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The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,671 ratings  ·  338 reviews
Fat is an obsession, a dirty word, a subject of national handwringing—and, according to biochemist Sylvia Tara, the least-understood part of our body.

You may not love your fat, but your body certainly does. In fact, your body is actually endowed with many self-defense measures to hold on to fat. For example, fat can use stem cells to regenerate; increase our appetite if it
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published December 27th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company
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Start your review of The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
DeB MaRtEnS
Highly recommended.

Sylvia Tara, PhD. Dec. 14 W.W. Norton and Co.

In a world which bombards us with its "the right way" in what to eat, how to eat, how much to weigh, how to measure Body Mass Index, the newest and best theory of being our best skinny
selves - and confusingly, screams headlines about what is wrong about them all - Sylvia Tara, PhD, has brought us a sensible and RIVETING fount of information which is genuinely useful. "FAT" is not a four letter word; it actually is a functioning
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The Pfaeffle Journal (Diane)
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
In Sylvia Tara's book the The Secret Life of Fat, she discusses what some researchers have discovered about fat, she does an excellent job of describing in layperson terms how fat interacts with the body. By the end of the book, I understood that fat was very complex and it was able to effect our lives in many ways because of how it affects are bodies.

What disappointed me about the book was the way it ended, as a diet book. The author tells how she lost the 30 pounds she gained about having her
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Bree Taylor
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Sylvia Tara takes us on a fascinating journey to look at the genetics and history of fat. She explains thoroughly and clearly the history of how fat went from just blobs on the body to a dynamic organ that is responsible for many different processes along the way. She also tackles the reasons why different bodies respond differently to fat loss techniques -- and the different factors that go into it, such as age, gender, and previous attempts at weight loss.

For the vast majority of this book, I
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Douglas Lord
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Secret? My own fat is pretty public. This book is freaking transformative as it makes the case for a changed view of fat. First-time author and biochemistry PhD Tara clearly illustrates something that a lot of people don’t yet know—fat is an organ of your body, exactly like the liver, the lungs, and (O be still my heart) the pancreas. It has functions and does important stuff such as acting as a “reserve of energy,” managing energy stores, enabling transmission of brain signals, and facilitating ...more
Marcy Graybill
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sasha Lauren
Oct 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
I wanted to love this book. I was excited that a book was written about fat, an important endocrine organ. Some good points were made alongside some significantly misleading information.

On page 31, there is a story about an obese girl named Layla who had liposuction done - this was portrayed as a good thing, which it is not. A member of her medical team pronounced that Layla had an endocrine defect after the liposuction without taking into account that the act of subcutaneous fat removal itself
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Eve
Apr 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This doesn't have the same depth of analysis as Kolata's Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--And the Myths and Realities of Dieting, but it is an interesting updated look at the science of fat and weight loss. The author, while noting that ideal weight is skewed by media-created body images, nonetheless unabashedly provides advice and instruction on fighting fat, and describes her own battle with weight.
Marsha
Nov 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not your usual book about fat!

Sylvia Tara introduces cutting edge research in the science of fat, weight gain and weight loss in an engaging way, using a highly readable anecdotal style, illustrating her various points with real life examples, including herself. She gets into genetics, good and bad fat, how bacteria and viruses can affect fat gain, why women have a tougher time losing weight -- and so much more.

Tara doesn't just tell the reader about all these things, she gives strategies to
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Emily
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Not really sure what to rate this book. I enjoyed the factual parts of the book- learning about the different disorders, how fat can affect other organs, the history of fat and how it's viewed by society, etc. But I did not like the last part of the book-I was a little disturbed by the author's weight loss techniques of fasting and eating less than 1000 calories a day, especially after claiming earlier in the book that you can't out-eat genetics and that obsessive behaviors to control fat can ...more
Shaun
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.

Kudos to Tara for simply explaining "fat" in all its complexity.

Most of us love to eat it, hate to store it on our bodies though we actually need a healthy amount of it, and struggle to lose it.

