Episode 114: “The Secret Life Of Fat” With Dr. Sylvia Tara

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Thanks for joining us for episode 114 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are excited to be interviewing Dr. Sylvia Tara!Tara S, Author Photo, Credit to Joshua Michael Shelton

Dr. Sylvia Tara is the author of the book The Secret Life of Fat. Dr. Tara holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was a consultant with McKinsey & Company and has worked with the world’s largest biotechnology companies. She lives in the Los Angeles area.

When we think about body fat, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the areas of our bodies that we would like to shrink and how difficult it can be to do so. But did you know that body fat is much more than a storage site that contains evidence of eating too much and exercising too little?  This episode is a must for anyone open to a new understanding and appreciation of fat and the differing proportions of it on people’s bodies.

Today Dr. Tara dives into the science of fat and shares the many surprising roles that fat plays in the body. You’ll come away with insight into why people gain fat differently and why it can be so difficult to lose.  As we discuss factors involved in body fat regulation such as genetics, gender, and hormones, you’ll also learn about the microbiome’s effect on obesity and hear specific tactics women can use to approach weight loss.

Here are some of the questions we discussed with Dr. Sylvia Tara:

  • How did you get into the world of weight regulation, obesity, and the very interesting topic of fat?
  • Can you explain how fat is an endocrine organ?
  • What is your opinion on a body weight set point?
  • What factors play a role in our body’s tendency to gain weight?
  • What tactics do you recommend that women incorporate to help address the difference in the way men and women gain and lose weight?
  • Can you tell us a little bit about the microbiome and weight gain?


Links Discussed:


Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to episode 114 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my cohost Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody!

Kelsey: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence-based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com, and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

We’ve got a great guest on our show today who’s going to share her insight into why our bodies store fat, why fat is so hard to lose, and she’ll be busting some common myths around body fat. This is going to be a very interesting episode and we’re glad to have the opportunity to chat about this topic.

We had some technical difficulties with this episode, so the audio quality is not quite up to our usual standards. But we hope you’ll look past the unfortunate sound quality and still listen to this great interview.

Laura: I do believe that the sound quality may have been my fault. It’s hard to tell, but I was running the backup audio and somehow it didn’t get muted. That’s the theory. Thanks guys if you are still going to listen it because like Kelsey said, it’s a great interview.

If you’re enjoying the show, sound quality aside, subscribe on iTunes so that way you never miss an episode. While you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well! And remember, we always want to be answering your question, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health-related question that we can answer or suggest a guest you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Before we get into the interview, here’s a quick word from our sponsor:

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Kelsey: Welcome back everybody! We’re very excited to have with us today Dr. Sylvia Tara, the author of the book The Secret Life of Fat. Dr. Tara holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She was a consultant with McKinsey & Company and has worked with the world’s largest biotechnology companies. She lives in the Los Angeles area. Welcome Dr. Tara!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Thank you, great to be here.

Kelsey: So good to have you. I’d love to hear a little bit about how you got into this whole world of weight regulation, and obesity, and just that whole idea of fat as kind of this very interesting topic. Tell us a little bit about your journey.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I had a lot of trouble with fat myself. I gain weight very easily and I have since I was a child. It felt like everyone around me could eat what they want and stay thin, and I really couldn’t eat much of anything and be thin. Even though it seemed like normal diet, not that many calories, 1,600 calories, I could actually get fat. I went on a number of diets, I tried different things, I worked with personal trainers. Some people would lose a lot of weight on these things, people who were dieting with me, and then I would lose a few pounds.

I finally just got very frustrated with this issue and I thought I’m a scientist and if anyone could understand fat, I can. I went on a journey to understand everything there is to know about fat, a five year mission where I read over a thousand articles about fat. I talked to over 50 thought leaders around the world about the research on fat. But what I was finding out was so astounding, so surprising that I thought I have to capture this in a book and tell people what I’m learning. The Secret Life of Fat is that book.

The most interesting things I found out are that fat is not just fat. It’s actually not just a reserve of calories. It’s doing so much more in your body and it’s actually an endocrine organ. Researches have known this for some time. But the public, this news isn’t really reaching the public. Writing the Secret Life of Fat was part of that journey for me of just taking everything I had learned about fat and communicating it to people and letting them know why it’s so hard to lose and why individuals lose, and gain, and store fat at different rates. There’s genetic component. There’s even viruses, bacteria play a role. Hormones play a role, age and gender do.

If someone is like me where they feel like they gain easily, they can’t understand it, they go on diets, they work a little bit, but not the way they do for other people, this is actually a really good book to read because it explains why and it explains what you have to do if you do want to manage your fat.

Kelsey: Great, amazing! You just mentioned that you discovered that fat is an endocrine organ. Can you tell some of our audience maybe who don’t really know what that means, what that actually means for them and what that means if fat is doing something other than just kind of being there?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Fat is actually producing hormones that your body depends on. Just like our adrenal gland or pituitary gland, it’s part of the endocrine system. They’re both producing hormones that circulate throughout our bodies and have vast effects, so is our fat. Fat produces really quite a few hormones. Adiponectin is one, leptin is one that we’ll talk about. It even produces estrogen. In fact older women after they go through menopause, they depend on their fat for estrogen.

