When fat is your friend

This past September, Westport's Dr. James Lyons, 60, published his first book, The Brown Fat Revolution. The book, which he's spent 10 years writing, calls upon his decades of work as both a plastic surgeon and a bodybuilder to offer women a unique way to stay youthful-looking and trim: by getting fat. Below, The Westport News catches up with Dr. Lyons to find out the new skinny on fat.

1) Dr. Lyons, your new book is called The Brown Fat Revolution, but you say that The Young Fat Revolution would have worked just as well. Why is that? What's so revolutionary going on?

Women are obsessed with aging skin. The Brown Fat Revolution turns the attention to another tissue: fat. Women need fat as they age, but they need right kind of fat: not old, yellow, loose fat, but firm, toned brown fat. Fat ages, and as it does it fails to support the skin, making it look wrinkled. At the same time, it loosens and descends off of bone and muscle to form contours that we associate with aging: jowls in the face, jiggly arms, pouchy abdomen, rolls on the back.

2) What are central goals of most people who read this book?

The central goals of the reader of The Brown Fat Revolution are as follows:

I. Find an eating program, not a diet, that is for life. An eating regimen filled with natural, balanced nutrients that maintains optimal weight, increases energy, improves skin quality, shreds yellow fat, builds brown fat and makes the reader look younger: refreshed, renewed, restored.

II. Build lean muscle and a more attractive looking body with a program that's not only effective but efficient. Twenty minutes each day, at home, only one piece of equipment (bungee cord). The goal of training is to create a more youthful appearance.

3) So how exactly can fat be your friend?

Fat is definitely a woman's friend as she gets older! But it has to be healthy, brown fat. Fat that has a rich blood supply, dense lymphatic system and tight fascia encasing. This fat tightly supports the overlying skin and mimics the underlying contours of the face and body and defines an attractive women. Think about people you have known on the "Atkin's Diet": typically very skinny, but very old looking! No support to the skin and no youthful contours. This is the picture of old.

With the Brown Fat Revolution program, the careful inclusion of carbohydrates will hydrate all of the tissues making them look full, luscious and young as the brown fat accentuates desirable contours.

4) How have you organized your book? What's inside?

It's organized as follows:

I. The Science: My clinical experience after operating on women for 30 years

II. How you age: How fat plays a role in aging

III. The Brown Fat Revolution Eating Plan

a. Four-week eating plan for hormone I (pre-menopausal)

b. Four-week eating plan for hormone II (post-menopausal)

IV. The Brown Fat Revolution Exercise Plan

a. Four-week exercise plan for hormone I (beginner/intermediate)

b. Four-week exercise plan for hormone I (advanced)

c. Four-week exercise plan for hormone II (beginner/intermediate)

d. Four-week exercise plan for hormone II (advanced)

5) Let's start with food. What does "cycling" mean and why should adults "eat like babies?"

It's extremely important that women stop "deprivation dieting"; that is, depriving the body of balanced nutrition. The Brown Fat Revolution eating program will keep insulin even in the blood stream and therefore prevent the deposit of yellow fat by alternating days of carbohydrate intake. The "cycle" of eating is to alternate one day in which protein is accompanied with minimal carbohydrates and one day (the following day) in which protein is accompanied by a full complement of carbohydrates.

This keeps the glycogen storage of the liver even at all times. The "metabolic eyes" of the body see this even glycogen/insulin milieu as a sign that food is abundant and there is no need to hold onto any excess nutrients. So, fat is NOT deposited. With restrictive diets, the "metabolic eyes" of the body see starvation and hold onto fat--the common "stuck" position of most restrictive diets.

Here, there are six meals a day. You eat like a baby; that is, whenever you feel empty. This will create a continuous digestion of nutrients and no build-up of excesses in the form of fat. It also is a symbol to the "metabolic eyes" that food is abundant so there's no need to store fat.

