by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Belly fat, that stubborn ring around your middle, seemingly creeps up out of nowhere and seems resistant to traditional diet and exercise. Some women will cut calories and may lose inches in other parts of their bodies – but that oh-so-stubborn belly fat remains. Other women report taking on targeted and challenging exercise routines and are able to sculpt shoulders, arms and legs beautifully – yet report no change in their midsection – which can be very frustrating. There is, however, a way to get rid of belly fat forever – with a tried and true approach.
Let’s start by understanding the causes of belly fat. Like most issues, it’s important to remember that there might be more than one issue contributing to your newfound apple shape.
The most common culprits are:
Adrenal Imbalance – when our adrenals are constantly being engaged due to chronic stress – cortisol and adrenaline are continually flooding our bodies – keeping us in a continued state of preparedness for ‘flight or fight’. When this happens, our bodies hold onto extra calories and our appetite can increase to help us refuel. These calories end up being stored as belly fat. Some women don’t even increase their calories and still end up with belly fat. Click here to take our Adrenal Health Assessment.
Insulin resistance – continued spikes and dips in blood sugar, along with high intake of sugars and carbohydrates, creates a scenario in which your cells no longer respond to insulin. Insulin resistance contributes to increased blood sugar and quick conversion of sugar to fat. The best place to store this fat? Your belly.
Imbalanced sex hormones – many women during their perimenopausal years will experience hormonal shifts as estrogen production slows. Our bodies are pretty amazing and complex – during times of hormone imbalances, our body favors belly fat because its programmed to preserve fertility as long as possible. Belly fat can actually produce estrogen! Its no surprise then that when estrogen production from the ovaries slows, the body compensates. Sex hormone imbalances are also negatively affected when cortisol and insulin are out of balance.
It may seem as though your bodies’ protective measures might just be working against you. I’ve successfully worked with thousands of women to reduce belly fat – here’s the approach I recommend:
- Practice good stress management. This is different for everyone – it could mean asking for extra help, meditation, journaling, planning time every day for self care, asking for help, and even learning to say “no.” For some women, it could also mean connecting with friends every day, being outside for a few minutes everyday, or just breathing – deep breaths – several times a day. For other women, turning away from the constant flow of electronic information for a period of time every day is helpful. For others, talking with a medical or mental health professional might be helpful. Think about what would help keep your stress in check.
- Address your insulin resistance – its not too soon to start. I find that women who make dietary changes notice great changes in energy, clarity and a change in their belly fat faster. The first step is eat regularly – breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack and dinner. Keep your carbohydrate count to 16 grams at meals and 7 per snack. One third cup of rice or ½ sweet potato are great choices to accompany your meal. One-half of an apple with nut butter is a good, balanced snack. It is important to remember that carbs are good for you and shouldn’t be eliminated from your diet. The goal here is to lower carbohydrate intake for more stable blood sugar.