The ancient Greeks had three distinct words for love. Philia, a love borne of loyalty and familiarity, would never be used to describe the passionate attraction of eros or the deep contentment of agape. I think we need to take that concept—having words that describe the intricacies of a more general term—and apply it to the word “fat.”
- Food Fat – This is what what’s clinically called “dietary fat.” This actually applies to a class of macronutrients that consists of several different types of fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, saturated and so on, which can be broken down further into omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, etc. Although it was demonized for making us fat, it has since been proven that there is no direct link between dietary fat and weight gain.
- Body Fat – The fat on our bodies is comprised largely of what is called “adipose fat.” Beneath the skin, it insulates our innards. Around our organs it acts as a protective buffer. And all fat in our body is on call to burn for energy when needed. Body fat, in correct proportions, serves several vital functions. It’s when we have too much that it becomes unhealthy.
- Thought Fat – This is my term for the way we throw around “I’m fat.” It’s the cultural judgment we impose on ourselves and others for carrying an excess of body fat.
Why is this important? Because all three terms have distinctly different meanings, yet we tend to muddy them all together in our minds and sentences. A glug of olive oil (a healthy food fat) will elicit a response of “that will make you fat.” And in that sentence is the implication that the olive oil will add adipose fat to your body (which it won’t, not directly anyway) and that adipose fat is a bad thing (which it isn’t in correct quantities). You can see how those five little words carry three misconceptions and a grand assumption that a little bit of a healthy oil will lead to an excess of body fat, which in and of itself imposes a judgment.
This week, catch yourself—both what you say out loud and the chatter in your head—and redefine your understanding of fat.