• Question: Why is fat so hard to get rid of but so easy to put on?

    Asked by skywalker to Charlotte, Hannah, Majid, Richard, Sam on 9 Mar 2016.
    • Photo: Richard Sulston

      Richard Sulston answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      A long time ago before humans invented farming it was quite difficult to get reliable sources of food. We evolved to be able to store food as fat so that when there was lots of food we could store it and use it later in times of hunger and starvation. Because of this is was important that it was easy to put on fat and that it would only be used when it was really need. Now this is a bit of a problem because we are surrounded by food so we easily put on fat and never really need to burn it off.

    • Photo: Charlotte Green

      Charlotte Green answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      Just to add to what Richard has said. The brain also comes into play here too. The brain and you fat tissue (adipose tissue) actually talk to each other (pretty cool). In some cases the communication goes wrong and the brain essentially protects the fat making it harder to loose weight. But this can be overcome with exercise and healthy eating it just takes a bit of time to re-programme the brain.

    • Photo: Hannah Moir

      Hannah Moir answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      I also think the issue comes down to the fact our energy baalnce is off kilter. Most of us eat plenty to replenish the energy we use each day but lots of us eat way more than we burn off so people put on weight. It is also much harder to burn off the energy in fat cells especially if we keep consuming carbs for example. Its easier and quicker to get energy from carbs and takes time to get energy from fat cells so you have to do a long duration of regular exercise to use the fat as energy.

    • Photo: Majid Ahmed

      Majid Ahmed answered on 9 Mar 2016:

      I will also add that fat is mostly used as a store (backup) for the body to use when it needs to produce energy at short notice. So it is really only used when other sources of nutrients to produce energy (mainly sugars/carbohydrates) are not available for the cells within the body to use.

      Thinking about this in terms of evolution, this allowed our ancestors to hunt/gather food and store the excess energy as fat so that it could be used when food wasn’t available. So it was a big advantage for our bodies to be able to store fat for later use. But nowadays, at least in the developed world, food is usually easily available and we have at least three meals a day. Also, where previously humans had to hunt and gather food (which consumed a lot of energy), in this day and age, we can go to the supermarket and get pretty much everything we need, or pick up the telephone and order a take out or drive our cars through the drive-through at our local McDonalds (I think you get my point) which does not require a lot of energy. So our bodies are storing fat to be used for times when food isn’t available, which is not too often.

      An important side point is that its so easy and comforting to just eat and often foods high in fats and sugars are the most delicious (I am dreaming about buttery cookies and chocolate cake right now) so it is easy to get the fat into our bodies. On the other hand, it requires a lot of work to complete the exercise to get rid of that fat.

    • Photo: Sam Smith

      Sam Smith answered on 11 Mar 2016:

      Seems like Skywalker got lots of responses to this one. I won’t add anything further other than to say that I agree – fat is hard to get rid of and easy to put on!