The Secret Life of Fat

The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
Narrated by: Sylvia Tara
Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (554 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This groundbreaking work of practical, popular science reveals that fat is much smarter than we think. 

Fat is an obsession, a dirty word, a subject of national hand-wringing - 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 feels threatened; and use bacteria, genetics, and viruses to expand itself. The secret to losing 20 pounds? You have to work with your fat, not against it. Tara explains how your fat influences your appetite and willpower, how it defends itself when attacked, and why it grows back so quickly. 

The Secret Life of Fat brings cutting-edge research together with historical perspectives to reveal fat's true identity: an endocrine organ that, in the right amount, is critical to our health. Fat triggers puberty, enables our reproductive and immune systems, and even affects brain size. 

Although we spend $60 billion annually fighting fat, our efforts are often misinformed and misdirected. Tara expertly illustrates the complex roles that genetics, hormones, diet, exercise, and history play in our weight, and The Secret Life of Fat sets you on the path to beat the bulge once and for all. 

©2016 Sylvia Tara (P)2016 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Finally, a book that sheds some light on understanding body fat - specifically, its role, why it is so difficult to fight, and how it works differently for different people.... This genuinely enlightening book will be a revelation to those engulfed in self-blame and shame about their weight." (Publishers Weekly)

"[Tara] ably combines an accessible explanation of how the body’s metabolism works with a clear survey of the latest research on obesity. [The Secret Life of Fat] should have wide appeal, not only to those fighting the battle of the bulge." (Kirkus)

"Biochemist Tara gives readers the skinny on fat in a lively discussion that incorporates sumo wrestlers, a bloated diet industry, [and] genetics.... Readers will discover that, regardless of body size and shape, fat does some heavy work on our behalf." (Tony Miksanek, Booklist

"Body fat is so much more than a passive calorie storage depot, as Sylvia Tara brilliantly shows. Read The Secret Life of Fat to make friends with this misunderstood and critically important organ." (David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD, Professor, Harvard Medical School and author of the number one New York Times best seller Always Hungry?)

What members say

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  • 03-21-17

Very technical, but great information

The first six hours is a systematic review of fat and all of its forms and many manifestations.The last 1.5 hours is what you can do to tame fat. I have to say, after listening to the first six hours I became depressed about prospects of weight loss. Listening to this up-front narration was akin to having someone say over and over, "you thought this, but no, you lose." Woman have it worse then men, and men have it bad. When you old it's bad. When your sedentary its bad. Fat listens, fat talks, fat reproduces. Can it get any worse. Yes, it does. Tara does an outstanding job of driving her points home. Every paragraph, I felt like another nail was being driven into my coffin.

At the end, is a happy ending? We sort of. There is hope at least. The author does a great job coming back and helping you understand the elements of of weight loss strategies. She does not promise world and deliver a postage stamp. Think of her book like light a flashlight for weight loss if you lost in a dark warehouse. At least you have a chance to get out. I highly recommend this book. You may not like it, but you will better off if you can get through it.

24 people found this helpful

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Great science information - end was a let down

Any additional comments?

I think the science, case studies and research information was fabulous. For this I giver a 5. As a RN I was so interested in this book and could not put it down so to speak. But her ending about her strict deprivational dieting, exercising and described suffering - white knuckling her life and using intermittent fasting was not the message I wanted to hear. I give that a 1. I was thinking that I hope she never pushes herself fully into a binge eating disorder. I do not think the final message is a healthy pattern to emulate.Skinny jeans are nice but she is totally obsessed and it left me feeling sad for her.

26 people found this helpful

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A nice eye opener

I really enjoyed this book. This in-depth look at fat as just more than a storage depot or the result of laziness and lack of will-power is long overdue. The concept of fat as an organ with value to the body, also is a welcome break from its vilification. Dr. Tara's conclusion that controlling fat is not a one-size fits all solution is important to understand and appreciate.

Although I like books read by the author, I thought Dr. Tara's voice was a bit monotone and at times I had to go back and replay a bit of a passage. This did not diminish my overall enjoyment of the book.

7 people found this helpful

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started strong but got a bit distracted

Is there anything you would change about this book?

It had a lot of the exercise is the answer mantra and while there may be some connection, there are studies and information that says exercise is not the panacea so many profess it to be.

If you’ve listened to books by Sylvia Tara before, how does this one compare?

first one

Could you see The Secret Life of Fat being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

no

Any additional comments?

There was some good information in the beginning of the book. Was especially interested in more information about Beige fat. That said it seemed to glance over and get mired in the excess calories are the culprit and exercise is the answer. I may have to re listen to see if I missed anything. Ambitious start but meandering at the end.

3 people found this helpful

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A lightweight

A rather simplistic presentation of fat metabolism. It’s address of obesity barely mentions sugar, vegetable oil or processed foods. The author herself rather gibly brags that giving up sweet snacks herself is off the table. There are far better books out there for anyone wishing an understanding of fat, obesity and what can be done to fight it. Try “In Defense of Food,” “Deep Nutrition,” or “The Obesity Code,” for a better understanding.

2 people found this helpful

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A great book about fat

I heard about this through an NPR segment. sadly this is not going to be your easy way to lose fat. but the truth is that it isn't easy. this book explains the science of why it's hard and how complex the problem is.

everyone trying to lose weight should listen to this book. it's an information source to help guide you versus a magic pill that won't work.

5 people found this helpful

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Wrong conclusion

I loved the history of fat research, but because of this author's struggle with her own weight loss, the book takes a pessimistic tone. Her answers to long term weight loss are mostly wrong. She talks about intermittent fasting but not long term fasting which for many, including myself, is key to long term weight loss. Also, for a book all about fat, she doesn't talk about fat in the diet. Ketogenic diets along with fasts of different lengths will work for most people. This book only has a quarter of the answer. Read the Obesity Code by Dr Fung if you want long term weight loss. She also made the mistake of saying insulin helps to get fat into the cells, which is wrong.

1 person found this helpful

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Incredibly discouraging!

Trying to lose weight seems pointless. At least she's honest. I guess my take away is if I can't lose it, for heaven's sake stop gaining-- now and not a minute later!

1 person found this helpful

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Informative and interesting book

Sylvia Tara's book on fat is fascinating and informative. She combines research with interesting stories, including personal stories, to hold the listener's interest through some really technical material. I felt like I came out of this with some good learnings.

1 person found this helpful

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Enlightening

I certainly learned a lot in reading this. It helps to know I'm not alone and that there is a reason why it's so hard for me to lose.

I wish there was a bit more discussion regarding how to find resources for help in weight loss. I am in that gap were I am very overweight but not considered in a life threatening state, so my insurance and even my HSA won't cover a weight loss program which seems so counter intuitive.
Also, her voice was quieter than most. I had a hard time hearing here-had to turn up to full volume & still struggled to hear at times.
But, overall, I'd highly recommend this book! Thanks!

4 people found this helpful