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Book Review: The Brown Fat Revolution by James R. Lyons

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"Fat is not the enemy."

That makes a lot of sense, and the tag line alone made me pick up the book. I didn’t even know what it was initially, but after flipping through it, I knew this was a book I just had to read.

I have to explain something before I proceed. I do not believe in diets the way they are typically preached nowadays. I don’t think that cutting from one’s daily nutrition something which has been a part of it for thousand upon thousands of years makes any evolutionary sense. We are evidently doing something horribly wrong, as can be evidenced by our unhealthy relationship with food (please refer to my review of the book The Art of Overeating for more).

In my personal opinion (and please remember that I am but a mere humble little blogger), everyone cannot successfully follow the same diet. By the same token, it’s very rare that a diet taken as is will be successful for everyone. Books like The Brown Fat Revolution will help you acquire the knowledge you need to create a healthy diet and exercise routine that will suit your body, your lifestyle and your objectives. What I would recommend is what I have seen countless women around me do, and quite successfully: buy a couple of such books, that are rich in information and explain the theory rather than impose a diet, and then experiment, taking in consideration your body type, your medical history and your objectives.

Spanning 270 pages, The Brown Fat Revolution is not only a great source of information, but also includes some good advice that you can incorporate in part or wholly into your daily habits. Don’t let the fact that Dr. Lyons is a plastic surgeon make you think that his book is superficial; it’s surprising in the depth of the background as well as the fact that he doesn’t consider plastic surgery as a first or only solution, or that (gasp!) skinny is better.

He also states that fat can be good (I KNOW!). After all, it’s an essential part of our physiology. However, it has been discovered that there are at least two kinds of fats: yellow and brown. Fat cells are an integral part of our body. The health of fat cells goes from one end of a continuum to another. At one end we have yellow fat, which is fat cells at their most unhealthy, and at the other end we have brown fat cells which are fat cells at their healthiest. Yellow fat is the kind you want to trim down on; it’s the kind that makes us sick, and the kind that makes us feel old. Brown fat is the one that makes us healthier.

Dr. Lyons claims that to be youthful, shaped nicely and not fat (yet not disgustingly stick thin, either), one has to learn to eat and exercise in a way that turns all your fat cells into the healthy, brown kind. He also claims to have developed a diet and exercise routine that will allow us to turn our bad yellow fat into the healthy brown kind.

I know – it sounds pretty incredible.

The Brown Fat Revolution is divided in three parts. First, Dr Lyons explains his theory on aging and the role of fat (good versus bad) to us. In the second part, he presents us with an eating plan, which is supplemented by the exercise plan in the third section of the book.

The Brown Fat Revolution is a pretty easy book to read, in that Dr. Lyons doesn’t get all high and mighty by using big words and Shakesperian sentence-structuring (trust me when I tell you that many books seem to make up for their lack of scientific inquiry by hiding behind the superficial grandiosity of insanely long and winded sentences a little like the one you are currently reading). I have to admit that at times, it does sounds like a cheap Shopping Channel ad, and that the sometimes overconfident of Dr Lyons makes me extremely uncomfortable, like when he tells us on page seven that: “Unlike most of my colleagues, I know what you need to do to not only feel better and lose weight – but also look incredible.” You know more than most of the medical community? Really? I don’t know about you guys, but that kind of attitude really puts me on edge.

But the fact that this diet is meant to target everything together and isn’t just about losing fat makes up a little bit for the abovementioned arrogance. Often diets are unhealthy because we lose weight only without taking other things into consideration and that leads to things like osteoporosis, bad skin and hair falling out. What’s the point of being think if your bones are brittle and you’re bald?

It’s definitely important to understand how your body works to be able to make the right choices, rather than to follow rules just because someone told you to. Dr. Lyons makes a great job of explaining how one’s fat metabolism works without going into unnecessary, excessive details that would make your head explode. Again, this part of the book is written rigorously yet in an easy way to understand. While sometimes it felt like I was being patronized, I quickly noticed that the parts that I found patronizing were simply those that Dr Lyons found so important that he felt like he had to repeat more than once.

There are also metaphors and analogies used which I personally found very useful (perhaps it has to do with the fact that I am a very visual person). For example, Dr Lyons suggests that you should “Think of your food as coal being added to a furnace. If you add too much coal, the fire gets too hot and then burns out. If there’s always way too much coal, the bottom of the pile will become powdered and useless, similar to low-quality yellow fat.”

One thing is certain: buffet-restaurant owners are NOT going to like Dr. Lyons.

Another great thing about Dr. Lyons is his clear stance about how he doesn’t approve of the stick thin models that grace (and I use that word loosely here) runways around the world. His ideal woman’s body: Michelle Obama, whom he says is firm and curvy, healthy and feminine at the same time.

The sections that cover the aging process might make you have an anxiety attack of sorts, especially since we live in a day and age where everything related to aging is unfortunately considered as being really bad. Which it isn’t. And on a practical note which those of you who have been reading my reviews for awhile know how important it is to me, there is more than enough space in the margins to take notes and affix Post-Its, which, as those of you who regularly read my reviews know, is very important to me in books like The Brown Fat Revolution.

Women and men who are interested in developing their own healthy living should read scores of books, including The Brown Fat Revolution. While not all of the advice will suit them, and while not all individuals will be able to integrate this rather complicated routine in their lives, were they to use their judgment and put together the various pieces of the puzzle, this book will definitely be part of the solution to leading a long and healthy life.

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  • matthew

    This book is dead wrong. White or “yellow” fat tissue cannot convert to brown fat. And brown fat isn’t necessarily healthier, it just has a completely different function. It generates heat by burning glucose and fatty acids. The amount of brown fat is more dependent on whether or not you live in a cold or warm climate. This book is just flat out wrong in that respect

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Thank you Matthew for your comment! I would love to hear more about it – do you have any references/sources?