You Dont Get Enough Sleep
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When you dont get enough rest at night, then your body tries to make up for the lack of energy by craving high-calorie, low-density foods. It wants a quick spike in blood sugar so that it can get moving. Having this behavior as part of your daily routine can lead to belly fat formation. You need to get between 7-9 hours of sleep to encourage energy restoration.
Sugary Foods And Beverages
Many people consume more added sugar daily than they realize.
Common foods in the diet that can be high in added sugar can include baked goods, pastries, muffins, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, granola and protein bars, prepackaged foods, sugar-sweetened beverages , and other processed foods .
In particular, a diet high in SSBs is associated with increased visceral abdominal fat .
SSBs are the largest contributor of sugar intake in the United States primarily due to their low cost, convenience, and ease of consumption. Unlike food, SSBs can be consumed quickly in large volumes since they require minimal processing .
As a result, you experience a large intake of calories and sugar, with little to no nutritional value, in a single sitting. For many, its not uncommon to consume multiple SSBs in a single day.
For example, drinking two 16 fluid ounce bottles of soda in a day adds up to 384 calories and 104 grams of sugar. This, especially if consumed in addition to many other high-sugar food and drinks, can lead to excessive calorie intake in a day and, ultimately, excess visceral fat .
Furthermore, drinking your calories particularly from SSBs can lead to a temporary spike in blood sugar followed by a crash, leading to you feeling hungry quickly and needing to drink or eat soon again .
Female Belly Fat And Hormones
There are a few hormones we need to talk about in regards to belly fat in women. And before the calorie zealots get in an uproar, I am not saying calories dont matter. What I am saying is that it is the hormonal situation that determines where fat is stored, and belly fat is no different.
To lose fat, you need both a caloric deficit and hormonal balance. To lose stubborn fat, particularly stubborn belly fat, you need to understand the hormones involved.
In women, those hormones are insulin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And, of course, the major fat-burning hormones, the catecholamines.
When you think of hormones, realize they never work in isolation. In other words, its wrong to think about the action of a single hormone because hormones behave differently depending on the hormonal social environment they find themselves in.
For example, insulin and cortisol socializing with high testosterone and low estrogen and/or progesterone have a unique outcome that makes women more likely to store belly fat.
Here are how these hormones work in bullets to make it easier:
What Is Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones are basically chemical messengers, telling the cells in your body what to do and supporting them in doing it. The human body secretes some 50 or so different hormones, each of which has a specific purpose in the body. Most of us know that hormones are responsible for most sex-related processes, but they also help control many more basic bodily processes, including metabolism.
Hormonal imbalance occurs when you have too much or too little of a certain hormone. Since your hormones all talk to each other constantly, an imbalance in one hormone has a domino effect, causing changes in the entire body and taking a toll on your health. One downside of the stunningly complex interplay between hormones is that its fairly easy for things to get thrown out of whack.
Hormones are produced by the glands of the endocrine system. While any of these hormones produced by any of these glands could potentially get out of balance, certain types of hormones are usually involved when we talk about hormonal imbalance. The three major hormonal systems typically involved in hormonal imbalance are sex hormones , adrenal hormones , and thyroid hormones .
Because hormones and their functions are so diverse, the signs of hormonal imbalance are equally varied. However, some of the more common signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance are:
- Irregular period or amenorrhea
- Weight loss or gain
When Should I See An Endocrinologist For Weight Gain
There are a wide range of hormonal issues that may cause sudden, unexplained weight gain. These include thyroid deficiency, declining estrogen , and polycystic ovary syndrome . Weight gain may also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as headaches, insomnia, mood swings, and heavy or painful periods. If you find yourself gaining weight with no apparent explanation or changes in diet or exercise, you should discuss this with your doctor. An endocrinologist can help identify hormonal imbalances by reviewing your symptoms and performing laboratory tests when necessary.
Obesity And Sex Hormones
Body fat distribution plays an important role in the development of obesity-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke and some forms of arthritis. Fat around our abdomen is a higher risk factor for disease than fat stored on our bottom, hips and thighs. It seems that oestrogens and androgens help to decide body fat distribution. Oestrogens are sex hormones made by the ovaries in pre-menopausal women. They are responsible for prompting ovulation every menstrual cycle. Men and postmenopausal women do not produce much oestrogen in their testes or ovaries. Instead, most of their oestrogen is produced in their body fat, although at much lower amounts than what is produced in pre-menopausal ovaries. In younger men, androgens are produced at high levels in the testes. As a man gets older, these levels gradually decrease.The changes with age in the sex hormone levels of both men and women are associated with changes in body fat distribution. While women of childbearing age tend to store fat in their lower body , older men and postmenopausal women tend to increase storage of fat around their abdomen . Postmenopausal women who are taking oestrogen supplements dont accumulate fat around their abdomen. Animal studies have also shown that a lack of oestrogen leads to excessive weight gain.
