Cellulite is a tricky villain to pin down, with complex ties to diet, hormones, the lymphatic system, and fat. Fat: It’s Not What You Think, by author Connie Leas, just might provide a hot lead for our intrepid cellulite analyst to investigate. The Cellulite Investigation is proud to submit the following testimony as supporting evidence in the ongoing case on cellulite.
ANALYST: Why did you decide to write a book about fat? Can you tell us a little about your research background?
Connie Leas: Before I retired, I was a technical writer, mostly for high-tech companies. I also have an academic background in science (BA, zoology, MS, entomology). It occurred to me that the media and some medical professionals bombard us with terms, such as triglycerides, saturated fat, and LDL, that we don’t really understand. My idea was to explain these terms and concepts as well as provide other information about fat. But really, I wrote the book because writing’s my hobby. I like doing the research and explaining technical information in a way that is easy for people to understand.
ANALYST: I love how you chose to start your book: Chapter 1, Good Things About Fat. We so rarely hear about fat in anything other than a disdainful tone. Why do you think fat has such a bad rap in our society?
Connie Leas: Fat got a bad rap after an influential doctor by the name of Ancel Keys came up with the idea that we should not eat saturated fat, based on research he did that later turned out to be bogus (he tossed out all data that didn’t agree with his hypothesis). He made the cover of Time Magazine and everyone got on the bandwagon, including the government. The anti-fat idea stuck and persists today, despite the fact that Keys admitted, before he died, that he was wrong.
ANALYST: The title of your book, Fat: It’s Not What You Think, implies there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding this hated fleshly element. What do you think is the most widely held misperception about fat? Did you have any preconceptions that changed during the course of your research?
Connie Leas: Probably the most widely held misperception about fat is that saturated fat—such as the predominate fat in butter and animal fats—is bad for you. It’s not. Besides, all fats are mixtures: A porterhouse steak, for instance, has as much of the fat that’s in olive oil as it does saturated fat. The major preconception that changed for me had to do with cholesterol—that it had to be below certain levels. I learned that this idea is nonsense and that millions of people are needlessly taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.
ANALYST: In chapter 4, you explain that scientists are now discovering that fat is the largest endocrine organ in the body. How does our fat affect our hormones? How does this change our understanding of fat itself?
Connie Leas: People used to think that fat was inert—just a storage facility. Now we know that fat is an active endocrine organ that produces around 25 hormones, at least one of which affects appetite. Because hormones are powerful agents, fat has a lot of influence on how our bodies function. Since the role of fat in producing hormones is a relatively new discovery, scientists don’t know the full impact of this system. [Image at left: Connie with her cow, Marion, circa 1974.]
ANALYST: The conventional view of cellulite is that it’s a genetic condition. In your book, you explain that the common “apple” and “pear” body shapes are influenced by genetics in part, but also by various hormones and enzyme levels. You also write about how food can turn some genes on and some genes off. In your opinion, when it comes to fat, how much of a role does genetics play? Conversely, how much is it affected by factors within our control, such as diet and exercise?
Connie Leas: I believe that genetics is the major factor in determining our body shapes and sizes, and that the role of diet and exercise is minimal. For years, I’ve watched my heftier fellow Jazzercisers. They exercise like crazy and follow Weight Watchers, but their shapes stay relatively the same year after year. But I’m a strong believer in exercise as a sort of cure-all and vital to good health. I also believe in low carbohydrate eating.
ANALYST: The experts claim that over 90 percent of women have cellulite these days. As a child of the 40s and 50s, do you see the number of cellulite victims on the rise in modern America? Or did the women from your generation suffer from cellulite at equally staggering rates?
Connie Leas: Boy—I have no idea if more people have cellulite now. I do remember knowing about it and that some people were upset with it, but I don’t think I knew anyone with it. I also don’t remember much of an obsession about it. I’m afraid I don’t really know if cellulite is on the rise or if things have changed over the years. I may have it now, for all I know.
ANALYST: And one more questions, just for fun. What did the woman who literally “wrote the book on Fat” eat for breakfast this morning?
Connie Leas: I had half a grapefruit, two slices of bacon, two eggs cooked in butter, and white bread toast (my special treat for Sunday morning).
Thank you, Connie, for sharing your expertise with us! And thanks for contributing to the case on cellulite!
*This post is a part of Prevention Not Prescriptions Tuesday hosted at The Kathleen Show and Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop. Connie’s book, Fat: It’s Not What You Think, is available on Amazon or at your local bookstore.
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