In addition to storing calories, which is a very big function for fat, it also is producing hormones, it’s interacting with different organs and tissues in our body. For example, our brain size is linked to fat. When people get gravely low fat, like people with anorexia nervosa, they actually start to lose some brain volume. If people’s fat is defective, it’s not producing the hormones it’s supposed to produce through some genetic issue or other issue, they start to have problems too.

For example, one hormone, leptin, that’s a hormone that fat produces, it’s directly linked to our appetite. So when we lose fat, we lose leptin. What that does is it drives our appetite through the roof because leptin controls appetite. When we normally have sufficient amounts of it, we’re fine and we’re overall satiated. Of course you get hungry during meal times and things like that, but overall we’re not overly aggressive or eager about food. But when we lose fat, say 10% of our body or more, our leptin levels really go down and that causes an overall drive to eat.

I do give the example of The Secret Life of Fat of one young girl named Lela and she had defective fat. She had a genetic defect where her fat wasn’t producing leptin. She had an enormous drive to eat. She couldn’t stop eating. Her parents to blame for this for overfeeding her, she was blamed for this. Nobody understood her problem. Finally it turned out that they did actually a test just to see if she had some of these deficiencies because they were researching this in mice. They found that yes, she’s not producing leptin. This is why she has this huge drive to eat. It’s not a normal drive where you’re just hungry all the time. She would actually go through the trash looking for food if her parents wouldn’t give it to her.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: She got caught breaking into a freezer to eat raw frozen fish. I mean it was this insatiable drive she couldn’t stop that actually put her in the hospital at one point to control her eating. She just stopped gaining so quickly, but she was still gaining.

The other thing that leptin does is that it decreases metabolism when it goes down. We’re normal, we’re eating, our appetite is overall pretty good, but our metabolism is pretty high too. When we are low in leptin after we’ve lost some body fat, we have a serious to eat and our metabolism is lower, 25% lower during exercise and about 10% lower during rest periods.

If you lost some fat, you actually have to eat less to maintain the same weight as someone who is naturally at that low weight to begin with. For example, if somebody is 150 pounds naturally, but someone was 170 and they lost 20 pounds to get to 150 pounds, then the person who’s lost that weight to get to 150 pounds has to eat about 22% fewer calories or 450 calories or so less than that person who is naturally at that weight to maintain that low weight.

There’s all these tricks and secrets around fat that your really have to know about if you want to maintain weight loss. A lot of it really explained my problem to me. I understood why I have to try harder and why certain diets aren’t working for me versus other people. It’s because yo-yo dieting, it plays a toll on what you have to do and how hard you have to try dieting going forward.

Kelsey: That brings a question up for me. This idea of a body weight set point, what do you think about that?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I think that’s right. That’s what this is, is that there’s this set point. I don’t know how long it lasts. I think it varies for people. But I know when you do lose fat right away, you do have to try harder and you are a little hungrier all the time. I can tell you from my own experience that it lasts for a while. It lasts for at least a year for me, possibly more.

I don’t think it’s impossible to get to a different weight. I think people just have to be really patient with it. It really does take years before your body adjusts to it and gets settled at the new set point. I think once I did, actually there’s benefits to it. Even though it was really hard to lose weight, I had to eat less, I had to exercise more, I had to try much harder at it, after about a year or so, I kind of reached it. The good side of that is my body didn’t want to gain weight either. It reached a new set point. When Christmas time came around the second time, I actually didn’t gain that much weight even though I went off my diet here and there. There’s a good side and bad side to having a set point, but you do have to work hard to break through and lose weight given your set point.

Kelsey: Right. Basically if you gain weight, say you’re a naturally 150 pound person as your example you were saying before, then you gain weight up to 170 pounds, you essentially are going to have to try very hard to get to 150 again. But once you get there and once you create that as the new set point, it becomes obviously easier to maintain that. Is that kind of what you’re saying?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I think so, yeah. It might not be as easy as a person who was naturally at that weight to begin with.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: My guess is that person is always going to be able to eat a little bit more, but your hunger and your cravings, things like that start to come in line They’re not so bad anymore. If you can stick with it, and this is what people don’t realize I think is that you have to stick with it than longer than you think. A lot of people, if you’re not aware of that you get frustrated, you come off your diet. It’s not working, I’m too hungry, it’s too hard. Stay with it for at least a year and things will start shaping differently. You’ll stop being so hungry, you’ll respond to exercise a little bit better too. It’ll just become more natural. And then your body doesn’t want to really gain either. You’re at a new plateau there.

Even during my diets I would reach certain plateaus where you get set points along the way. That would happen, I don’t know, maybe every five to six pounds where I had to try really hard again to break that plateau. There was like a mini set points along the way.

