An interesting study crossed my desk this week, from a team of researchers in New York who posed the question, "Does percent body fat predict outcome in anorexia nervosa?"
They looked at a number of factors they thought might contribute to relapse in anorexia recovery, including BMI, leptin levels, waist-to-hip ratio, the subtype of anorexia, and percentage of body fat. Only one--body fat--seemed to affect the rate of relapse. "In recently weight-restored women with anorexia nervosa," they wrote, "lower percent body fat was associated with poor long-term outcome."
We're so used to thinking of fat as the Ultimate Evil, which must be banished at any cost, that news like this can feel downright shocking. Fat can be not just good but essential. Without it our brains don't work very well. We're supposed to have a certain amount of fat in our bodies.
This is important for those in recovery from anorexia, especially people (like my own daughter) who are naturally athletic and build a lot of muscle mass. Nothing wrong with muscles, but you've gotta have fat, too. Lean muscle mass without body fat is associated with relapse. And that's not what anybody wants.
So repeat after me: Fat is necessary for human life. Fat is not evil. Fat can even (dare I say it?) be a Very Good Thing.