Got Belly Fat?

Got Belly Fat?

We like having curves, but not that kind. Frustrating as it is, belly fat doesn’t indicate a need for a diet. It is actually an indication of a deeper imbalance related to hormones. If you’ve got belly fat, your body is calling for help.

It is not unusual for belly fat to appear in women after the age of 50, even those who are otherwise skinny and athletic. And it isn’t just a women’s issue because men can develop belly fat, too.

Two Types Of Fat

There are two main types of belly fat – visceral and subcutaneous. Subcutaneous fat is the fat just below the skin. It’s the love handles and fat you can grab with your hand. Visceral fat is found deeper in the body, surrounding and putting pressure on the organs in your abdomen.

What many don’t realize is that belly fat acts like an endocrine organ, releasing hormones like estrogen. It also releases cytokines that increase inflammation in the body.

Risks Associated With Visceral Fat

There are several health risks associated with visceral fat. Research has demonstrated the risks include:

  • Estrogen dominance (visceral fat releases estrogen)
  • Atherosclerosis and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive issues
  • Sleep issues
  • Some cancers

Insulin Resistance

Belly fat of either type is a sign of insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that escorts blood sugar from circulation into your cells. Once in your cells, the blood sugar can be used to produce energy.

Blood sugar that is repeatedly spiked due to your diet will eventually cause your cells to dial down their reception to insulin. It is like turning the sound down when the volume is too high.

In an effort to get the blood sugar into cells, the pancreas will produce more insulin. And when the cells resist the insulin, it will convert the blood sugar to fat.

Sugar And Processed Carbs

The Standard American Diet is full of processed carbs and added sugar which quickly spikes blood sugar levels. It is primarily high glycemic, which promotes insulin resistance.

Since the blood sugar does not get into the cells, they are starving and raise their hunger level. It’s a vicious cycle when you are hungry and you keep eating high-glycemic foods that make you hungrier.

Aging Can Reduce Insulin Response

Studies have shown that the percentage of older populations with blood sugar issues is 3-4 times higher than young adults. It’s not clear whether that is due to reduced function in their bodies or having consumed a high glycemic diet longer. However, the choice of food and beverage is key – each day of our lives.

Prescription Medications

A third cause of insulin resistance is medication. These include chemotherapy drugs, steroids, thiazide diuretics, beta-blockers, statins, antipsychotics, and antidepressants, to name a few.

I have encountered many clients who were in menopause and were taking statins. Their prescriber had not told them of the higher risk of developing diabetes when taking the medication.

Symptoms Of Insulin Resistance

Here are some of the symptoms you can look for:

  • Belly fat
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Hunger soon after eating
  • Fatigue after eating
  • Cravings for sugar and processed foods
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent illness

Lifestyle Changes To Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Given that many medications can contribute to insulin resistance, I think you can understand why I encourage my clients to use lifestyle changes to turn things around. You have the power to change the way your body functions with the choices you make.

Diet – the food and drinks you choose have the power to influence blood sugar and inflammation. What you consume is information for your body, in addition to nutrients. Besides adjusting what you consume, when you consume food can also play an important part.

Movement after a meal can help your body manage blood sugar. I often recommend my clients take a short walk after eating or walking up and down stairs a few times.

Exercise – here I would specifically recommend weight training over cardio. Weight training, whether it is with body weight or hand-held weights, helps build muscle. Increased muscle uses more blood sugar and boosts your metabolism.

Stress Management – I don’t recommend cardio exercises because it raises your cortisol levels, which can disrupt your insulin and other hormones. Breathing exercises or a short yoga practice can calm your body and reduce cortisol.

Your hormones act as an operating system in your body. They are finely tuned, when our life habits don’t interfere. Thankfully, they can be rebalanced with some targeted attention and change.

If you’ve got belly fat and it is a frustrating distraction, take some time to consider which of these contributors may be at play. Could you use some guidance in choosing the best approach for addressing the issue? I’m happy to talk with you about how I can help.

Kelly Lutman Pursue Wellness

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