Kelsey: Gotcha.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Just don’t despair with it. It is harder than people think to lose weight in some permanent way, but you can do it. You just have to really go at it. You have to be really determined. It’s worth it in the end. You feel like you got control of it. You get smart about your fat is really the key thing to do so that you know how to manage it.

Kelsey: Got it. That whole idea of set point and leptin, those are things that are playing a role in somebody gaining body fat or just how our bodies lose weight. I’d be curious to know what other factors you think play a role in our body’s tendency to gain weight.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: There’s so many of them. In fact the whole middle part of my book is about the weird ways we gain weight that people don’t really think about. Usually when we get heavy people assume it’s gluttony and sloth, people are overeating and they’re not exercising. It’s certainly a component for a lot of people, but there are other ways that even if you feel like you’re eating pretty normally, but you’re getting fat, there are lots of reasons that might be.

One of them is genetics. I do write about genetics. There’s even population of people, they gain weight easily on a Western diet. I talk about the Pima Indians, which is a story that’s been told where they were American Indians settling around Arizona. They were pretty normal weight until westerners started coming through for the gold rush and just throughout history. They started adopting more of a Western lifestyle where it was a little less exercise, eating different foods now. And they started becoming obese. But the Caucasians around them were eating this same diet, largely had the same lifestyle, and they weren’t becoming obese. When they compared them to the same Pima Indians in Mexico, this group had diverged and some groups went to Mexico, the group in Mexico largely had the same ancestral life they did when there were more active and they were eating more natural foods and farming. And they were thin.

We all come in from different racial backgrounds and different genetic profiles. A normal diet of plenty of carbs or even a certain amount, it doesn’t work for everyone. There’s really nothing, something like a normal diet. There’s no one size fits all. Even the Food Guidelines that we have, it works for some people, not for others. I couldn’t eat as much as what the Food Guidelines tell me. I would really be obese. I have to modulate. It’s not right.

I think that’s where we’re going with things is that there’s going to be individualized diets. It’s not one diet fits all. You have to really understand your body type and then modulate a diet that works for you. In addition to genetics, you have to think about gender. I have a whole chapter on the difference between women and men. Women just preferentially gain weight compared to men. It’s not a surprise I’d say for most women, they realize that.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I had to find the reasons why. Girl babies, even at the time of birth, they have more fat than boy babies. We are predisposed to put it on, we put it on at higher rates. The interesting thing is women actually burn more fat than men, like say during a period of fast, an overnight fast, or while exercising. But for all the other times of the day, we are storing fat at a higher rate. We respond differently to exercise. We get hungrier after exercise compared to men.

It’s all these things that you have to understand. Once you understand, it’s like knowledge is power. You can then figure out this is probably what’s happening and this is what I have to do with it. Genetics, and not only genetics, but bacteria and viruses play a role here. Then hormones is something important to think about too that as we age, our fat busting hormones like progesterone, growth hormone, estrogen, they start to decline and then you naturally put on weight because you’re not burning the same amount of fats as you were when you were young. That requires a little bit more exercise and it requires eating less. We just change, our bodies change with time and we have to change with them as well.

And then there’s the whole issue of the microbiome, bacteria in the gut, viruses that can cause fat. A lot of stuff in the middle section of the book. Again, it’s what I had to know because I do, I gain weight very easily. People are usually kind of surprised that I eat as little as I do, but we’re not all the same. My guess is that there’s a genetic component for me, age, in my 40s, and being a female, they all really played into giving me this kind of composition where I just gain weight quickly. But then after I did the research, I did understand what to do and I was able to control it. I do have to work harder at it, but at least I know that now, so I’m not feeling like I’m failing on a diet. I know what I have to do.

Kelsey: Just to go back to that idea of the difference between men and women for a second, if you‘re a woman and you’re trying to lose weight and you know inherently that the cards are kind of stacked against you in a way, what tactics do you recommend that women incorporate to help kind of get the cards in their favor again?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I think the first thing you have to do is you have to understand you’re meant to be a little heavier. Unless it’s easy for you to do this, don’t try to be one of these hard bodies like you see on the cover of “Fitness Magazine” or whatever, any of these women’s magazines that always have these six pack abs or some very lean women in a bikini. I actually think these models come from Scandinavia, they come from certain parts of the world where it’s not that hard to look that way. I’ve traveled to these places and they can eat plentifully. You are individual and you don’t have to be that thin to be healthy.

First of all, psychologically get yourself to a place where some progress is good, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I do write a whole chapter on the psychology of losing weight also. One thing I learned is that women are more given to something called dichotomous thinking. That’s where if you don’t get an A, say you get a B instead as a grade, you feel like you failed. If you’re not perfect, or if something’s not quite right, you feel like you failed and then you give up all together. Even interviewing personal trainers that work with people all the time, they mention this.

Women have a different response to food. It means something more emotional to them and they respond different to when they’re trying exercise and lose weight. If they go off and they eat something they weren’t supposed to, or if they don’t have a perfect day, they want to give up more and they take it harder on themselves. They feel more guilt about it.

