Where Does Fat Go When You Lose Weight?
There’s a strong possibility that you are sitting down right now reading this. Maybe while seated, you’re noticing a bit of a pinching sensation around your waistband. Maybe there’s even some overflow of you appearing above your belt. If you’re feeling playful, possibly you’re poking and/or squeezing said roll. Aaaand maybe feeling guilty about the choices you made last weekend…
For most of us, carrying a small amount of weight around our tummies is normal, and having an extra bit to squish while seated is as well. But for some, there might be more there than you’d like. There are many things which influence our perception of how much weight we should be carrying (societal standards, our physician, the fit of our old jeans from high school…) and if we aren’t happy with where we’re at, we might be inspired to do something about it.
But where does the fat go once we “burn it off?” Does it magically just melt away like those ads on TV claim? Unfortunately, we sure as heck know that it doesn’t just go from the places we don’t like (thanks, target-training-resistant body!). So what happens to our squish once it’s no longer there to squeeze?
What Is Food, Really?
First off, let’s get clear on what fat is actually for and why our bodies make it in the first place. We’ll start with the growling sound our stomachs make when we’re in need of food.
Food, from a biological standpoint, is necessary to supply our body with the essential nutrients required to run all of its functions and processes. These include growing, repairing damage, digesting the food itself, keeping our heart beating, dealing with the bad stuff we ingest over the aforementioned weekend (and on and on), as well as the energy required for us to exist and perform all of our daily tasks and demands.
Food consists of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein). And depending on how processed it is, food might also contain chemicals, preservatives, colorants, etc., which is a discussion for another time. When broken down, macronutrients are a source of energy for the body (in addition to many other things) in the form of calories. To introduce a bit of physics into your day, one calorie is approximately the amount of energy required to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Don’t you feel so much smarter now?
So, What Is Fat?
Anyway, when the body has divvied out the energy needed to fulfill the requirements of all of our cells and their roles, the spare energy is stored for later on down the road for when we might need it – i.e. if we ever run out of food. For a number of us in North America, this isn’t necessarily our reality, so over time we create a larger and larger hoard of energy – all in the form of fat.
Now, the fat isn’t roaming around willy nilly under our skin. It’s stored in its tiniest molecular form, called a triglyceride, which is a chain of three carbon atoms (called glycerol) attached to three fatty acid molecules. A bunch of these together form a lipid droplet and are stored in one of the body’s fat cells called an adipocyte.
The more excess fat you create, the more fat cells the body has to make to house it all (versus just shoving more and more fat molecules into a set number of adipocytes). And as all of us know, we are all entirely different in where our body chooses to distribute those cells…