Ready to hear something that just might blow your mind? Diet and exercise, although VERY important, are not the only factors to weight loss, especially fat loss in the stomach area! If you’ve ever felt like you have hit a weight loss plateau, or that the rest of your body is toning up but your waistline just won’t budge, there is something else to consider: hormones! There are many different hormones in our body that affect how each of us burns and stores fat in the stomach area. But basically it boils down to two major hormones: cortisol and insulin.
Let’s pause about the hormones for a second and talk about fat. There are two types of belly fat: visceral and subcutaneous fat. The visceral fat is deep inside, surrounding our organs. This fat cannot be seen by the eye or pinched. On the other hand, subcutaneous belly fat is what you can pinch at your waistline and is often nicknamed a “muffin top”. The good news is that visceral (deep inside) belly fat recieves a lot of blood supply, is rich in beta-receptors, is more responsive to cortisol, and is less sensitive to insulin. Those are bunch of fancy scientific words basically saying that visceral fat is hard to store and easy to burn, thus can more easily be managed by exercise and diet.
However, our subcutaneous belly fat is a different story. It has more alpha hormone receptors, meaning that it is less responsive to fat-burning hormones. It also is far more insulin sensitive and less reactive to cortisol. In a nutshell: subcutaneous fat is easier for our body to store and harder to burn and get rid of. This is where healthy hormone levels come in!
Hormones, specifically cortisol and insulin are responsible for the storage and release of fat cells, especially in that pinchable subcutaneous belly fat. Simply put, if these hormones are out of whack, they cannot do their jobs correctly. What effects these hormones? You can think of cortisol as the “sleep and stress” hormone and insulin as the “starch and sugar” hormone.
It is a known but often overlooked fact that we all NEED 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Even slight sleep deprivation can cause a stress response in the body, which alters cortisol levels. Other stresses such as work, relationships, and physical stress (ie. over-exercising, posture) can also alter cortisol levels. Thus, it is very important for each of us to manage our stress in order to shrink that waistline. This could be a nice long walk, a restorative yoga session, massages, spa treatments, meditation, laughing, reading, or any other activity you find relaxing. Eliminating stress and increasing sleep are the keys to keeping your cortisol levels in check, and therefore promoting belly fat loss.
The other main hormone, insulin, is more affected by how many starches and sugars you consume. Foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates can cause your insulin levels to spike (bad news for the subcutaneous fat!). However, consuming more complex starches (brown rice, quinoa, and other foods with a low glycemic load) has the opposite effect and actually helps maintain a stable, healthy insulin level.
Phew that was a lot of information! Take some time to understand it. If you would like to read the entire article, and learn a bit more about the science behind burning subcutaneous and visceral stomach fat, check it out here!
Now get some sleep and de-stress! See below for one of many de-stressing ideas.
– Coach Amanda