In the Secret Life of Fat readers learn why fat is way more than the stuff of muffin tops and jelly thighs. Way more. In fact, fat functions as a organ, releasing hormones and impacting our body systems and behavior. Too much is bad for us, but so is too little. And get
...more
Aneeza Rafiq
Apr 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is an excellent read for those who want to understand fat and what works to lose it. Sylvia Tara continues to amaze the readers by bringing forth researches that prove how essential fat is for our survival. Fat is an endocrine organ and is not only influenced by hormones but produces them as well. Despite being a doctor and knowing most of the information provided in this book, I was still surprised by the new finding related to fat. The only disappointment for me was the last half of ...more
Charlene
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, medicine
I typically give low ratings to any book that remotely resembles a self -help book. However, despite the fact that this author made her own journey a semi-focus of this book, it was just so well done, I have to give it 5 stars. Excellent scientific discussion of fat and weight. This is how all authors should talk about fat, diets, weight, eating, biochemistry that differs from one body to another, etc.
A+.
Jafar
Dec 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Fat is not just a useless and passive blubber where your body stores the excess calories. Tara calls it an organ and shows how it sends and receives signals and controls many aspects of bodily functions and development. This is not a how-to-lose-weight book, but she has a chapter in the end about her own struggle with losing weight.
Elena
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sylvia Tara writes well, at times intriguingly, page-turningly even on such a topic. I am certainly not an expert but from my point of view this work is closer to a deep research and further from simply note taking/paraphrasing exercise. The topic in itself is of an interest to me but on top of that I found many fascinating (for unsuspecting me) pieces of knowledge: animal models of disease, explanation of why finding a gene is such a difficult endeavor, observations about menstrual cycles of ...more
Jacquelyn
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nook
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Meghan
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had my doubts after reading the prologue, because it seemed like the author had a preexisting tough relationship with fat that would skew the book toward an obsession with weight loss. Fortunately, the first two-thirds of the book was a well-researched, objective and fascinating exploration of the nature of fat in the body, ranging from how it benefits us to how it fights to stick with us. The case studies and stories of scientific breakthroughs were totally interesting to me, and explanations ...more
Tam
Jan 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
My roommate bought a tool to measure body fat last week (I think it is called skin caliper or sth like that), which makes me a little bit interested. After reading this book, I was able to learn the working of fat in the body and, while I don't try to lose fat, got a lot more aware of health issues even among thin people or among older ones.

I think the advice in the end is this: It's hard to lose fat, incredibly so, because bodies are built that way. In the past it must have been a decided
...more
Mskychick
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: pc-library
The more I think on and digest this information, the more some of it seems suspect. There's a little throwaway section on how putting hot food in plastic containers can make one fat. Also a section advocating use of growth hormones and sex hormones to control weight.
This is not good medical practice!!

Also, the upshot I got from this book is that if you have "problem" fat and you want to be thin, you're going to have to vigilantly starve yourself for years and be unhappy. That does not seem like
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Shannon
Feb 01, 2017 rated it liked it
A decent book but not as life changing as I thought it would be. Much of it was stuff I already knew, like brown fat and how the microbiome contributes, but some of it was new and exciting. The first half of the book was very interesting and engaging, but I got very bored in the second half and occasionally dreaded reading to an extent. I can't pinpoint what the change was but it just felt long at that point and it's a very short book.
Mellow
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, english
It's very informative and eye-opening. It helps you understand fat, what it is, its importance, and its behavior. But, all that usefulness is crammed in the second half of the book. The first half was quite repetitive and honestly boring to read. I almost quit, but I'm glad I didn't.
Anita
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The book contains lots of science about fat with stories about people that make it very interesting to read. It is easily understood with special terms defined and explained. I found it an engaging read, even a sort of page-turner. We learn a lot about types of body fat, what fat does for us, and how fat tends to protect itself. With the science in mind we get ideas of how we might make our own plan for dealing with excess fat. The book shows us how this can be a monumental task leading to a ...more
Samanvay Sinha
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a random pick at the airport as it claimed to explain one baffling thing which has always made me feel that life is a little unfair. I have always felt that I am one of those unlucky ones who put on weight even if I eat excess air and when the author echoed the feeling I thought I must read it and it has been an excellent pick. Before this book my conventional wisdom compelled me to look at fat as an outcome of simple mathematical equation i.e. calories intake minus calories burnt. If you ...more
Eric Bjerke
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the most interesting books I have ever read, and potentially life-changing, even if--like me--you are someone who has mostly not had to be overly concerned about managing weight. If YOU ARE someone who has a history of weight struggles, or are beginning to be concerned about your health in regards to managing a healthy weight, well, it is invaluable. Here is a quote:

