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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Do Women Need Fat?

First off, how exciting is it that we need fat? Super exciting.

The lower body fat that we all have in vast amount (around the world), feeds our babies' brains. This is, by far, the most interesting fact in the book I just read, entitled, Why Women Need Fat, by William D. Lassek, M.D., and Steven J. C. Gaulin, Ph.D.

I told my husband about it like this:

"Hey, honey, you know how you loved my butt when we were dating, and even moreso when I got pregnant, and then it went away a bit?"

"Yeah," he said. "Shame about that."

"Well, that's because it went into making the twins' brains!"

He laughed. "Buttheads," he said affectionately.

But it's true. The DHA used to line our heavier, bigger human brains is stored in our lower body fat as women.

The book is an intense journey through time and culture, purporting several ideas about corn oil, the changed American diet, genetics, and daily habits, showing how they relate to weight.

There is a villain. Dr. Ancel Keys, the doctor who falsely attributed increased heart disease to our fat consumption. The two authors suggest that animal fats are actually much better for us, drawing their conclusions on anthropological studies and history of human weights throughout the ages. In celebration, the night I read that chapter, I cooked our dinner in bacon grease. It was delicious, by the way.

And after you've immersed yourself in hundreds of pages talking about how small-waisted women are amazingly awesome and our brains are programmed to prefer them for childbirth reasons, and how Omega-6 is a bad guy on par with, say, Dr. Evil, there is a great section at the end that allows you to calculate your own "natural weight," an idea of the authors that shows that while women shouldn't try to melt off the pounds incredibly quickly through dieting, they could lower their weights gradually down to a certain set point. But don't stop at the first few graphs if you use this. Do all the exercises. Otherwise you're not getting the full picture of yourself that the authors had intended.

All that said, while there is a lot of really interesting information in the book, hunger studies, brain studies, talks of the hypothalamus and circadian rhythms, these are all just theories. Just theories being put forth as fact, as one would expect from an alternative diet book that expected to sell.

Now, I have no problem that these are two men telling all women how they can eat and lose weight. I don't care that they are super-psyched about women with tiny waists and large hips, but I do care about the way they present their information.

Just be aware of where their statistics are coming from when you read through. Take what you like and leave the rest. In some instances, they'll reference Americans in comparison with the Japanese, in some they reference the French, or the Swedes, or our ancestors, or Australians, Italians, Playboy Playmates or any other random group of people. But never at the same time. I assume they are taking the studies that back up their theories and leaving the others. So that you are surrounded with an eclectic array of advice.

Eat more dark chocolate like the French, more fish like the Japanese, and less corn-fed produce, like our ancestors did. I like my information to line up cohesively, so all of these incomplete and different studies being thrown at me in a stew of "lose weight like this" was hard for me to swallow.

Still, the main crux of this book, the Omega-3 versus Omega-6 battle was spellbinding, even if beaten to death by the end. They wanted to make sure we got it, I guess. Omega-3 good. Omega-6 bad. Got it. Really, I do.

The subtitle of the book is "How "Healthy" Food Makes Us Gain Excess Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever."

While there is a lot of new and surprising theory, idea and research in this book,  I would not say that the solution to losing the fat forever is surprising at all, given the literature coming out all over the place purporting the same thing: eat less human-made, processed food. Eat more organic, natural and naturally-fed food. This is not shocking, but rather the way diet trends have been leaning for the past few years.

The best pieces of the text, in my opinion are the anthropological studies and conclusions, but that's to be expected since I don't really care about losing weight and my unused major in college was evolutionary biology.

For the dieting woman, there are some key aspects of this book that will make you pay attention. Particularly how and why dieting affects the body and why it makes you fatter. I was happy to hear it, too, because I hate dieting.

If you want to learn more about this book and the theories it's putting forth, join me in a book club discussion going on right now at BlogHer, just click here

This has been a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are entirely my own.


  1. This book is a godsend to women everywhere. Sometimes, getting a liposuction Orange County for health reasons is a good idea, though.

  2. This post was really interesting and thanks for taking me to!@LisaWomen Health



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