That kind of thinking actually leads to a lot of failure in itself. People who have that thinking give in to more depression, eating disorders, addiction, all kinds of things. Get out of that way of thinking. A lot of the good weight loss coaches I interviewed for the book, they say that’s one of the things they work on with their patients a lot is that when they come off their diet, they just coach them back on.

We all come off the diet. In fact, you should. There’s another part of the book where I talk about the need to actually give yourself a break once and a while. Once you do, you just have to get back on very quickly and understand you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to look perfect. Any progress is good. So that’s one part for women.

The other part is that we do respond to exercise differently. We do burn more fat during this time when we’re exercising compared to men who are using more glycogen for energy. But when we actually burn off quite a few calories, say 600 calories or more, like a strong bout of exercise, our ghrelin level goes up. ghrelin is a hormone released from the stomach that causes hunger. Women have 33% more ghrelin after exercise compared to men, so we get hungrier after exercise. Even after we eat, we still have 25% more ghrelin. We have a long lasting hunger response to exercise.

Actually more moderate exercise might be better for women. Don’t overdo it really fast because it is very hard to control that hunger spike. Start off slowly. Add exercise in when you can take it, when you feel like your regimen is down pat, you’ve got your discipline around your eating, and then you add the exercise in slowly so you can control the response to it.

And then even during menstrual periods, women…it’s funny, this has now been scientifically studied…but we crave sweets during our periods. And it’s because the hormone changes actually cause a lot of the glucose which has to be cleared from our blood pretty quickly after we eat, so we have cravings to replenish them more around our periods. Also best not to start a diet right before your period. It’s harder to control and you want to have that regimen and discipline down pat pretty good.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Because women store fat more readily than men, I think at 2 to 3 times a rate compared to men, try to do one of these diets where you don’t eat too much at one time. Eat less every time because we are storing it faster so anything that’s extra, women will surely put it away in their fat compared to men. They’ll just circulate more or they’ll pass more, but women will store it. What it comes down to is less eating during any meal time, smaller meals overall perhaps a little bit more frequently, don’t over exercise, and then don’t start a diet during a period. And then also just behaviorally, just make sure you give yourself a break. Don’t over penalize yourself it you do go off your diet, which everyone does from time to time.

Kelsey: I think that’s such an important point, both that and that idea of dichotomous thinking and just that women are meant to be a little bit heavier. Especially depending on maybe your genetic background as well, you may not be meant to be stick skinny your whole life. I think that’s really important to realize, and just recognize, and not feel like you need to look a certain way and just listen to what your body is telling you.

Yes, you could be at a certain set point right now and you can potentially get that a little bit lower by using some of the tactics we’re talking about. However, at the end of the day if your body is at a certain point and that is easy for you to maintain and that’s within a healthy weight range, I think that’s something that both Laura and I often talk to our clients about just that you may not need to lose weight and you don’t need to be this version of a body that you see in magazines and on TV to be healthy. I think that’s something very important to recognize and just appreciate about your body as a woman.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: That’s a great summation. I think women are just bombarded the most with different images of how you’re supposed to look, and how you’re supposed to be, and what makes a successful female. It sells a lot of books, it sells a lot of magazines. Everyone wants it. And if you can sell people something that why want, they can’t quite attain, they’ll keep on buying it. Once they obtain it, they don’t need you anymore.

It’s very hard and I think women have to be a little bit tough about this and be little bit more I guess just defensive of their own selves and their bodies. We are what we are and you don’t have to be perfect. I write also about being fit but fat, and that’s also possible. Being healthy is the main thing, so don’t worry about perfection and don’t worry about every image you’re ever sent.

I even write about some of the celebrities that are held up as this great body and great figure. What they do to get there is actually a lot harder than what you might think. I write about Patricia Heaton. She’s often talked about just full days of fasting just having water all day because she also gains weight easily. Just too look what we call normal, she has to work enormously for that. Cindy Crawford, the same. There’s a lot of celebrities when they get honest for a moment talk about what they really do, you might not want to do those things. It’s really hard. They’re working out a lot, they’re eating very little. Some of these models will dip a cotton ball in orange juice just to fill their stomach because they’re not eating.

Kelsey: Gosh!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: The truth of how people get there, it’s not all just oh yeah, I just don’t gain weight and I just look like this naturally. It’s really hard and we have normal lives. Real women have children, they work. I couldn’t do a life like that.  Just be forgiving of yourself and just know that everyone’s different.

You can be a little bit heavy and be healthy. That’s all around where your fat is stored. The fat that’s under our skin is subcutaneous fat. The fat underneath the stomach wall is visceral fat. It’s the visceral fat that really is blamed to diabetes type 2 and heart disease and all these issues that we have. If you can move that fat to other areas, to your buttock or your leg area away from your visceral area, you can actually be healthy.

