Last week I dissected a human cadaver in an anatomy course. As the embalmed bodies revealed layers and textures, I peeled through assumptions and realizations. The fat tissue, or adipose, was particularly striking. We each have adipose especially in the web of fascia between the skin and muscle. Even our relatively lean cadaver held fat throughout his body: cushioning his knee cap, protecting the nerves in his groin, and hugging his kidneys.
As I felt this tissue, I wondered about our personal and collective preoccupation with “fighting fat.” As every cadaver reveals, we are all fat people. When “combating obesity” where are we aiming our weapons?
Women especially are cued to diet and exercise for a “fat free,” bikini body. We are expected to “target our trouble zones”: the belly, thighs, and butt that store the most adipose. If we recognize fat as a crucial to our anatomy, we’ll realize that we are battling against ourselves. This war isn’t making us thinner or healthier. It does sell endless surgeries, pills, and gizmos that supposedly “hack off stubborn fat.”
Instead of frantically trying to burn fat, let’s first understand adipose. As an endocrine organ it regulates our inner ecosystem within the environment. We live in a tyranny of thinness and surrounded by a warped food supply. To buy our hydrogenated, high fructose, genetically-modified groceries we are corralled past newsstands screaming about obesity panic, quick weight-loss schemes and celebrity beach body gossip. The “food” is as toxic as the obsession with perfect bodies.
I understand struggling in a round body. At different weights, I’ve hated my fat. I’ve made changes to be active and eat well but I never arrived at the ideal shape that every diet promises. Being at peace in my skin is a daily choice and challenge.
I propose a ceasefire on fat. Let’s call a truce by choosing nourishment beyond “fat free” labels and restrictive dieting. Let’s move beyond punishing workouts and calorie counts. Finding our homeostasis may result in more or less adipose. Luckily, we will never all look the same. The cadavers revealed a rich variety in the human genome and reminded me to enjoy this short life. So I refuse to dwell in a habitat of self loathing. Let’s live in our fullness.