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Fat Cells Used to Be Our Friends, Now They’re Enemies

Fat Cells Used to Be Our Friends, Now They’re Enemies

Fat cells and muscle cells might look nearly the same from the outside. They’re both part of your body and just below your skin. They both even can be clenched with your fingers. The muscles might be a little bit harder to clench – but this isn’t too much of a difference, am I right?

Yet, it is. I remember back when I first started working out, with an obsolete, rusty barbell at my friends place. I was sixteen years old. Back then I told my friend: “I don’t want to get any skinnier. I just want to convert my fat cells into muscle cells!” I was being serious. Me and my friend both thought it was a reasonable goal. It wasn’t.

I’ve wasted countless of hours on trying to build muscle mass while simultaneously losing fat. It wasn’t worth it. Here’s the unparalleled reason why.

Fat Cells: Old Friends – New Enemies

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    Fat cells used to be our friends. Back in the days of our ancestors, when food were scarce, we had to be able to massively store energy. Nobody in the tribe knew when we had to go weeks without food. That’s the reason why our body is inclined to store fat and minimize muscle growth. Our body is conditioned to be an energy storage machine and not an energy waster.

    Nowadays fat cells are our enemies. Most people want to lose a couple of pounds of fat. Not only because obesity, due to our sedentary behaviour and our eating choices, is contributing to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and artheriosclerosis. But also because being overweight resonates neither with our feminine nor masculine ideal of beauty.

    How To: Fat Cell

      The fat cell is divided into multiple parts. There is the purple nucleus, the green mitochondria, the blue Golgi apparatus and the yellow, gigantic, fat storage unit. The last part is what makes the cell full of lipid unique. The fat cells are your body’s energy storage.

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      Fat cells participate in hypertrophy. Which means they increase their fat storage until they can’t physically increase in size anymore. Then your body creates more fat cells. You want to keep the amount of fat cells close to the optimum in your body. Because the fat cells in your body are yours to keep for a lifetime. The storage inside your fat cells can be lost. But fat cells, after they’ve been created, immediately get replaced after their death.

      Even worse: Fat cells produce a protein, that inhibits your body from breaking down the fat storage. Your organism creates a set point. This means that once you’ve been overweight it’s far easier to reset into your old, unhealthy habits again. That’s the reason why 40% of obese children become obese adults.[1]

      If we apply this knowledge to dieting, we know that it’s crucial for you to keep your diet sustainable. Because if your diet isn’t, your body is more than happy to keep adding the lost fat again to your organism. This is called the Yo-Yo effect, which has been shown to increase all-cause mortality.[2]

      Fat cells also have other crucial factors. They’re turning androgens into estrogens. They’re contributing to the production of estradiol. This is not only bad for men, as we want to be full of testosterone. But this is also bad for women, as it’s a major risk factor of infertility.[3]

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      How To: Muscle Cell

        Muscle cells look quite differently than fat cells. They’re also quite different in their functioning. Muscle cells are the individual contractile units within a muscle. A muscle in your body, like your biceps, contains hundreds of thousands of muscle fibers.

        The contraction of your skeletal muscle fibers (muscle fibers are a synonym to muscle cells) lead to a movement in your joints. The main task of your muscles is to move your body. In comparison to fat cells, muscles don’t store energy, they need energy for their functioning.

        When muscle cells are contracting, they’re releasing myokines.[4] This is the way muscle fibers communicate with the rest of your body. Myokines affect most organs, but are famous for their interaction with the glucose and fat metabolism. Which means the muscles are communicating with your liver and your fat cells, to release glucose and fats in the blood stream. This is energy for the muscle cells to use. This effect of the myokine regulates glucose and lipid metabolism and therefore counteracts inflammation. This may help slow down aging.[5]

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        The Starting Point

        The anatomy and the function of fat- and muscle cells are vastly different. Due to this reason, it’s physically impossible to convert fat cells into muscle cells.

        Don’t waste your time on improving both. Trust me, I’ve tried this before. I was following a rock hard diet, I maximized my protein intake (don’t do this!) and trained up to 10 days a week. I didn’t see results. Sustainability is the holy grail. Eat healthier every single day and don’t go into a massive calorie deficit.

        If you’re just starting out and aiming for a better body, do this: Eat one extra portion of vegetables for dinner and go for a 10-minute walk afterwards. This is easily doable – and that’s a huge advantage. The average gym-goer quits after 3 months. The reason: He didn’t build a fundament of healthy habits.

        Don’t have enough time to go for a walk and cook? No excuses. The average American watches more than 4.5 hours of television a day.[6] You have to create healthier habits.

        If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life. – Tony Robbins

        Once you’ve got into a habit of doing this, you can slowly try to increase the volume. This will make the whole journey of eating healthier and exercising a voluntary, fun decision. If you’ve got the financial means, you can hire a competent personal trainer or an online coach. The accountability, knowledge and guidance of the trainer will vastly speed up the process.

        Reference

        [1] NCBI: Obesity in Children
        [2] NCBI: Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling.
        [3] Green BB, Weiss NB, Daling JR: Risk of ovulatory infertility in relation to body weight. Fertil Steril 50:721, 1988
        [4] NCBI: Skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ: PGC-1α, myokines and exercise
        [5] NCBI: Skeletal muscle: an endocrine organ
        [6] Business Insider: The average American watches so much TV it’s almost a full-time job

        More by this author

        Florian Wüest

        Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

        Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss The Truth Behind Rapid Weight Loss and the Best Way to Shed Pounds How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss? How Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Keeps Hunger at Bay While Plant Based The Biggest Myth Debunked: The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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        Last Updated on July 10, 2020

        How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

        How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

        We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

        We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

        So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

        Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

        What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

        Boundaries are limits

        —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

        Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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        Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

        Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

        Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

        How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

        Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

        1. Self-Awareness Comes First

        Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

        You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

        To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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        You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

        • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
        • When do you feel disrespected?
        • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
        • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
        • When do you want to be alone?
        • How much space do you need?

        You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

        2. Clear Communication Is Essential

        Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

        Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

        3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

        Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

        That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

        Sample language:

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        • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
        • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
        • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
        • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
        • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
        • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
        • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

        Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

        4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

        Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

        Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

        Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

        We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

        It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

        It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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        Final Thoughts

        Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

        Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

        Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

        The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

        Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

        Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

        They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

        Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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