Many people, when they hear the title of a popular workshop I offer, “Stress, Hormones, and Belly Fat”, intuitively understand there is a connection between these three health issues. But they may not know the science behind it and how these issues are connected to their own lifestyle habits. I will give you the basics here.
Maybe you have already read some of the contradictory, sometimes confusing information on the internet on this topic. I have read much of this information too and I understand the confusion! I will attempt to illuminate these contradictions and the important take-aways for you.
The World Health Organization (WHO) web site lists two causes for the dramatic recent increase in obesity worldwide.
• Increased intake of energy-dense, high fat foods
• Decreased physical activity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization
Basic science will confirm that increased caloric intake and decreased energy expenditure will certainly lead to weight gain. But that is not the whole picture, as many of you who have stepped up your exercise and decreased your caloric intake will attest. Many of my patients complain of not being able to lose weight despite real and determined effort. I believe them. There is more happening than meets the eye.
First of all, we know that hormones will trump all other instructions you are giving your body through your habits. In other words, if your hormones are telling your body to store fat, it won’t matter that much what you are doing with your diet or exercise habits. Hormones are powerful messengers made in incomprehensibly small amounts (billionths and trillionths of a gram!) by your endocrine organs, such as your thyroid, adrenal glands and gonads.
Secondly, stress hormones are a priority compared to other hormones. The stress response is designed to save your life in an emergency and therefore gets the highest priority when it comes to instructions to your body. And unfortunately, to put it bluntly, your stress hormones are disrupting digestion and metabolism and increasing fat storage.
The third factor in weight gain and belly fat is the age factor. As we get older, our bodies become less efficient at growth and healing and more efficient at conserving fat. Conserving fat may have been a great help in days past when food was scarce, but is quite a liability today when food is plentiful and readily available at all times of the year around the clock.
I am a big proponent of honoring the natural processes of the body, but lamentably, our current situation and health needs make it necessary to try to “fool” our body into burning the fat it is trying to conserve. What I am referring to is stimulating growth hormone and fat burning through one of the proven techniques such as Intermittent Fasting, high intensity interval training (HIIT) or a ketogenic diet. But these are all topics that deserve their own explanation at a later time.
One more very important tip: As I mentioned above, eating grossly too many calories will inevitably cause weight gain, however, the nutrient and toxic chemical content of your food is much more important than the calorie count. More succinctly said, you need to pay more attention to eliminating processed, fake, toxic chemical-laden foods from your diet than to how many calories or how much fat you eat. In addition, the amount and type of bacterial flora in your intestines is proving to be a huge factor in weight gain, and actually ALL health issues.
To sum up, there are a number of factors involved in health and belly fat and they must all be addressed appropriately and individually to achieve satisfactory and lasting success in improving your health outlook. One of the services I provide is to help people determine a safe, effective and sustainable way to achieve their health goals while honoring their unique physiology and lifestyle.