6) Are you saying that chaining yourself to a treadmill isn't the best way to shed flab?

Studies have clearly shown that cardio is not the most efficient way to lose fat. The body accomodates to work and eventually cardio will be "routine." Unless, you mix it up with sprinting. That is, do the cardio of choice at a relaxed pace, then sprint to a pace that is almost intolerable, hold it there until you cannot do anymore, then return to relaxed pace and continue for at least 20 minutes. This is the best way to use cardio, not the traditional hour-long running or starimaster!

Even better, increase lean muscle mass. Lean muscle continuously burns fat and increases overall metabolism. Create a literal furnace with lean muscle and the "wiggle" room for eating will increase. This is the basis of the heavy emphasis on core development in The Brown Fat Revolution exercise program. Increase lean muscle without looking bulky!

7) You've been a plastic surgeon for three decades. Wouldn't it be easier for both of us to go straight to the scalpel?

Absolutely, not! The indications for surgery and for enlisting in a healthy program of eating and exercise are completely different. Every patient who is contemplating elective, plastic surgery must--and I stress the word--must be proactively healthy. The results that are achieved in the looking-younger departement are amazing but different from those achieved with surgery.

This process is a continuum of what I refer to as "cosmetic medicine." The beginning of the spectrum is healthy lifestyle. Of course, there will be skin issues due to weight loss, pregnancy, gravity that are beyond the scope of exercise and eating well. But let me assure you, when a patient comes to my operating room fully engaged in The Brown Fat Revolution programs, she will have better results that last much longer. To me, a prerequisite for every surgical candidate is a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating, exercise, stress control, good habits.

8) How has your background in bodybuilding shaped your plastic surgery career and the plans put forth in your book?

Whenever I complete either a tummy tuck or lipocontouring procedure, the nurses tell me that I do it very differently than most surgeons. On further questioning, they say that while I am working, they can see me literally sculpting and moving tissue to create shapes that are better than the patient's original. There is no question that the fact that I have been working out and consider myself a "body builder" has made me a better surgeon. My standards are much higher. I know every shadow and curve of the body and try to create and simulate these when I do sculpting surgery. Normal is not good enough!

I have had innumerable trainers, read hundreds of articles and books on training and muscle physiology. The plastic surgeon sees the body a certain way. The bodybuilder sees it in another way. In one way, it all seems similar: the pursuit of optimal visual appearance of the body with shapes and contour change. So, I think they are totally complementary.

As importantly, I can assist my patients in recommending workouts and ways to achieve their goals commensurate or without surgery. In today's world where so many people work out, it is important for a plastic surgeon to be knowledgeable about how bodies can be dramatically changed with focused training. The Brown Fat Revolution exercise program is a specific program designed to address areas of the body that typically age to make a women look older. I know this from the perspective of both a plastic surgeon and a bodybuilder.

9) Has anyone tested your plans around town? What have the results been like?

There is a pilot study group being conducted right now by a PhD in nutrition. These women range from 38-62, all feel "stuck" in whatever they are doing right now with respect to diet and exercise. They are seen weekly, are weighed, measured (arms, waist, waist/hip ratio), have their body-mass index calculated and are photographed. They are in the sixth week of study and ALL are enthusiastic about the early results: they have an average weight loss of six pounds, are feeling more energy and noting rapid decreases in belly. Their results are soon to be followed on our website: www.thebrownfatrevolution.com. The study will go on for six months during which time Web site viewers will see their comments, measurements and photos.

10) Would any of this apply to men?

Men are such different characters than women! The eating program would be great for men too but they may require more caloric intake. The exericise program is For Women Only since it is designed to create the contours that I associate with a youthful female. Men certainly want different shape than women! My next book will be for men. After 25 years of bodybuilding, I have a lot of information to share with them.

For more information, visit Dr. Lyon's Web site, www.thebrownfatrevolution.com. The Brown Fat Revolution is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders and Amazon.com