Why you will lose false fat
Donna didn’t look fat, at least not in the leggings and long sweater she was wearing as she entered my office. Her legs looked slender and fit, and her sweater hid the rest. But she felt fat.
`I’ve got a guy’s type of weight problem,’ she said as she sat down. She was animated and energetic, but obviously frustrated. ‘Women are supposed to collect fat in their hips and thighs — aren’t they? — but mine sticks right here.’ She patted her stomach. When she was sitting, I could see that it bulged, even under the thick sweater. ‘I hardly ever overeat,’ she said, `but since I’ve hit 40, I get no forgiveness from my body. It’s like my metabolism took early retirement. I take two bites and I can feel the fat cells around my waist start to expand. Literally. I pinch my love handles, and they’re thicker before I even get up from the table.’ She looked at me expectantly, as if I might not believe her. ‘My last doctor,’ she said with a sour look, ‘told me there’s no way that food could make me fat that fast. But I can feel it happening.’ Again, she searched my face for reassurance. She had an upbeat personality, but she was almost ready to give up. She ate carefully, exercised hard, and still carried 20 extra pounds.
`It’s not your imagination,’ I said. ‘That feeling of instant weight gain happens to a lot of people. But it’s not fat you’re gaining. It’s fluid retention and bloating, and you’re probably getting it from food reactions. A lot of the swelling and bloating from food reactions occurs directly in and around the gut.
That’s why you feel it in your midsection right away.’
`If it’s not fat,’ she said, ‘why doesn’t it leave as fast as it comes? I look like this almost all the time.’
`Your biochemistry won’t allow it to go away, because your body is trying to protect you. When you eat reactive foods, your body sees them as foreign substances, almost as poisons, and it goes all out to protect you. It can take two to three days to stop reacting to some foods.’
Tut it’s not like I eat junk. I’m an old-time you-are-what you-eat type. I was eating granola before they even had a name for it.’ She smiled, but I could see she felt cheated. For many years, she’d followed all the rules — but the rules had been wrong.
`People can become reactive to healthy foods,’ I said, ‘even granola, if you eat it all the time. Do you eat a lot of non-fat and artificially sweetened foods?’
`Now that my metabolism has slowed down, I’ve got to.’
`I hate to say it, but some of those “lite” foods may be doing you more harm than good. If you’re reactive to a food, it can be virtually calorie-free and still make you gain weight. Even diet soda can cause bloating and swelling.’ She looked surprised. Most people these days are so accustomed to counting calories and fat grams — the quantity of their food — that they forget about the importance of quality.
`I don’t think you’re eating too many calories,’ I said. ‘And I don’t think your age is the real problem. Your metabolism is slowing down just 5 per cent every decade, and that’s not enough to cause what you’re experiencing. I think you’ve just developed some food reactions over a long period of time. When you resolve them, you’ll lost your weight.’
Tut I was tested for allergies and they didn’t find any.’ `Did they explain that not all food reactions are allergies?’ I asked.
I wasn’t surprised. Most doctors don’t really understand food reactions. They usually have an all-or-nothing attitude; they think that you either have a classic food allergy, with hives and wheezing, or you have nothing at all.
I gave Donna a brief rundown on how food reactions work and how they cause bloating and swelling. I explained it out of respect for her. Some doctors think it’s acceptable to tell patients what to do, without telling them why, but I object to that approach. If patients are willing to change their lives by taking my advice, they deserve to know exactly why these changes will help.
As I gave all the details to Donna, she listened attentively and took notes. Over the next few weeks, she eliminated her false fat foods — one of which was oats, a primary ingredient in most granola — and dropped about 15 pounds.
Now I’ll give you the details on how food reactions get started. Then we’ll look at how they cause bloating and swelling.
If you’re going to make changes in your life, you deserve to know exactly what’s going on.
I’m sure some of this information will hit home. Often, when I tell patients about food reactions, they say, ‘That’s me you’re describing.’