I write about sumo wrestlers that do just that. We know that they’re obese, but another trick about fat is it releases a hormone called adiponectin. Adiponectin actually helps move fat out of your blood and into subcutaneous tissue where it belongs, that tissue away from your visceral area. Although they’re really obese, sumos exercise 6 to 7 hours a day and that actually helps promote the release of adiponectin. They actually don’t have visceral fat. It’s all underneath their skin. That big belly fat that they have, it’s not underneath the stomach wall. They’re surprisingly healthy, they’re metabolically healthy. When they come off that regimen and they get back to normal life, they quickly become metabolically unhealthy because they’re not exercising that much anymore.

Just know that even if you are 10 pounds overweight, it’s okay. It’s not the end. You can still be healthy. Just make sure you’re exercising quite a bit and you’re eating healthy food too.

Kelsey: Yeah, I love that. I think that’s great for people to hear because I love that idea that you don’t have to be extremely skinny to be healthy. I think that those two things are often equated, skinny equals healthy, but not necessarily true as you just described and it can lead people to do kind of these extreme things like you were talking about with it being cotton balls in orange juice. To me, I would argue that that sort of behavior is unhealthy. I mean eating that low calorie, I would consider it a stressor on the body and it’s probably not a great thing to be doing over a long period of time either. Would you agree with that?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Completely! I don’t think women are designed to be that thin the way we show them in magazines. Like I said, women are designed to have more fat than men, to be a little bit softer than men. Part of that is because our bodies are keeping us healthy.

I write about genetics in the book. There’s this one gene, it’s called IRS1 and some people have a certain mutation of it. They actually are thinner, but they’re not as healthy. There’s another group with a different variation of it and they have more fat, but what they find is they’re more healthy. What’s happening is their bodies are really efficient at storing away fats out of their blood so their bodies are constantly clearing out their blood of triglycerides, glucose, extra things and it’s storing in their fat. Although they have more fat, they are actually healthier people.

Women, like I talked about, we’re more efficient fat stores so our body is cleaning out our blood more, it’s storing fat. We’re fatter, but we’re actually a little bit healthier than men. I interview a doctor at the Mayo Clinic and he says he tells this to his patients that although men often think they’re doing real well, they’re thin. As we get older, they have more heart disease than we do. They have more issues because of these triglycerides. Women don’t have the same because their body has always been clearing out fat.

Take some solace in that that although we’re a little softer, we tend to be healthier. It’s not a bad thing to be softer. It’s actually a good thing. It means that our bodies are efficiently storing away things that would be in our blood and depositing in our arteries, depositing in other areas. We’re putting it into subcutaneous fat.

Kelsey: Interesting!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Take some solace. Everyone should just take comfort. Every woman should take some comfort. Although we gain easier, there’s a reason for it. It’s actually keeping us healthier.

Kelsey: Right. That’s great to know. I want to go back for a second to one of the other factors that you mentioned when it comes to weight gain which was the microbiome. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: We all have bacteria in our gut. That’s the area of our body that has more bacteria than any place else. Depending on your distribution of bacteria, you’ll either have bacteria that can really harvest calories out of food. They really help absorb our food and they convert it to glucose, which then turns into energy for the body and it can get stored as fat if eat more than we need at any given time. There’s some bacteria that are more resistant to that. They allow more food to pass out of our gut and pass as waste. Depending on your distribution of bacteria, you could be getting more or less calories out of your food.

The good news about that is that we can change our microbiome. What they noticed is people who have more fruits and vegetables, more fibrous foods, they tend to have a bacteria that’s tilted more with those bacteria that allow food to pass. And they do, they tend to have more waste. People who eat a lot of high carb food, they have a different set of bacteria. They have more of that bacteria that extracts more calories out of food and distributes it to the body as glucose.

It takes a long time to change your microbiome. It’s not instant, but things like eating prebiotics, artichokes, legumes, things like that and eating more salads actually helps not only helps you get less pure calories, it also tilts your microbiome to one that won’t absorb as much out of your food. You’ll pass more as waste.

I know for me at least what I learned is that a big salad in the middle of the day is almost my staple of dieting. It fills you so when you have a lot of fibrous food, there’s stretch receptors in your stomach and the more you stretch it, you actually have less hunger from that. The fiber will pass more, the microbiome will tilt a little differently, it’s a little bit more nutritious. There’s so many reasons.  For me at least, that became a staple of my diet after I got educated about that is more fibrous foods and less carb food.  Of course for insulin too, you don’t want to have a lot of carb so much….your hormones too when you eat more natural and more healthy.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: In addition to the bacteria, there are viruses. I do write about viruses that they seem to cause more fat. There’s AD36 virus that I talk about which is actually contagious. They’re not quite sure how yet, how people get it. But people who have this virus, they have double the risk of obesity.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I write about one man named Randy who contracted this virus, it was some time in his teen years. He just struggled with weight. He ended up gaining weight very easily, had really hard time. He felt hungry all the time and got to the point where he was about 350 at one point. It wasn’t until he got to the University of Wisconsin where they were studying this virus that they gave him this test that he learned that he had this virus, he leaned what it does.