Reducing Excess Visceral Fat
Since lifestyle behaviors cause excess accumulation of visceral fat, modifying these behaviors help reduce it and associated disease risks. Belly fat responds more efficiently to diet and exercise than subcutaneous fat does.
To reduce visceral fat and potentially increase lean muscle mass, add 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to your daily routine on most days of the week. Moderate exercise can include aerobic activity and strength training with weights. Combining a more balanced diet with a regular exercise routine can accelerate the loss of belly fat and improve other cardiometabolic risk factors. Adding more whole fruits and vegetables and minimizing sugar intake from processed foods are effective diet modifications for reducing dangerous fat around the organs. Additionally, quitting smoking, getting more than 5 hours of sleep per night, and managing mental stress have all been proven to reduce the accumulation of belly fat in men.
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Focus On Lean Muscle Mass
As we age, many of us focus on cardiovascular physical activity, such as walking or running. However, its critically important we retain our lean muscle mass, as the more muscle mass we have, the more effective we are at burning calories, as well as burning fat, Carol explains. The most effective and lasting results for improved body composition come from regular strength training and a cardio strategy that includes both steady state-exercise and high-intensity interval training . Put all of this together on a regular basis, and youll set yourself up for long term success and sustained longevity.
What Is Hormonal Weight Gain
Weight gain associated with underlying hormonal imbalances. For men, hormonal weight gain can be caused by high stress or cortisol levels in the body. The heightened levels of cortisol may make the body go into survival mode and induce the production of fat cells which will cause a declining metabolism to store food for later use. For women, a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol decreases at menopause helps regulate metabolism and body weight. The lower the levels of estradiol may cause weight gain. Throughout a womans life, they may notice weight gain around their hips and thighs.
Shift Your Shape With More Movement
It is important to remember to take a reality check. You didnt get the excess weight overnight and youre not going to lose it all in a minute, advises Carol. She suggests if youre trying to lose belly fat, the best thing to do is start with cardiovascular exercises and activities that you love. If running on a treadmill is not your thing, then find a movement that brings you joy youll be more inclined to do it. Now, take your strength to the next level.
Lifestyle Choices Lead To Lower Belly Fat
Your lower belly fat may also be a result of sedentary behaviors. If you aren’t burning the calories you consume, the excess accumulates in your belly. Getting more active, such as working up to 150 minutes — or longer — of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity per week helps. You’ll also benefit from being active all day long with small movements such as fidgeting and pacing.
Lower belly fat also reveals poor sleep habits. Researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine examined five years of sleep habits and visceral fat accumulation in adults younger than 40 they found that those who slept less than six hours per night or more than nine hours, on average, had higher amounts of belly fat. Their results, published in Sleep in 2010, suggest that getting a good night’s sleep helps deter the development of lower belly fat.
The more you stress, the fatter you may become. Stress, from bills, family or work, causes you to produce more cortisol, a hormone that encourages your body to store excess calories as belly fat. Mindless eating and cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods also accompany stress for a lot of people. Seek out alternative ways to deal with stress, such as talking with a friend or practicing yoga.
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Hormonal Imbalance And Weight Gain
So many factors are involved in a persons weight, but one thats often overlooked is their hormonal function. There are some specific hormonal conditions or events such as an underactive thyroid, PCOS, or menopause that are associated with weight gain, but even for women without a diagnosed condition, female hormone imbalance can often be the culprit for weight gain. This is largely because one of the most important things your hormones do is to regulate metabolism, fullness, hunger, and energy.
Lets look more specifically at how hormonal imbalance could potentially contribute to weight gain:
These are some of the most common ways that a hormonal imbalance can lead to weight gain. The one biggie we left out is cortisol, which well look at a bit more in-depth now.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Following The 1: 8 Diet
While the 16:8 diet seems like a great way to drop weight fast, it does have some cons. Sarah Mirkin, RD, author of Fill Your Plate, Lose the Weight, a 21-day meal plan designed to help women over 40 lose weight, says, “I think that it limits food intake to such a small window of time that it’s difficult for someone to meet their nutritional needs.”
Indeed, fasting for a long period of time probably means you’re not able to enjoy three full meals with snacks each day. Whether you’re skipping breakfast or dinner, missing a meal always results in not receiving adequate nutrients. And since the 16:8 diet gives you license to eat whatever you want, you might be tempted to fill up only on fatty, processed foods, especially if you’re feeling ravenous. Hunger can also clout your better judgment and lead you to binge eat as well. “Studies show that the majority of people are not able to sustain it for very long and oftentimes end up binging on unhealthy foods, causing weight gain,” Mirkin says. Other drawbacks of 16: 8 fasting include poor sleep, muscle mass loss , disordered/binge eating, weakness, nausea, and fatigue, Mirkin says.
