We have all heard of middle aged spread, how difficult it is to “shake that baby fat” after a pregnancy (even though it’s been three years) and how we “just inherited” a pot belly from our parents.
The truth is it has nothing to do with giving birth, age or genetics. But rather, there is a scientific reason for belly fat build up and it has to do with hormonal imbalances in your body. Hormonal imbalances that are caused by the food you are eating.
Belly fat or Visceral fat is a key indicator of hormonal imbalances. Unlike subcutaneous (fat just under your skin which is found elsewhere on the body) Visceral fat targets the midriff. This fat is linked to hormone imbalances, with Insulin being the number one trouble maker.
So what’s the big deal? You have some belly fat but you BMI (Body Mass Index) is not that high, so you are probably ok, right? Wrong!
Belly fat can have disastrous effects on your health! Research shows that “apple shaped” people or people with central obesity are much more likely to develop type two diabetes. Women with a stomach measurement of more than 35 inches and men more than 40 inches, are more likely to suffer from type two diabetes which can cause blindness, loss of limbs and death. British studies show that 90% of people with type two diabetes are overweight.
Belly fat can also cause cardiovascular disease and liver dysfunction. Visceral fat also produces immune system hormones that lower your general health and increase your chances of developing serious diseases.
It’s a vicious cycle: What happens is that visceral (belly) fat releases hormones into your blood stream directly into your portal vein. The portal vein takes blood to the liver that is now full of fatty acids. These effect lipid production, increase bad cholesterol levels and cause insulin resistance in the liver. So the belly fat is actually creating hormones that will increase your belly fat!
So what is causing the belly fat Build up?
Research shows that although factors like stress (which produces fat-storing hormone Cortisol) and Leptin resistance (which is also diet related) play a role, the number one factor is insulin resistance and high insulin levels.
You might be thinking, how can resistance to something be bad if high levels of it are bad too? Here is how it works: Insulin is an important hormone. It transports glucose from your liver to all the cells in your body that need it. Glucose is your body’s fuel. When high insulin levels are registered by your liver, it stops producing glucose. So Insulin is important. But it is also really good at its job. If you have too much insulin it will carry much more glucose around than your system needs. This gets stored as belly fat.
Really high Insulin levels cause Insulin resistance or pre-diabetic metabolic syndrome. Insulin resistance means that your liver doesn’t register the insulin in your system, and so it doesn’t shut off glucose production. So more and more glucose is being sent out into your system to be stored as belly fat and increasing your chances of developing type two diabetes. The latest studies show that 1 in 4 Americans have Insulin Resistance.
What causes Insulin spikes and Insulin resistance?
Excessive sugar consumption from sugary drinks, sodas, alcohol and packaged “low-fat” food (which is still high in glucose) and “empty” carbohydrates like white bread. Another culprit is skipping meals.
Skipping meals can actually cause Insulin resistance!
Studies with mice have shown that test subjects who fasted and then only ate one big meal a day experienced Insulin resistance, making them more likely to store fat and more likely to develop diabetes. They also experience a dangerous spike in insulin levels when they do eat, and are more likely to binge when they have food presented to them. Test subjects who were allowed to nibble small amounts of the same food all day showed much safer, more regulated insulin levels and no signs of insulin resistance.
How can you regulate your insulin levels naturally?
Avoid foods that are made up of empty carbs or loaded with sugar, sweeteners and artificial flavorings.
Eat enough Protein. Protein helps regulate your blood sugar levels and keeps your insulin levels low while simultaneously stimulating our appetite controlling hormones.
Research conducted with obese men and women with type two diabetes found that those on high protein diets had much more success shedding belly fat and restored healthy cholesterol levels much more easily than those on low protein diets.
Good proteins options are quinoa, hemp seeds, legumes such as beans and lentils, nuts such as almonds.
Eat only complex carbohydrates like oats, whole grain bread, starchy vegetables (rather than pasta) or whole-wheat pasta and bran. Look for carbs with a low glycemic index. This is usually stated in the label of health breads and pastas.
Eat small, frequent meals, rather than one or two large meals a day with nothing in-between. You should eat something every four hours during the day. Make sure you have your last meal at least 2 hours before you go to sleep.
Combine your carbs with enough (good) Fats and Proteins. This slows down the rate that they are absorbed at, reducing your risk of an Insulin spike.
Include foods and supplements in your diet that help to regulate blood sugar levels. Some good examples of blood sugar regulators are: horse radish, avocados, flax seed oil, chia seeds, olive oil, eggs (up to 8 a week) and Green leafy vegetables and orange vegetables like butternut.
Season your food with herbs and Himalayian rock salt rather than pre-mixed, MSG loaded spices.
Eat fruits like cherries, berries, pears, apples, peaches and plumbs to help overcome your sweet cravings. You can eat fruits like melons and grapes too but they tend to contain more fructose (fruit sugar) so eat them more sparingly.
The general rule of thumb is, as always, steer clear of fast foods and pre-packaged convenience foods. Be sensible. Even if you are not sure what you should be eating start by cooking from scratch, using whole, unprocessed, organic ingredients as far as possible and buy from a reputable dealer.
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.
Are you concerned about your belly fat? Which wonderful friends in your life would appreciate to learn about how to melt their belly fat?
Please help them by sharing this eye-opening article with each of them using any of the social media and email buttons below.