People who have the virus, actually they store more glucose. They create more fat molecules and they create more fat cells. In a way it’s like people who clear their bodies more of glucose and fats and they store it more as fat. They tend to just get heavier. I know Randy has to eat much less than he used to before. He’s about over 6 feet, he’s in his 60s now, and he runs every day and eats about 1,200 calories a day. But he’s thin. He finally realized what it takes for his body to lose weight and he calls himself not part of the eating world. But he just has to eat a lot less than everyone around him. But at least he knows that now. Even though that might sound like a really terrible ending, he got control of it. It wasn’t until he got educated about his fats that he was able to do that.

Kelsey: Interesting. I’ve written a little bit about at least the microbiome, the bacteria in the large intestine, and how they play a role in obesity. One of the things that I thought was really interesting about that, which I’m not sure if you’ve done any research on this part of it, but basically if you have a dysbiotic microbiome so you’ve got too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria, essentially you have a lot of bacteria that produce lipopolysaccharides, which are heavily inflammatory. And then you get leaky gut because of those in the gut and then the LPS goes into the rest of your bloodstream, through the rest of your body, creates inflammation elsewhere. The research is showing that that may be a really important factor in why dysbiotic flora in the microbiome can really lead to obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: That’s great and I’ve read the same things too. In your research, do you find also that eating the right foods changes that microbiome overtime and people can fix that problem a little bit?

Kelsey: Yeah, absolutely. I think also it’s important to treat any sort of course parasites, or pathogens, or things like that. But if you just have low good bacteria for example, doing exactly what you were just saying like eating more prebiotics or supplementing with prebiotics, that’s going to go a long way to balancing out your microbiome and getting you to have much lower levels of those really inflammatory particles.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: There’s so much we’re learning now. I think medicine throughout, we treat with drugs, we treat with basic advice like exercise and eat less, but there’s just a myriad of ways that people gain weight. I think we’re starting to get smarter about it, but I feel like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg with this that there’s so much science there. Hopefully my book is I think is a start to brining it all together, but I just think it’s going to get so much better with this.

We’re also learning about time, the time that we eat makes a difference like intermittent fasts where people restrict their eating to certain times of the day like a 12 hour period or so, or actually less, about an 8 hour period. You can eat the same amount of calories in that period, but as long as you have that period of fasting, people can lose weight. It has to do with hormones, it has to do with a number of things. I don’t even know if we’re completely sure why that is.

But we’re getting smarter. It just feels like a lot of these things are coming out. What’s hard to do though is pick the science from the fads. There’s a lot of fads out there, too. I read some of these and I don’t what the science is behind it all. It doesn’t seem to make sense. That’s what’s hard for the consumer I think is figuring out whether there’s real science behind it versus this is just another fad.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I think read from a reputable source, start with that. But we really are just learning more. There’s a lot of interesting research coming out from the Weizmann in Israel where they’re testing blood sugar responses in patients. They’ll have people eat various foods like a muffin, alcohol, chocolate, different things, and they’re seeing that not everyone has the same response to it. Some people can eat say chocolate and that their blood sugar doesn’t spike at all. They have almost no reaction to it. Other people they’ll have a big spike in their blood sugar and insulin levels. Some people can eat these sweets and eat junk food and stuff and they’re actually quite okay. Other people, their bodies are really responding and creating an insulin spike and storing away more fat, etc.

We really are different and part of that is genetics, part of it is probably hormones, and who knows what. We’re just starting to understand how different people are. Some of these labels I have really just come away from fat slob or someone is just lazy. I don’t assume things anymore. The answer right now, the solution to it, it is still diet and exercise right now just because we’re just still learning and so we still have the kind of rote ways we handle it which is changing what you eat, exercising more.

But then you can get smarter too, and I write about some of these tricks. It’s just understating the time in which you eat is a big factor of it, understanding hormones. We’ve been focused on insulin in the dieting world for a long time and eating lower carbs, which is a great start, but there’s other hormones you can work with too such as testosterone, growth hormone.

Part of why intermittent fasting is thought to work is because it prolongs the release of growth hormone which peaks at night. If you don’t eat around that time, you actually extend the release of growth hormone or keep the presence of growth hormone in circulation for longer. That’s a great fat buster, growth hormone. It gets rid of visceral fat and just helps you break plateaus as well.

But again, that’s pretty rudimentary. I feel like there’s so much more to learn. We’ll get more of that in the coming decades especially since obesity has become a health crisis. It’s gotten more research funding over the years and so there’s a lot more say in the last 30 years that have come out about studying obesity. That’s how we learned about leptin, and adiponectin, and these different types of hormones, and what fat’s actually doing is because more research dollars have come into it. I think a lot more interesting things will come as well.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’m on the same page. I’m very curious to see where all of this goes because like you said, I really do feel like we’re just at the tip of the iceberg right now and there’s going to be so much that we learn over the next couple decades I think. Obviously people can start at the tip of the iceberg with you and read your book The Secret Life of Fat. But where else can people find you?

Dr. Sylvia Tara: I’m on Facebook and I’m on Twitter @SylviaTaraPhD. I’m on the web www.TheSecretLifeofFat.com. You can find me there. Some of my appearances and things will be on there too. The book is available on Amazon, it’s on Barnes and Noble, it’s at airports as well. Lot’s of ways to hook in. I know on Facebook I post stories quite a bit and different news topics that I think are helpful for people. You can follow along all kinds of ways.

