Earlier this week we celebrated the first day of summer. Back in April I pushed my #HappyHealthyApril Challenge as a way to combat the negative expectations that occur during preparation for summer (“Bikini Body”- I’m looking at you!). So now that we are in summer and are all theoretically running around in bathing suits, tank-tops, shorts and other skimpy things, I wanted to address fat. Specifically, body fat.
Let’s face it, fat has a bad rap. The media is obsessed with telling everyone that they want to be skinnier, thinner, more toned- you name it and whether we want to admit it or not, most of us have bought into it some way or another. Most of us want to have less fat but for more for aesthetic reasons than health reasons (I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve fallen weak to this notion as well).
So today I want to talk about fat- specifically body fat and why it’s so important!
Body fat contributes to so many of the body’s daily functions including hormone and body temperature regulation, prevents friction between organs and serves as a physical barrier to protect those organs as well as provides energy storage.
First and foremost fat can be divided into two different designations, essential and storage and its functions correspond with those designations.
Essential fat is located in the marrow of bones, in the heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines, muscles, and lipid-rich tissues throughout the central nervous system. Essential fat is- as the name implies- essential for normal bodily functions. According to the American Council on Exercise, essential body fat for women is between 10-13% whereas men are between 2-5%. It is believed that the reason why women have a higher essential body fat percentage is due to sex-specific fat for reproductive functions.
Storage fat, on the other hand accumulates in adipose tissue (aka, fat. It’s a loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes). It is located around internal organs as well as beneath the skin. It helps to physically protect the body and cushion internal organs as well as insulates to regulate and maintain body heat. It is also a source of fuel and energy for the body.
While the ranges for desired healthy body fat vary slightly from source to source and can also be influenced by age and athleticism, for women it is typically between 18-30% and for men it’s between 10-25%. Athletes usually have lower desired fat ranges specifically due to their sport and how their body composition best corresponds with it. That being said, they are typically on the lower lower body fat range (there are exceptions, however). Models (fitness, fashion and otherwise) are also on the lower end of things and are sometimes much closer to only having the essential body fat.
Now I’m not saying that models or athletes are all necessarily unhealthy but the point I want to make is that medically accepted ranges of body fat are often much higher than those we aspire to and that both essential and storage fat have important purposes and functions within our lives. Going too low or two high in body fat can both have negative effects on our lives and in the end, our health should be a much more important factor on our goals than our appearance.
Now go out there, love your body, love this summer and love your life! #LoveMySizeLoveMyLife