Is it pos­si­ble to tar­get belly fat?

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Your Health -

I’m try­ing to get a flat stom­ach for sum­mer but no mat­ter how hard I try I can’t lose the last lit­tle bit of belly weight. Is it pos­si­ble to lose weight from your stom­ach re­gion, specif­i­cally?

Each hor­mone lays down a spe­cific pat­tern of body fat around dif­fer­ent ar­eas of the body. Our mid sec­tion has been linked to our cor­ti­sol lev­els – our long-term stress hor­mone and also to in­sulin re­sis­tance.

When our body per­ceives that there is some­thing to be stressed about, it sig­nals to the body to make adren­a­line. This his­tor­i­cally short-term stress hor­mone pre­pares our body to fight or flee from an at­tack. Since sur­vival is its main game, the body also di­verts blood sup­ply away from pro­cesses such as di­ges­tion to the mus­cles and causes the body to use glu­cose, not body fat as its fuel.

In to­day’s world, the stress that our body per­ceives from our lives is more of­ten the re­sult of some­thing like dead­lines, an over­whelm­ing in­box, re­la­tion­ship wor­ries or fi­nan­cial con­cerns. These kinds of stres­sors don’t tend to sub­side quickly, so if we don’t do any­thing to coun­ter­act it, our body can be re­lent­lessly churn­ing out adren­a­line.

With pro­longed adrenalin out­put comes in­flam­ma­tion so when stress be­comes long term, the body starts to make cor­ti­sol which, among other things acts as an anti-in­flam­ma­tory as well as be­gin­ning to break down our mus­cles for en­ergy. Hav­ing less mus­cle sub­se­quently slows down me­tab­o­lism.

Cor­ti­sol, due to an an­cient link to events such as famines and droughts, per­ceives that there is a lack of food in the world and so sig­nals to your body to start stor­ing fat in­stead of burn­ing it – since a stor­age of en­ergy means our sur­vival will be pro­longed if the food short­age con­tin­ues.

For us, with lit­tle or no knowl­edge of this in­ter­nal process, we look down at our soft­en­ing bel­lies and think ‘‘I have to go on a diet!’’ and/or ‘‘I need to start train­ing harder!’’ Both of these things have the propen­sity to con­tinue the pro­duc­tion of cor­ti­sol since a re­duc­tion in food con­sump­tion con­firms to the body that there is a food short­age and in­tense ex­er­cise adds ad­di­tional stress.

The best way to ad­dress this pat­tern of fat stor­age is to ad­dress our stress hor­mone pro­duc­tion. Cul­ti­vat­ing our calm through restora­tive prac­tices (such as restora­tive yoga, qi gong, tai chi, med­i­ta­tion or breath work), ad­dress­ing our per­cep­tion of pres­sure and ur­gency and cut­ting down our con­sump­tion of caf­feine (which pro­motes adren­a­line pro­duc­tion) will be much more ef­fec­tive than amp­ing up our ex­er­cise in­ten­sity and go­ing on a diet.

It might sound coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to slow down to shed body fat but in some cases it is the best plan of at­tack. Once your body be­gins to re­alise that there is no im­me­di­ate dan­ger, it will be­gin to stop, or at least slow down, the out­put of stress hor­mones and your body will once again al­low you to use body fat as an en­ergy source and stop stor­ing fat as a high pri­or­ity.

En­sur­ing you are get­ting ad­e­quate sleep will also go a long way to help­ing your body to feel as though it can use body fat as an en­ergy source.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this column is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for direct, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Visit dr­libby.com.

Sup­port your health through the fes­tive sea­son by try­ing Bio Blends by Dr Libby, her new range of food-based nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ments at bioblends.co.nz

The best way to deal with belly fat stor­age is to ad­dress stress hor­mone pro­duc­tion.

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