MBQT – Soft and Hard Fat

MYTH BREAKING HARD FAT AND SOFT FAT

WHY IS SOME FAT HARD AND SOME FAT SOFT?

When we gain fat, we can store it in different places – and where it gets stored can change how hard or soft it feels.

The two places we store fat:

SUBCUTANEOUS FAT: The inch you can pinch

If you look at your skin, the outside layer you see is your epidermis. Under that is your dermis and then the third layer down is your subcutaneous layer. This is where you store some of your fat. And this third layer down, where we store fat, goes around your whole body – your belly, your arms, even the soles of your feet.  The fat that gets stored here is usually very soft and squishy.  Which is why we can pinch it. 

Now a little bit of subcutaneous fat is good for us, because it helps keep us warm and protects our organs from being damaged or crushed. But as we gain a little too much of this under the skin fat, we start to notice it more and it starts to change our appearance.  Because the fat cells expand and start pushing into our skin, making us a little wider, rounder and squishier.  

So subcutaneous fat is squishy stuff just under your skin. 

But then there’s the other kind.

VISCERAL FAT: The dangerous fat

Visceral fat lies deep inside your abdomen and surrounds your organs, like your liver, heart intestines, and kidney.  And as we gain and store fat here,the thicker it becomes.  The thicker it is, the harder it gets. So when  you have hard fat, it’s usually stored in your belly and packed tight around your organs (so you can’t really feel or grab it). 

Soft fat and hard fat, diagram of visceral fat and subcutaneous fat

 

Now sometimes, people can think that the fat in their subcutaneous layer is hard.  And here’s why:

If you have a lot of visceral fat deep in your abdomen, it could be pushing all of your organs up tight against your subcutaneous layer. And because it’s pushing against that layer, it makes that subcutaneous fat feel tight and hard, even though the actual fat there should be soft. It’s like wrapping a soft blanket around a brick – that blanket is going to feel hard if you press against it even though it should be soft. 

Now as you lose the visceral fat and the organs are less pressed to that layer, you start to notice the softness of the subcutaneous fat. 

So sometimes when people lose fat, it seems like the hard fat is turning soft.  When really, the soft stuff was there all along, it was just stretched and pushed by the hard stuff underneath. 

But scientists think there might be another reason that we sometimes feel our hard fat turns soft and squishy.

When we lose fat, our fat cells never really disappear. They just lose all the contents from the inside the cell and then shrivel up. But they always stay there. Researchers think that as you lose your visceral fat (the hard belly kind), those cell sizes actually shrink down very slowly. So even if the contents of the cell are gone, it might still be a pretty large cell. Instead of shriveling up like a raisin, it fills with fluid you’ve got floating in your body, making it feel squishy. But over time, those cells do shrink down and shrivel up and the fluid gets pushed out.

So these could be what’s happening, but it may be a bit up for debate in the science world.

Man pinching his belly fatWhat we do know is that visceral fat is very dangerous.  This kind of fat releases chemicals into your body that increase insulin resistance (leading to more fat), creates inflammation, and increases your chances of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

Where you store fat is mostly determined by your genetics, but you can fight those genetics through diet and exercise (and by reducing your stress) to greatly reduce that deadly fat.

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