By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 31, 2014
- Even skinny people have belly fat
- What does stress have to do with it?
- Drop pounds with these simple techniques
When you hear the words “abdominal obesity” you might think of someone who is quite a bit overweight. And in some cases that might be true.
But you can be pretty thin and still have excess belly fat. In fact, you can have a perfectly normal weight and exceptional body mass index (BMI)… and still have a spare tire around your mid-section.
That’s because there is a modern form of obesity that’s reaching epidemic proportions these days. It’s called normal weight obesity, central weight obesity or skinny fat.
Skinny fat is a term used to describe someone who is normal weight, but has a large percentage of body fat. And you might have guessed it already, but most of that excess fat tends to settle in your belly.
BMI does nothing to tell you if you fall into this category, and it is extremely dangerous to your health. It starts pressing in on your organs… your heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas… and strangles the life out of them.
Worse, excess belly fat leaves you wide open for diabetes, stroke, heart disease and an increased risk of death.
Now here’s the question. What’s driving the epidemic of central obesity?
I’ll bet you think the answer is soda pop, sugar, carbs and high fructose corn syrup.
And sure. All of these things will expand your belly.
But there’s an underlying cause that just might be driving your desire for these kinds of foods – and increasing your belly fat at the same time.
It’s a stress hormone called cortisol.
You see, stress is a strange thing. Our bodies are pre-programmed to deal with any perceived threat or danger by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. And it worked great back in the days of our ancestors.
When they encountered a tiger or bear, these stress hormones kicked our ancestors’ bodies into overdrive for immediate action. Then, when they were safe from the threat, their bodies normalized.
But today it’s a whole ‘nother story.
Money is tight and jobs are hard to come by. We’re dealing with growing children, ailing parents, deadlines and disagreements. Our lives are filled with things like flat tires and leaky roofs. Death, illness and broken relationships also take their toll.
All of these events are threats. The problem is they don’t go away. However, your body treats them as immediate dangers. And it’s easy to sit around stewing about them.
Guess what happens then?
You have constantly high levels of cortisol!
And guess what else happens?
That constant release of cortisol increases blood sugar. At the same time it counteracts insulin. This causes carbohydrate cravings… right along with an unhealthy build up of fat in the abdomen.
The best way to reduce cortisol levels and regain a slim belly is to make the time and effort to manage your stress. And there are several ways to do that…
- Soothe your stress away – It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of life, but not so easy to reserve an hour or two to take care of your own self. Schedule a massage, sneak away for a long weekend or just soak in a hot tub on a Friday night. The key is to do something you find comforting and enjoyable, even just curling up with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa in front of the fire. Let the world – and the drama of life – disappear during your “alone time.”
- Become involved proven relaxation techniques – Many of my patients find activities like yoga, meditation and acupuncture can work wonders when it comes to soothing their stress. I especially like programs like yoga and tai chi that support “inner calmness” while providing stress-relieving physical exercises.
- Take your B vitamins to help reduce your stress load. Look for a B-complex formula that has at least 100 mg of B3 and B6, along with 300 mcg of B12.
You should also get plenty of exercise. It might surprise you to learn your body produces cortisol when you exercise. However, those levels return to normal shortly after your workout. And when you exercise regularly it will actually end up decreasing your normal cortisol levels.
P.S. Wondering if you are “skinny fat?”
You can find out by measuring your waist to hip ratio.
Just take a tape measure and wrap it around your waist at the narrowest point (between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your belly button.) Record the circumference in inches.
Then measure your hips at the widest point. This is where you’re buttocks are at the largest. Record that number. Then divide your waist measurement by the hip measurement.
For example if your waist is 36″ and your hips are 38″ you would simply perform this calculation: 36/38 = .94
Here’s how to read your results:
|Waist to Hip Ratio Chart|
|Male||Female||Health Risk Based Solely on WHR|
|0.95 or below||0.80 or below||Low Risk|
|0.96 to 1.0||0.81 to 0.85||Moderate Risk|
Normal weight individuals with belly fat at highest CVD risk. Press Release. European Society of Cardiology. Aug. 2012.
de Koning L, Merchant AT, Pogue J, Anand SS. Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio as predictors of cardiovascular events: meta-regression analysis of prospective studies. Eur Heart J. 2007 Apr;28(7):850-6. Epub 2007 Apr 2.
European Society of Endocrinology (2011, May 3). New method to measure cortisol could lead to better understanding of development of common diseases. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 24, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/05/110502183715.htm