If you feel that your weight has nothing to do with the food you eat then you’re not alone. Sure there are those who know they consume too much food or the wrong food and if they were to change their diet, do a bit or exercise and drink water the weight would come off.
This, however is not the case for many people. I first discovered this problem when I began putting weight on in my early 40s. I ignored it for a while because I was living in a domestic violence relationship and therefore was focused on completing a degree in psychology so I could get a job and leave the abusive relationship rather than exercise.
Coming from a physical job as beauty therapist and massage therapist I honestly thought my weight gain was simply due to lack of movement- oh how wrong I was.
When I finally broke free, got a job then moved out, it still took me a few months to heal my emotions enough that I could look at my physical health. Having been trained in Naturopathy and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) I knew what to do, I just didn’t have the energy prior to do it. When I finally did have the energy and will I did a form of Keto diet, (Naturopaths having been using a version of this for many more years than it’s been popular). I ate avocado, salmon and lightly cooked veges but no carbs. Getting all my carbs from the vegetables I was eating. I reduced my fruit in take and bought an elliptical machine to do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) machine.
At week 3 I saw no change in my body shape. This is extremely unusaul. Normally by now I’d see at least 1-2 kg (2-4 pounds) of weight reduction and feel the difference in my thighs buttox and stomach. Alas this was not happening. I was perplexed and confused. More research was needed.
Domestic Violence is not something anticipates in ones life. The emotional train wreck it leaves behind effect you for much longer than you’d imagine. Most people think the emotional healing and mental healing are what is needed and once you have this you’ll be fine. Despite my years of health training, or perhaps because of it, I too thought that.
I am naturally a slim yet curvy athletic type women. I’m used to wearing skimpy clothes and having them look good. So it’s a real shock to find cellulite and rolls of fat where once there weren’t any. It’s even worse when you actively try to remove it and it doesn’t.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Stress can make to fat. Yep you heard me. Nothing I was eating nor my lack of exercise were to blame. It was living under duress for such a long time that my cortisol levels disrupted every part of my endocrine system. I have stress belly and no amount of exercise will get rid of it until I address the underlying hormone imbalances.
So what hormones are affected ?
Cortisol: Not only does excess cortisol, our long term stress hormone, increase appetite and cravings, but it also causes a loss of memory, muscle mass, libido, and bone density. Stress causes abdominal fat – even in people who are otherwise thin. Hundreds of studies have established the link between high cortisol and more belly fat, as well as increased storage of abdominal fat.
Insulin: High cortisol causes belly fat because it increases insulin resistance and makes you more at risk of weight gain – especially with too many carbs or the wrong carbs for you. Weight gain around the abdomen, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, low good cholesterol, food cravings and difficulty losing weight are all associated with high insulin. It’s a catch 22 – because the higher your insulin levels, the greater your accumulation of belly fat and extra fat around the waist in turn increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Estrogen: Just as too much estrogen is known to fuel weight gain, so does a dip in estrogen too. In order to make estrogen, the cells have to store more fat, which in turn triggers fat gain.
Testosterone: Testosterone levels decrease in men as their excess abdominal fat causes it to be converted to estrogen and also if they are under high stress. As estrogen levels rise, so does the tendency to accumulate more abdominal fat, fueling the situation.
Serotonin: Low serotonin; the happy hormone becomes less effective in the brain as estrogen declines. That increases carbohydrate cravings and belly fat.
Growth Hormone: Growth hormone is essential to maintaining healthy bones, skin and hair, as well as strong, lean muscle mass. Beyond a natural decrease with aging, conditions like sleep deprivation, diabetes, hypothyroidism, some cases of osteoporosis, anorexia or insulin resistance can cause levels to decline more rapidly. By the time we’re 40 nearly everyone is deficient in growth hormone, and at 80 our levels have diminished by at least 90%. Low growth hormone is linked to abdominal fat in both men and women, while replacement of low levels as been linked to an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in belly fat.
Other Physiological Factors Related to Stress Belly
- Compromised liver function
- Immune imbalance
- Digestive issues
- Sleep Concerns or Insomnia
- Lack of sex drive
Stress is deadly. It constricts blood vessels, takes away vital nutrients from where they are needed AND it makes us FAT! Want to lose weight? Sort out your stress levels, then balance your hormones (Use TCM and essential oils such as geranium)- then you can work on your tummy-
Good luck x