The Secret Life of Fat – Dr. Sylvia Tara


Our Individual Connection with Fat

How can understanding the secret biological and emotional connections hidden deep inside our fat help us let go of old weight, discover individual wellness, and rekindle a trusted relationship with our body?

On this episode of Wellness + Wisdom, biochemist and author of The Secret Life of Fat, Dr. Sylvia Tara teaches us why fat is such a complex endocrine organ that can control our minds and how we can use that knowledge to our advantage to lose weight.

There is no one-size fits-all weight loss plan because our age, gender, genetics, as well as bacteria and viruses all play a role. 

Forget everything that you thought you knew about fat and discover how you can create an individual approach to losing weight and loving the skin you're in.

Listen to Episode 107 as Dr. Tara Uncovers

  •  Why Dr. Tara wrote, The Secret Life of Fat, as an educational tool for us to use.
  • What is fat? Why is it so easy for some people to lose weight and difficult for others?
  • Why do we shame ourselves for our weight? When did we start judging our bodies?
  • What changed society from bracing fat to fearing it?
  • Dr. Tara and Josh share their fat loss stories and what has helped guide them to embracing their bodies.
  • Why fat is so amazing and how it connects with our bodies, emotions, metabolism, and behavior.
  • The analogy of money and fat in the body: glucose is cash, glycogen is a checking account, and fat is a certificate of deposit.
  • What is leptin and how does fat regulate it? How does it affect our food cravings?
  • What are the daily habits we can make to ensure that we continue to keep the weight off?
  • Why we should keep in mind different hormones to keep off weight: insulin, ghrelin, and leptin.
  • How intermittent fasting has helped Dr. Tara keep off her unwanted fat.
  • As we age, other fat burning hormones such as estrogen and testosterone begin to decline.
  • What do sumo wrestlers eat and what happens to their metabolism when they retire?
  • The difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat.
  • What can allow us to release adiponectin so we have fat stored as subcutaneous versus mesentery or visceral fat: cardio, HIIT, working out at night vs. the morning.
  • How genetics, age, gender, viruses and bacteria all have different roles that play into how much fat we store.
  • Why women are predisposed to pack on more fat than men because of their biology and hormone levels.
  • Dr. Tara's tips to staying on your nutrition and exercise plan.
  • Why we feel like a failure if we skip a day in our plan because of dichotomous thinking.
  • Don't fall into a shame spiral. Take a break from your diet if you need and get recharged to get back on it again.
  • Why sleep is so good to help our hormone levels and elevate our stress levels.
  • The most fascinating fact that Dr. Tara learned during her research: that fat can control our mind. It controls our appetite and how affects how we think about food.
  • What leptin replacement therapy is and how it could be used to help people control their weight.

How Fat Works: The Inside Story with Sylvia Tara, Ph.D

Top 3 Takeaways From The Show

  • If you're a woman, don't let the thin female models on the covers of magazines send you into a shame spiral. Women are naturally predisposed to pack on more fat than men because they are meant to store their fat for energy. Also, when women workout, they release more of the gherkin hormone which is why they're hungrier than men afterwards. It's not a bad thing that women store more fat and have hunger cravings after hitting the gym, it's completely natural.
  • How much fat each person stores is completely unique to them because there are so many factors to consider (age, genetics, bacteria, gender). To approach weight loss, we need to create an individualized plan for ourselves. Know which foods help or hurt your weight loss goal and which type of workout benefits your body that most. Don't limit yourself to eating you favorite foods; just try to stick to your plan. Create a plan that works for your body, mind, and schedule.
  • Don't be upset with yourself if you fall off your nutrition and exercise path one day. We're only human and taking a break is okay. We need time to recharge our batteries and get motivated to eat healthy and workout again.

