Wondering how to lose your belly fat and not sure what is causing it?
Studies show that something other than your diet could be contributing fat to your belly area. It turns out that there is a hormone that will contribute to this as well: the stress hormone (also known as cortisol).
Fat usually deposits in the thighs and hips (particularly for women), but our body will also deposit fats based on fat receptor sites. For example, in our abdominal area there are a high concentration of fat receptors that receive cortisol (a stress hormone). When we get stressed, cortisol is released into the blood stream, which causes high concentrations of fat to be deposited into the abdominal region.
Thankfully, there is a silver lining with abdominal fat : researchers say that belly fat tends to break down more quickly than fat stored in the butt and thigh area! Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but they think it might have to do with the fact that belly fat is mobile.
Having belly fat in the abdominal region is called the “Apple” body type. It is more dangerous than having a “Pear” body shape (where the lower part of the body is heavier than the top) because visceral fat (aka. toxic fat) – is stored around your middle region which surrounds your kidneys, pancreas, and liver. This causes blood-sugar levels to spike, while creating insulin resistance and inflammation. This means that your body also has an excess amount of sugar floating around, and it is no longer able to process it all.
Excessive deposits of fat in the abdominal region are often associated with more serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, types 2 diabetes, and increased blood pressure.
So how can we lose this belly fat?
1. Eat more healthy fats and less carbs (compared to those with a Pear body type)
Go for heart-healthy fats, such as olive oil and coconut oils, which decrease inflammation and supports your body’s ability to burn fat. Excessive carbohydrates (even whole-grains), will raise insulin levels in the body.
Since Apple body types are prone to having high blood sugar (which can be a precursor for diabetes and heart disease), they need to watch their carb intake. For example, avoiding white flours and sticking to a diet of 30% carbs instead of 70% carbs (e.g. 30% carbs would be roughly 600 calories for a woman eating 1,500 daily). Look for fiber-rich, complex carbs, such as beans, fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Fiber helps slow down the digestion of sugar and lowers insulin and cholesterol levels.
2. Eliminate sugars and stimulants (such as caffeinated drinks).
Anything that creates stress to your body should be avoided. Coffee, energy drinks, and sugar are major foods that will stress your body out and overwork your adrenal glands. Not only does it overwork your body, but it also increases your cortisol levels and makes your muscles tighter. Some massage therapists can feel muscle changes when people stop drinking caffeine!
3. Go to bed early.
The best time to fall asleep is during the 10pm – 2am window, when your body goes through most of its detoxification and elimination process. The National Sleep Foundation found that most of the fat burning process also happens while we sleep sleep. In 2010, they revealed a 32 percent increase in visceral fat in participants who slept less than six hours.
4. Stay hydrated to help your body feel more satiated.
Of course, you’ve heard that it is important to drink lots of water throughout the day. A good habit is to wake up and drink at least 1 cup of water to flush your kidneys and support your body’s detoxification process in the morning. It’s also a myth that you have to drink 8 glasses of water – especially since everyone’s activity level and diet is different. Instead, drink until your urine is clear or until it is pale yellow in colour. This will ensure optimal hydration and help your body feel fuller.
If you are stressed, exercising is a great way to remove the extra adrenalin and cortisol from your bloodstream. It also speeds up your metabolism and the calories that you burn. Doing crunches will not get rid of your belly, as you cannot “spot reduce.” Instead, do at least three 40-minute cardio sessions a week – such as dancing, swimming, biking (remember to choose something that is fun for you!) to help get the calories and fat burning. Doing strength and weight training at least twice a week will also help to tighten the core, burn extra fat, and speed up your metabolism. 😉
Be sure to stay away from processed sugar and white flour. Low-glycemic index foods like eggs and fish also help lower cortisol levels in the blood. On the other hand, other important vitamins such as Vitamin B5 and folic acid can help lower cortisol levels. These can be found in foods like beans, fish, whole grains, peas, beans, sunflower seeds, and oranges.
This is obvious, but very little people mindfully do it. It is important to incorporate stress management techniques regularly into your life, such as praying, walking in nature, positive affirmations, taking a warm bath with lavender oil, or writing in your journal. Try deep breathing for 1 minute, 3 times a day, which helps your body relax.