t make that desire go away. With more and more sites like the ones listed in the article below, we are constantly shown not only pictures of women with extremely low body fat, but also how specific parts of our body should be. Not only should we have clear skin and perfect boobs, but we also should have gaps between our thighs, our hip bones should protrude, and we should relish in the fact that men find us so completely perfect if we can reach these goals. But the truth is that no two body types are the same. Some women will never have a gap no matter how much weight they lose.

I’m writing this to take a minute to remind every woman who reads this that you are beautiful, gorgeous, and perfect in your OWN unique body. And I’m writing this to remind every man to constantly remind the women in their life the same thing. Don’t assume we always know this. We have to constantly fight to stay on top of our body image (in fact, every individual does).

We need to stop “liking” and posting pictures that make statements that “this” body or shape is better than “that” one. Curvy isn’t any better than skinny, just like skinny isn’t any better than curvy. BOTH are beautiful. ALL women are beautiful. We need to work on creating an environment that works on supporting and loving each other, not standing in opposition because our bodies are different. In the same way that the media has deformed our perceptions of attraction, women continue to do the same by encouraging one body type over the other. COME TOGETHER and stop hating or feeling jealous of another body type than your own. Embrace all women around you and let us find that strength in numbers. This may sound cheesy but it’s true.

I know I have spent my entire life (and will always struggle) because I’m not skinner, tanner, or I don’t have bigger boobs. We all have insecurities that some days are easy to push to the side, but on others can bring us to tears. We all have a 12 year old within us that needs to be comforted, nurtured, and reminded that we are strong, unique, beautiful, and determined women. And that the more we stand up and praise our own bodies, the more everyone else will, too.

We need to stop punishing women who DO stand confident in their skin by calling them “vain” and “full of themselves” and praise them for taking care of their bodies, striving for health, and setting an inspirational path for others.

The challenge and effort it takes to continually love your own body from age 5 to age 90 NEVER stops. Take your insecurities and turn them into strengths and remind yourselves, your friends, and your children, how important their own self-worth in their body image is. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. And that’s what I have to say for Monday. ❤