Power Quotes From Dr. Sylvia Tara

  • The Secret Life of Fat is about having a better idea of what fat actually is and to stop believing in all of these myths about fat loss.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara
  • “Once I learned about fat and what it does with our bodies, it was actually really empowering. Fat has so many tricks to stay on our bodies and it can do amazing things. It's an endocrine organ so it can release hormones into our blood stream that can affect our behaviour, our appetite, and our metabolism.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara on the power of fat.
  • “We don't all lose weight the same way and that's why it's so important to tailor a diet that works for yourself.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara
  • “When you've lost weight and you're feeling less satiated and more hungry, just remember that your body and its leptin levels are driving you to get that fat back on your body. It takes a lot of drive and determination to not give into cravings. This feeling can even last for years and it's important to have that inner drive to keep off the weight.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara
  • “People think that sloth and gluttony are the only reasons why people gain on weight. However, genetics, age, gender, as well as viruses and bacteria all have a role in how much fat we actually store.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara on how we actually store fat vs. how we used to think we store fat.
  • “If we feel uncertainty in our daily lives, whether over a medical test, job offer, or family situation, the lingering doubt depletes our willpower. Starting a weight management plan during such a time of uncertainty makes it more difficult to persevere. If it is possible to ease the stress in your life before starting a serious attempt to change your lifestyle do so. Successful weight management requires the ability to take challenges in stride and maintain your diet and exercise plan.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara on how to set up the mind so we can focus on losing weight. 
  • “Once you get on a shame spiral, it's hard to get off of it. Not only will dichotomous thinking affect your diet plan, but other factors of your life as well. People with dichotomous thinking tend to have more depression, more eating disorders, and a lot more unhappiness in their lives.” – Dr. Syliva Tara on how dichotomous thinking can negatively affect our minds and bodies. 
  • “Dieting is hard. It's a long-term commitment and you have to fight a lot of urges to stay on it. However the rewards are good. It might be hard to go through and stay on a diet for awhile, but you also get a lot of rewards. You gain a control of your life, can buy clothes at the size you want to be, and so many other benefits. Choose to follow a diet when the timing is right for you and the commitment will be worth it. “ – Dr. Sylvia Tara on her own difficulties with staying on a diet. 
  • “Anger is a very strong emotion. What helped fuel me through this wellness transformation was my anger and vengeance towards my fat. Use your negative emotions and direct them in a way that you will win in the end.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara on how we can use our anger and other negative emotions to fuel our motivation to lose weight. 
  • “Wellness is about being completely self-integrated, aware, and being happy with your state in life right now.” – Dr. Sylvia Tara on what wellness means to her.

About Dr. Sylvia Tara

Sylvia Tara holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from The University of California, San Diego and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

She was a healthcare management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and has worked for the world’s largest biotechnology companies.

After an extended battle with fat, Dr. Tara became fascinated with its resiliency and embarked on a mission to better understand it. This book is the culmination of years of research and interviews with physicians, patients and leading scientists. The Secret Life of Fat will forever change how you think about this misunderstood organ.

Resources Mentioned by Dr. Tara & Josh

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About The Author, Lauren Bryant, Podcast Production

lauren bryant wellness forceLauren Bryant is the Podcasting Assistant and Show Notes Writer for Wellness + Wisdom. She has a BBA in both Marketing and Spanish for Business as well as certificates in Advanced Business Communications and International Business from the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

Lauren’s wellness journey began at a young age when she joined her local YMCA swim team, The Wave, of La Crosse, WI. One of the most profound views on wellness that anyone has said to her was when she was an assistant swim coach for that same YMCA swim team.

One day during a practice, former head swim coach, Jon Brenner, shared with her that the most important thing about coaching the swimmers was that “It doesn’t matter if they become the best athletes in the world. What’s important is that we give them the tools and guidance they need to live a healthy, active lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

Since hearing those words, she has taken it to heart to not only focus on continuously living her own healthy lifestyle, but to help others pursue their wellness goals as well.

Lauren’s not only an avid swimmer, but a fan of running, yoga, cooking, and doing any activity outside that involves being surrounded by nature. In the Fall of 2014, she completed a long-awaited goal of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

According to Lauren, wellness is about finding gratitude and joy in doing any type of physical or self-care activity that we love. Wellness means providing ourselves with self-love, good nutrition, and the inner peace that our individual minds and bodies need.


About Josh Trent

Josh Trent lives in Austin, Texas with his love Carrie Michelle, son Novah, daughter Nayah + a cat named Cleo. He is the host of the Wellness + Wisdom Podcast and the creator of the BREATHE: Breath + Wellness Program. Josh has spent the past 20+ years as a trainer, researcher + facilitator discovering the physical and emotional intelligence for humans to thrive in our modern world. Helping humans LIBERATE their mental, emotional, physical, spiritual + financial self through podcasts, programs + global community that believe in optimizing our potential to live life well.

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