Are your hormones giving you a  muffin top?

Carrying excess fat around your torso is very bad for your health, particularly as you get older. Excess fat in this region is dangerous because there are a lot of important organs in the area. Fat doesn’t just sit under your skin; it also creeps into your abdominal organs, particularly your liver, pancreas, and even around your heart. People who carry fat here usually have syndrome X.

Losing weight from this part of the body can be extremely difficult because sometimes hormones can be responsible for the excess fat. An imbalance in one or several hormones can promote deposition of fat around the abdomen and prevent you from being able to lose weight, despite your best efforts.

There are 2 main types of fat on your body

Subcutaneous fat is the type that sits just under your skin. You can pinch it with your fingers, or you can use callipers. Subcutaneous fat doesn’t look good, but it doesn’t raise your risk of health problems.

Visceral fat is the type of fat that lives within and between your internal organs. Just about everyone with subcutaneous abdominal fat also has excess visceral fat. Sometimes a thin looking person can have a lot of fat inside their liver and other organs. We refer to that person as “skinny fat”, or “fat on the inside”.

Visceral fat is bad for you

Fat cells in your abdomen release inflammatory chemicals called adipokines. These chemicals reduce insulin sensitivity, cause a spike in your blood sugar and reduce your ability to strengthen your muscles. In a nutshell, they make you prone to developing a fatty liver, syndrome x and possibly eventual type 2 diabetes.
Having a lot of visceral fat also places you at increased risk of dementia. Research has shown that middle aged people with a big belly are more likely to have a shrinking brain.

Hormone problems that may cause you to lose your waist

  • Leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that your fat cells make. It travels to your brain and tells it you’ve had enough to eat, there is enough fat on your body and you don’t need to eat anymore. If your leptin is working well, you find it easy to maintain your weight. You eat enough to satisfy your appetite and you’re not interested in over-eating. Unfortunately, leptin resistance is extremely common. If your fat cells have been pumping out high levels of leptin for some time, your brain stops responding to it. That can give you feelings of intense hunger and cravings that are never satisfied. What causes leptin resistance? The biggest factors are consuming excess sugar (particularly fructose) and having high blood triglycerides. The eating plan in the book called I Can’t Lose Weight and I don’t know Why helps to address both of these problems.
  • Insulin resistance. Most people know of insulin in relation to diabetes. Type 1 diabetics don’t produce enough insulin (hence must inject it), whereas in type 2 diabetics insulin no longer works properly. All healthy people secrete insulin after they’ve consumed a carbohydrate rich meal. Insulin’s job is to get the glucose from the meal you’ve just eaten into your cells, where it should be burnt to give you energy. As with leptin, the insulin in your body can stop being effective. Your pancreas tries to compensate for this by pumping out more and more insulin. This causes more harm than good; high insulin levels promote your body to store fat (particularly around the torso), they inhibit the fat burning hormones, and they raise your appetite (especially for carbs and sugar).

What causes insulin resistance?

Eating too much sugar and carbohydrate rich foods is one significant cause. Mineral and nutrient deficiencies are another common cause. Chromium, magnesium, manganese, carnitine and zinc are all necessary for healthy insulin function and healthy glucose metabolism. They also help to reduce excessive hunger and cravings for carbs or sugar. Many people don’t get enough of these nutrients in their diet. Lack of sleep and too much inflammation in the body can also cause insulin resistance.

Cortisol is a hormone made by your adrenal glands that can promote fat accumulation on your abdomen. Cortisol is a stress hormone; your body secretes more of it whenever you are stressed. Cortisol has three main jobs in your body – to raise blood glucose (to prepare your body to fight or flee), raise blood pressure and to modulate your immune system (in the short term it reduces inflammation; in the long term it can suppress your immune system).

Problems arise when your cortisol level remains chronically elevated. This can cause chronically raised blood sugar, and eventual insulin resistance. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you secrete, which promotes abdominal fat accumulation.

Unfortunately, eating carbs and sugar also raises cortisol, which worsens the weight gain. It gets worse – belly fat cells contain four times more cortisol receptors compared with other cells. That means every time you raise cortisol levels, you just feed that muffin top.

Bringing your cortisol down can be hard work because sometimes we are caught in a stressful life situation that we can’t escape from. Trying to get adequate, good quality sleep; meditating, performing yoga and gentle exercise can all help.

Losing weight can be difficult, but if you can understand how to get your hormones to work with you rather than against you, the process becomes much easier.

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