"For anyone trying to manage fat, I wish you not only the required strength and determination, but also the necessary
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Jennifer Ciotta
Oct 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Sylvia Tara starts out the book in an interesting way...with real-life stories about those who have suffered from either too little or too much fat, or other types of problems related to fat. She explains that fat is an organ, and thus a vital part of how our bodies run. I found this all readable and enjoyable...but then the book became very scientific. I decided to skim a few more chapters, yet it was still scientific, and I eventually put it down. If you are one who loves science and reads ...more
Larisa
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018

Not a diet book! Hallelujah! The author has a PhD in biochemistry and a strong personal interest in the subject and so has devoted years of her life researching the topic. The first few chapters cover exactly what fat is and its complex role in the body. More than simply an inert means of energy storage, fat is presented as an organ that is deeply intertwined with the endocrine system with roles in hormone regulation, reproduction, the immune system and more. The first half of the book expounds

...more
Alyssa
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow this was so fascinating! There was plenty of data analysis and examination of recent scientific studies to make this book highly informative (as someone with an average college level exposure to biology and nutritional science), but it was also very accessible. The author examines the nature, necessity, function, adaptability, resilience, weaknesses, and reliability of fat in this book and I appreciated the nuanced and deeper analysis of fat’s complex function as an organ in our bodies.

I’ve
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Monica Willyard Moen
I have struggled with my weight for most of my life. Sometimes, a friend and I would start on a diet, and I noticed that one of us would lose a lot of weight while the other either didn’t lose much or actually gained weight. That didn’t make much sense to me. It also didn’t make sense to me that I knew several people who had liposuction who seemed to grow even more fat layers in the area of the procedure within about six months to a year. Fat seemed like it was my enemy, not my friend. It ...more
Dana Busby
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
One of my former bosses, who is a physician, was talking about this book on Facebook a while back and I was intrigued enough to check out from the library. I’m pretty slow with non-fiction, and it’s a tough sell for me; I have to be pretty motivated to A) Actually procure the book and B) actually read it. This book was totally worth the read, and the least demoralizing book about weight that I have ever read. And come to think of it, I have read a fair number of books about weight. They all ...more
Keesa
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is easily the best book I've read so far this year, and the best book on the subject that I've ever read. If I hadn't had things To do I think I could easily have finished it in a single day.

The book is very "sciency." It talks about studies and research and tissues and genes with a depth that one isn't accustomed to outside a scientific paper or a college textbook....and yet it was never slow, heavy, or hard to read. The author uses real-life stories to illustrate and explain the
...more
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #49 The Secret Life of Fat 1 3 Jun 15, 2017 12:00PM  

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Sylvia Tara holds a PhD 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 at the world’s largest biotechnology companies. Tara lives in the Los Angeles area.
“There’s a difference between science and faith. What you believe belongs in faith and not in science. In science you have to go by data. I have faced people who are skeptical, but when I ask them why, they can’t pinpoint a specific reason. Science is not about belief, it is about fact. There is a saying—‘In God we trust, all others bring data.” 0 likes
“This research suggests the usefulness of prediet exercises to first build your self-control “muscles” before addressing bigger challenges such as sustained weight loss regimen. One could start with noneating-related tasks by, for example, committing to make the bed within thirty minutes after waking up, and then take on another task, such as cutting out a type of food, like cookies or chips. Having a successive number of small wins gives a feeling of confidence, which builds over time. Inching your way toward controlling food rather than adopting an all-or-nothing approach builds a foundation for future success.” 0 likes
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