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How To Keep Estrogen At Optimal Levels
To balance estrogen levels naturally and prevent the weight gain that happens with an estrogen imbalance, youll want to do the following:
- Commit to a regular exercise routine. Many studies, including this 2012 one, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, explain how exercise lowers estrogen levels in obese women.
- Eat your fiber. Fibrous foods help decrease elevated estrogen levels.
- Eat veggies in the cruciferous family. These include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and bok choy. Anything green and leafy is always a good idea, too!
- Reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with our natural hormones. Avoid plastic containers, cans, or water bottles made with BPA. Never microwave plastic.
- Choose organic foods when possible, and choose phthalate-free cosmetics and personal care products.
- Consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which uses plant-based hormones identical to those produced naturally by the human body to keep hormones balanced.
Getting To Know Ghrelin
You can think of ghrelin as your hunger hormone. Like leptin, it communicates with the brain in this case, telling your brain to eat. Every time your stomach becomes empty, it naturally releases ghrelin into your bloodstream. Ghrelin levels are lowest just after youve finished a meal. Theyre at their highest when the stomach is empty and youre ready for your next meal. This scenario is normal when a person is healthy and maintaining optimal weight.
An overweight person, on the other hand, will find that like the other hormones weve explored ghrelin levels are typically out of whack. In healthy individuals, ghrelin levels decrease in a way that satiates them and signals their brains to stop eating. But in obese individuals, ghrelin levels dont decrease enough after eating, which fails to send the brain the signal it needs to stop eating and feel satisfied.
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How Does The Stress Hormone Cortisol Sabotage Weight Loss
How is this overproduction of cortisol related to weight gain? First of all, heightened cortisol is linked to overeating. Ever notice how you eat when youre stressed? A study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology found that higher than normal cortisol levels were linked to overeating and weight gain. Another study links elevated cortisol levels to an increase in belly fat.
Eat Fewer Calories More Frequently
Increased insulin resistance might leave you feeling hungrier. Dividing up your food into three moderately sized meals and one to two small snacks will keep your blood sugar levels steady while combatting the urge to nibble on junk, Largeman-Roth says. Piling your plate with more low-calorie, high-volume foodslike fruits and vegetablescan help fill you up, too.
How Long Does It Take To See Results
Within 6 weeks of starting to include some exercises that increase lean muscle mass, you might see some shifting and definition, but youll already notice your strength has increased. Its so empowering it feels great! says Carol. Youll get faster results than youll get on your own. Its a kick start that involves all sorts of changes , including a shift in upper body posture, and more defined muscles.
Why Is Belly Fat Bad
Belly fat is the type of fat that hugs our organs. In these areas, an accumulation of fat increases the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, heart disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic liver disease, and obesity. Dr. Maria Anton, an Endocrinologist, notes that hormonal changes can affect a persons weight, cravings, and overall metabolism, but cautions that excess weight can increase a patients risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol that can lead to cardiovascular disease its important to address it and coming to Pritikin would be beneficial to any of those patients. Its worth investing a little time in yourself to learn about ways you can make changes in your lifestyle that you can actually keep, that can help you lose belly fat. We cant change our genetics, or whats happening at developmental stages of life but we can change our lifestyle, notes Lon.
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What Hormonal Imbalances Can Cause Belly Fat
- Thyroid: The thyroid gland secretes hormones that control metabolism, a process by which the body consumes energy. When your thyroid doesnt produce enough thyroid hormones , most body processes slow down, which leads to weight gain, especially around the abdomen. According to the American Thyroid Association, weight gain due to hypothyroidism may be caused by a buildup of salt and water as opposed to a buildup of fat.
- Cortisol: Cortisol is released in response to stressful situations. When you are agitated, your body goes into flight-or-fight or survival mode, triggered by the secretion of cortisol by the adrenal gland. Increased cortisol can lead to the accumulation of fat around the abdomen.
- Leptin: Leptin helps you feel full after a meal. However, when leptin levels increase and lead to leptin resistance, this can cause increased food intake and fat accumulation in the abdomen.
- Estrogen:Low testosterone levels may reduce libido and increase abdominal fat in both men and women.
- Testosterone: Low testosterone levels in males decrease growth and increase fat accumulation in the body. Increased testosterone levels in females increase insulin resistance, which leads to the accumulation of abdominal fat.