And maybe in another few years I’ll write another update to The Secret Life of Fat of what we find out with research as it keeps on unfolding. It’s just become so interesting. I think what it tells us too is that truly incumbent upon people to educate yourself. Don’t just follow something because your friends lost weight on it. I mean really understand your fat. And once you do, you’ll be happier, you’ll be more accepting of yourself, and you’ll understand some tricks of what might work for you. Although The Secret Life of Fat isn’t exactly a diet book, I don’t have meal plans, it is an explanation of fat, the variations of fat, and things that you can do to try to break through if you have really stubborn fat like I have. Hopefully it helps people.

Kelsey: Awesome, Dr. Tara! Thank you so much for joining us today. I think this was a really enlightening episode and I’m sure our listeners will enjoy this. We’d love to have you back on. Maybe next time when you write your latest book on the update of all this research, we’d love to have you back to learn more about that.  We’ll link to all of your website, and your Facebook, and your Twitter, and everything in the show notes of this episode. But I just wanted to thank you for your time today and thank you so much for joining us!

Dr. Sylvia Tara: Thank you! It was great to be here.


Kelsey: Let’s get into our updates section of the podcast. This is a very exciting update section because Laura was just married! Let’s see, it was two weeks ago at this point you went on your honeymoon as well?

Laura: Yeah, a little over two weeks ago. It feels like it didn’t even happen.

Kelsey: Fill us in! How was it?

Laura: It was really great! Like I said, it kind of as everyone told me was over in like half a second. But everyone had a really good time. I’m like trying to think of where to even start. I don’t want to go into like an insane amount of detail. But the wedding itself was awesome. It went really smoothly.

It was funny because the caterer told me that I was way more involved in the planning and execution than most brides are. I’m like alright, well that makes sense. I developed this insane type A personality through this process. I think you kind of start to get a little like that as a business owner. You almost have to kind of tap into that area of your capabilities. But the wedding planning definitely took that too an insane level that I never expected.

But it was just really funny because I kept thinking okay, if anything goes wrong, I just don’t want my day of coordinator to even tell me. I just want to have it dealt with and nobody say anything. I just want to enjoy this. I think it actually nothing serious even happened.

Kelsey: That’s good!

Laura: I mean there might have been some tiny little things that happened. Like for example, we had some candles on the table and I guess when they got blown out as they were getting to the end, they smoked a decent amount. And then at the end of the night when people were blowing their nose, there was like black in the tissue paper. But I’m like hey, that’s just like if you’re living in London or something. It’s not that big of a deal.

Kelsey: Right. That’s funny.

Laura: But yeah, it was really fun. Like I said, it went so fast. We had a great time and it was basically exactly what I wanted. The ceremony was really nice and everyone was saying how much fun they had. I talked to a couple friends from church yesterday and they were like it’s like the most fun we’ve ever had at a wedding.

Kelsey: So good to hear!

Laura: Yeah, friends of mine were like I never dance at weddings and I danced! I’m like well, good, because the whole point of this thing was so that people had fun. It was funny because my pastor even talked about the wedding in his sermon on this recent Sunday. He was joking about how he never dances and by the end of the night he had most of his shirts off, like his tie off, jacket off, all these things were like off and he and a bunch of the guys from church were just like dancing like idiots. It was really fun.

Kelsey: That’s cute.

Laura: Yeah, so we had a really good time. And then we took a day in between the wedding before going on the honeymoon, which highly recommended if anyone is thinking about going on a honeymoon.

Kelsey: I know. That’s what we did too and I was like, oh my gosh, I couldn’t imagine trying to get to the airport the day after.

Laura: Oh yeah. I mean I could have used an extra day probably before going. We had a day in between to just kind of recover and get packed and everything, and then we went to Mexico for our honeymoon. Noelle Tarr of Coconuts and Kettlebells had set us up with this sweet honeymoon package at this resort that her and her husband are members at. They had gotten married there and they became members and they got us this really sweet honeymoon package in a really nice room and it was all inclusive. We had a butler service and an infinity pool on our balcony.

Kelsey: That picture of your pool on your balcony, I was like oh my gosh, that looks amazing!

Laura: I know. The sad part is we only used that pool like twice because we kept going to the beach because all the beaches had these private cabanas that you could lay in and they were basically like these beds on the beach. We had a beach butler that would come around and ask us if we wanted anything. We didn’t really do that much in the pool. I think we had like two times in our balcony pool and then once I made Josh go to the swim up bar because I was like we have to use the swim up bar once while we’re here! Even though like I said, we had a butler bringing us drinks on the beach, that wasn’t really necessary.

But yeah, it was a ton of food. The food was really good. I’m kind of at the point where I don’t even want to look at food anymore because literally every meal I was like rolling out of my chair afterwards.

Kelsey: I know. I saw your Instagram stories and I was like, man, this looks amazing!

