Belly fat is the hardest fat to lose because it doesn’t respond to exercise. Numerous hormones contribute to belly fat, but none proves more powerful than insulin, your fat storage hormone. High levels of insulin cause your body to gain weight around the belly, forming a ‘storeroom’ and you become more apple-shaped over time. Insulin also drives inflammation and oxidative stress, creating a multitude of symptoms.
Eventually you become insulin resistant, which leads your body to generate belly fat and hold on to that spare tire for dear life. Fatigue after meals, sugar cravings, blood sugar swings, high triglycerides, low HDL, low sex drive, and problems with blood clotting are also common among people who are overweight.
Simply put, less insulin equals less belly fat, since insulin makes you hungry and stores belly fat. High insulin levels don’t just exist in a vacuum. They influence other hormones like leptin, your satiety hormone. When insulin blocks leptin, your body thinks it is starving even after a burger with chips and a large coke. Ever wonder how you can still be hungry right after a big meal? It is the insulin surge and the leptin resistance.
More than any other food, sugar becomes responsible for hijacking your brain chemistry and your metabolism to create insulin resistance and all its repercussions. Calorie for calorie, sugar is different from other calories that come from protein, fat, or non-starchy carbs such as greens. Sugar scrambles all your normal appetite controls so you consume more and more, driving your metabolism to convert it into lethal belly fat. We are all overdosed at an average of twenty-two to thirty teaspoons of sugar a day.
Fructose, the most metabolically damaging sugar, just makes things worse. It goes right to your liver, where it starts manufacturing fat, which triggers more insulin resistance and causes chronically elevated blood insulin levels, driving your body to store everything you eat as – you guessed it – dangerous belly fat. You also get a fatty liver, which generates more inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes more weight gain. Anything that causes inflammation will worsen insulin resistance.
Another problem with fructose is that it doesn’t send informational feedback to the brain, signaling that a load of calories just hit the body. Nor does it reduce ghrelin, the appetite hormone that is usually reduced when you eat real food. We are programmed to store belly fat in response to sugar so that we can survive the winter when food is scarce. Genes do play a role, but they are a minor contributor to the massive obesity and diabetes pandemic we are facing globally. Shut down the insulin surges—and thereby arrest belly fat storage and cravings.
But Belly Fat is Not Your Biggest Challenge: The biggest challenge you’re facing with being overweight or obese is not your waistline or your weight. It’s not your belly. It’s your brain. Changing the way you think about food so you get your mind working with your body, not against it, is critical to weight loss and healing. If you want to lose, you need to first lose the ideas that keep you stuck in an endless cycle of yo-yo dieting. You need to let go of the beliefs and perspectives that sabotage your goal of permanent weight loss and vibrant health. Thinking the way you’ve always thought and doing things you’ve always done will only lead to more of the same.
Numerous factors contribute to belly fat, when people focus on these seven strategies they normalize insulin, lose that stubborn belly fat, and finally gain abundant health.
1. Eat real food. When we eat real food, which contains many nutrients, we are more satisfied, eat less, and lose belly fat. Getting adequate vitamins and minerals helps you burn calories more efficiently, helps regulate appetite, lowers inflammation, boosts detoxification, aids digestion, regulates stress hormones, and helps your cells become more insulin sensitive. Along with lots of green vegetables, include protein in every meal since studies show it keeps you fuller longer so you lose more weight.
2. Manage stress levels. Chronic stress causes your brain to shrink and your belly to grow. Chronically elevated levels of your stress hormone cortisol causes increased blood sugar and cholesterol, depression, dementia, and promotes the accumulation of belly fat that is commonly seen in patients with insulin resistance or diabetes. You crave sugar and carbs and seek comfort food.
3. Address food sensitivities. We often crave the very foods we are allergic to. Getting off them is not easy, but after two to three days without them, you will have renewed energy, relief from cravings and symptoms, and begin to shed belly fat. Gluten and dairy are two big food sensitivities, but many others can create roadblocks that make losing belly fat nearly impossible.
4. Get 7– 8 hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep drives sugar and carb cravings by affecting your appetite hormones. One study found even a partial night’s poor sleep could contribute to insulin resistance. Poor sleep also adversely impacts fat-regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin. You need to prepare for sleep and have a healthy sleep routine.
5. Optimize your nutrient levels: *Take a high-quality multivitamin that contains blood sugar-balancing nutrients. *Optimize omega-3 fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for controlling insulin function. *Optimize your vitamin D. Low levels of this critical vitamin impair appetite control. *Consider taking natural supplements for cravings control. L-glutamine, Chromium and Konjac are among the natural dietary supplements that can help reduce cravings. *Monitor alcohol. A nice glass of red wine with a meal, a cold beer on a hot day, or a shot of tequila at a party are some of the sweet pleasures of life. But as a daily habit, alcohol can do more harm than you realize, especially if you have diabetes or struggle with weight loss. Consider this: If you drink two glasses of wine a day, you will consume about 72,000 extra calories a year. And these liquid calories go right to your belly. Stop for six weeks. See how you feel. Then, if you want, enjoy one to three glasses of wine or alcohol a week.
6. Exercise regularly. Aside from changing your diet, exercise is probably the single best medication for obesity. Walk at least 30 minutes every day. For some, 30-60 minutes of more vigorous aerobic exercise four to six times a week may be necessary. Studies show interval training and weight resistance can improve fat loss.