A look at ‘where the fat goes’



In my fitness training practice, I am frequently asked questions by my clients that challenge my academic recall of the hours spent understanding the scientific side of my profession.

Trainers will often avoid an overly scientific explanations as a consideration to their clients, because while the information is engaging, the greater emphasis placed on the workout and movements themselves are results-oriented.

When one of my clients asked me the other day “where fat goes” when we lose it, the gong went off in my head about creating an easy-to-understand model that addresses this question.

To better understand this, let’s talk about weight loss with a visual of hundreds of marbles, that fill our entire body — or at least the majority of it. These marbles also go by the name “fat cells.” Those of us that fall into the healthier range of fat cells (“marbles”) have anywhere from 10-30 billion fat cells. Individuals who are obese have as many as 300 billion fat cells. So why do obese people have more fat cells?

The key piece of information is to simply view food as a form of energy that must be broken down and then used by the body. That food that isn’t used as energy, usually in the form of excess, is stored as new fat cells. When we lose weight, we don’t lose those fat cells; however, we do succeed in making those fat cells smaller. Using my marble analogy, there are still billions of marbles in the body, but they get smaller. Still remaining is the possibility of those fat cells re-expanding if they are not converting food energy into metabolic energy to fuel our body for exercise.

Commercials and “fad filming” (my word) on target or “spot” reduction of fatty areas of the body are simply not true. In other words, when we lose weight, it is proportionate over our entire body. Picture a 50-pound person achieving a 10-inch loss off their waist with the erroneous assumption that sit-ups would make their waist smaller. If that were the case, the remainder of their body would have the same dimensions from fat-based weight with the exception of their stomach circumference. Just as we gain weight over our entire body, including the face, stomach, backside, hips and even feet, we lose weight over our entire body, as well.

An additional misconception of fat loss is that it will change our shape. If a woman is pear-shaped, she will remain pear-shaped. This is a genetic trait. Equally, men whose bodies take on an apple shape, wouldn’t be able to change their shape, however reducing the size of that shape is entirely possible.

The fat that is used as energy creates heat, which is eliminated in the form of carbon dioxide and urine. The more fit an individual becomes, the more functional the body becomes at utilizing fat as a form of energy, although the simple math still prevails: burning or expending more calories than those you consume is the key to weight loss, shrinking the size of fat cells, and converting that fat into energy.

Bill Victor is owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at victorfitsystems@gmail.com and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.