Laura: I know. By the last day for lunch they brought the dessert menu and I was like, okay fine, I’ll have ice cream I guess. It was just crazy. But we had a really great time. It was super relaxing. I feel like I slept every afternoon. We would get a beach cabana and I would have a mojito or something and then just like pass out.

Kelsey: Sounds epic.

Laura: It was super relaxing. It’s just been like a whirlwind two weeks and I kind of dove head first right back into work when we got home. I mean I had a day off kind of. I had like a thousand emails to catch up on so it wasn’t totally a day off. My husband had to go back to Ohio and get more of his stuff. So it was like basically we were home for a day and then he left and he was gone for four days. I’m like alright bye, go back to Ohio, I’ll be back in a long distance relationship.

It’s just been kind of like nonstop doing stuff since I think the beginning of the month. I’m just looking forward to things settling down a little bit. I kind of overloaded my schedule this week, which I may regret. I was like I need to catch up on work! I had two weeks off! Now I’m like I probably didn’t need to do that. But we’ll see what happens.

But everything is great, we had a great time. I’m just really looking forward to the photos. I think I’m supposed to be getting a preview pretty soon. Once I have some photos to share on social media, maybe I’ll make a little blog post about the experience. I will share some. I feel like if nothing else, even if nobody cares about what I did on my wedding and honeymoon, I feel like it’s nice to be able to go back and see those kinds of things for yourself.

Kelsey: Oh yeah.

Laura: I feel like I’m already forgetting like 80% of the details. I feel like I should write them down so I can remember. It’s just crazy how, I don’t know, I feel like weddings tend to go fast regardless even if you’re a guest. But I feel like as the bride, it was so go, go, go the whole day. I feel like I was getting ready from 10am, I guess maybe more like 11. But I got to the venue at 10. I was like setting things up and then started getting ready, showered at the venue, was getting ready for like I don’t even know, several hours. I hardly got to spend any time with my bridesmaids. I was like oh my gosh, I feel like I just hired these people to show up and stand next to me for photos or something.

Kelsey: Well it sounds like everything went well and it was awesome.

Laura: Yeah, the weather was really nice. It was a little hot so we were going to have an outdoor ceremony, but we moved it inside, which I think it was good call. The rest of the evening was pretty pleasant. It wasn’t too hot, it was just too hot for people to be sitting out for a ceremony comfortably. But we had a custom cornhole board that people were playing, and we had this live band that was amazing, and we were dancing basically until 10:30 which doesn’t sound that late, but lately that’s been a bedtime for me. Everything was really fun.

Kelsey: Are you guys all moved in now?

Laura: Close. We have a spare bedroom that’s basically like a bomb went off in walk in closet. My husband’s clothes are in bags everywhere. The cat feels very moved in. She’s already taken over the living room and my poor dog is like terrorized because he’s so afraid of her, but also wants to be her best friend, so he’s very conflicted. She’s just like totally chill because she’s met him before, so it’s not like we’re worried about him and her fighting. But she’s kind of mean to him, but just like occasionally.  She’ll walk over and then just smack him in the face.

Kelsey: Poor little guy.

Laura: I know. He’s kind of scared. But we’re working on moving in. We’ve have a busy couple of weeks coming up with some trips. Josh has to go to Virginia for some training for about a week and a half for his new job. It’s just like by the end of July things will be hopefully somewhat normal.

Kelsey: Nice.

Laura: Check in with me then about life is because right now it still feels like everything is just crazy. But everything was great! Like I said, as soon as I have some photos and stuff to share, I’ll definitely write a blog post about the day and share some more details since I’ve been talking about it nonstop for the last 9 months.

Kelsey: Yeah. That’s awesome! Let’s check in after July.

Laura: Yes!

Kelsey: I feel like you’ll have a better idea of how life is as a married couple finally living together. I’m curious to hear how you enjoy that. But yeah, life needs to settle down first.

Laura: Yes, for sure.

Kelsey: I’m glad that you guys had a great time and congratulations!

Laura: Thank you. Yeah, super happy. I mean part of me is sad it’s over. I was walking by the venue the other day and I literally almost started crying because somebody was having a wedding there. I’m like, I want to do it again! I want to do it again and go as a guest so I can actually take advantage of the event. I am glad the planning stuff is over because I swear my brain was like, I mean I still feel a little bit nonfunctional. Interviews over the next couple days might be a little bit interesting. I feel like at least I don’t have this big event looming over me that’s totally taking up all my brain power. Part of me is sad it’s over, the other part of me is like glad that we can kind of move on with the next chapter of our lives.

Kelsey: Right. Well, awesome! Thanks, guys, for listening. We are keeping our updates until the end of the episode for the time being, so I hope you guys are enjoying that. Of course if you have any questions that you’d like us to answer on the show, just head to TheAncestralRds.com to submit your question. We’ll talk to you guys next time!

Laura: Alright, take care everybody!

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I'm a women's health expert and a registered dietitian (RD) with a passion for helping goal-oriented people fuel their purpose.

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