If you want to get rid of your belly fat, it’s important
to know what’s causing it first.
There’s much more to weight gain and belly fat than simply eating too much or exercising
too little. With a little detective work, you can discover the root cause of your
Not only does belly fat prevent you from looking and feeling your best, but it can
also contribute to heart issues, diabetes and depression. Belly fat is persistent
for many reasons. Examining the physiology that makes you prone to extra padding
around the waist can lead you to have a happier, healthier body.
Belly fat is different than other kinds of fat
Belly fat can be difficult to get rid of because it’s made up of two kinds of fat.
Some of it is subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that behaves like other fat in your
body. It may be squishy and jiggly but in general, it’s not nearly as dangerous
as the other kind of belly fat: visceral fat.
Visceral fat packs itself in deeply around the internal organs and can end up causing
dysfunction. The cells of visceral fat are larger than regular fat cells and are
filled with excess triglycerides that funnel free fatty acids directly into the
Visceral fat can also build up in the pancreas, heart and other vital organs that
are not meant to store fat. This is problematic because it can contribute to insulin
resistance, blood sugar imbalance, high cholesterol and more. It is stealthy as
it accumulates, and can cause challenging health issues in women regardless of their
weight or size.
What’s causing your belly fat?
Research shows that four common physiologic causes are linked to stubborn belly
fat. All are imbalances that result in extra padding around the belly — though for
good reason. Once your specific physiologic block is removed, your body will able
to release the extra weight.
Insulin resistance. High-carb diets that include
moderate-to-high amounts of sugar and alcohol can overtime cause your cells to become
resistant to insulin. This means that the excess sugar you consume gets quickly
converted to fat. If your diet stays the same, this temporary fat storage becomes
more permanent, leading to abdominal obesity.
Adrenal imbalance. When your stress level is chronically
high, you may find that belly fat increases as well. Even in young girls, both kinds
of belly fat — subcutaneous and visceral — increase as a result of negative personal
or family events. Belly fat accumulation is linked to elevated cortisol levels which
can also cause elevated blood sugar. If your body senses you’re in an endless emergency
— even if you think you’re dealing well with stress — you’ll be hungrier and have
more intense cravings for the exact foods that build fat stores especially around
Perimenopause/menopause hormone reductions. Lower
levels of estrogen and progesterone around menopause often force your body to shift
fat storage to your belly. As estrogen drops, it stirs up proteins that cause fat
cells to store even more fat. To make this extra fat problem even worse, these cellular
shifts also slow down the fat-burning process.
Estrogen dominance. Too much estrogen in relation
to your other sex hormones can cause “toxic weight gain,” especially around your
abdomen. Estrogen levels can be strongly influenced by hormones and antibiotics
in conventionally-raised meats, dairy products, poisonous chemicals, and hormone
disruptors in the environment. These estrogenic effects can dramatically disrupt
If it seems as if your body is working against you when it comes to accumulating
extra belly fat, you’ll be glad to discover that there are solutions to functionally
reverse these metabolic challenges. Shedding belly fat can improve your confidence
and help you feel better physically. But even more important, losing belly fat can
reduce your risk for many serious health issues.
Five steps to lose belly fat
There are good, proven ways to reduce both kinds of belly fat that will work best
if you can zero in on what’s causing fat to accumulate around your waist, and your
1. Enjoy the right kinds of carbohydrates. When it
comes to losing belly fat, you want to get the most nutrition out of everything
you eat. “White” foods, breads and sugary sweets break down too quickly and lead
to belly fat gain. Build your meals around colorful vegetables and lean proteins,
and choose fruit for dessert. This step alone can improve insulin sensitivity almost
Bonus step: find exercise you like that builds
muscle tissue. Try weight training, yoga or interval training (going back and forth
between vigorous and less vigorous exercise in a single session)to add muscle. This
also helps insulin do its job better.
2. Practice stress management daily. Your level of
stress has a large impact on your body composition. Practicing meditation and yoga
can help lower cortisol levels, which will affect how fat is deposited in your body.
Try herbal adrenal
support (astragalus root, eleuthero and rhodiola) to help relieve symptoms
and enhance your body’s resilience against stress.
Bonus step: set aside more time for sleeping and
getting outside. Studies show that getting 8 hours of sleep lowers stress and helps
keep your hunger levels and weight in check. Spending more time in nature has proven
calming and anti-stress benefits.
3. Optimize hormone balance. Ease the burden of estrogen
changes and hormonal fluctuation by supplementing with
herbal extracts that support reproductive hormones. Black cohosh, red clover
and kudzu can help with estrogen imbalance while passionflower, chasteberry and
wild yam are helpful for progesterone imbalance. These adaptogenic herbs are beneficial
because your body uses the ingredients only as needed.
Bonus step: Supply your body with the building
blocks it needs to make hormones by consuming healthy fats from foods like wild
salmon, walnuts, extra virgin olive oil and avocados.
4. Maintain healthy gut flora every day. The bacteria
in your gut play a large role in your weight. The goal is to keep the right balance
between the good and the bad bugs in your digestive system. Eat fermented foods
and vegetables with lots of fiber to feed the good bacteria. Make sure to take a
high quality probiotic to continually populate your gut with the right flora to
help you digest and metabolize food.
Bonus step: increase your intake of fiber. Foods
like asparagus, garlic, onions, lentils and squash provide the “prebiotics” that
feed the good bacteria. “Bad” bacteria thrive on refined carbs like sugar.
5. Naturally boost your metabolism. You can raise
your metabolism to burn more calories by eating protein at every meal, getting enough
calcium in your diet, and consuming fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Try adding
plant-based supplements with ingredients like Indian sphaeranthus, mangosteen and
green tea to help regulate the accumulation of fat and increase your body’s natural
Bonus step: Strength-training is a powerful way
to boost metabolism. Try using inexpensive resistance bands 3-4 times per week.
Begin by implementing a couple of these ideas to start losing your belly fat and
see how you do for a month or so. Once your body is balanced and healthy, it will
be much better prepared to let go of excess belly fat.
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Hye-Ryun Hong, Jin-Ok Jeong, Ji-Young Kong, Sang-Hee Lee, Seung-Hun Yang, Chang-Duk
Ha, and Hyun-Sik Kang. Effect of walking exercise on abdominal fat, insulin resistance
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Carrie J. Donoho, Marc J. Weigensberg, B. Adar Emken, Ja-Wen Hsu,2 and Donna Spruijt-Metz.
Stress and abdominal Fat: Preliminary Evidence of Moderation by the Cortisol awakening
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