• Are Hormones responsible for your hard to shift pooch?

    Hard to shift abdominal fat may not simply be a case of eating too much and moving too little. Hormones can have a profound impact on how much and where we store our weight, and for some of us not matter how hard we try -we just can’t shift the pooch until our hormone imbalances are addressed.


    People are different and our weight loss journeys are individual too. Some people lose weight more easily than others and genetics, environment as well as personal characteristics can play a role in this. We all know by now the risk factors in having a large waist to hip ratio (greater than 0.85 for women and 0.90 for men) -ranging from increased cardiovascular disease to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes as well as many other chronic disease states. But let’s be realistic here, if family be too. However that doesn’t preclude you from making it a smaller apple (under 34 “waist for women and 38” for men) and reaping the health benefits.

    Dietary changes such as cutting down on alcohol, sugar, junk food as well as addressing any food sensitivities which may be causing bloating and IBS can all help. As can repopulating the gut with probiotics to increase the friendly bacteria present there.

    For other people, mixing up their exercise routine can yield great results. High Intensity Training [1]workouts (HIT) have been found to be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat compared to lower intensity due to it stimulating the release of Lipolylic hormones that aid in breaking down fat and elevating the metabolism.   But what if you have done all of this and you still cant shift the stubborn belly fat?

    One area to look at is your hormonal balance. Can hormones really be responsible for weight gain?


    Cortisol and adrenaline are secreted when we are under stress and at the appropriate times performs a vital function in preparing us for fight or flight. Problems begin when stress becomes constant and chronic leading to elevated Cortisol levels, over taxation of the adrenals and the development of insulin resistance- all of which lead to stored abdominal fat. On a very simplistic level, cortisol tends to promote abdominal fat storage to protect vital organs, on top of that when our fight or flight instincts are activated, lower priority processes such as digestion are not given priority.

    Chronic stress can also trigger insulin resistance. When the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline flood the bloodstream, extra energy from glucose is also produced. But if the cells don’t need the extra energy (i.e. you are not having to run for your life) then the cells over time, can become resistant leading to hyper-glycaemia and unchecked the risk of Type 2 diabetes rises steeply.

    Stress also often leads to insomnia. Numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between sleep duration and obesity. Seven hours seems to be the optimal for most adults.


    Oestrogen and Testosterone…

    Both men and women produce Testosterone and Oestrogen in varying amount but an imbalance of either of these hormones can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area.   Oestrogen favours fat storage in the lower part of the body which is why women tend to store fat differently to men. However especially in menopausal women a thickening of the waistline is associated with decreasing oestrogen levels. In men, there is also a correlation between excess abdominal fat and lower testosterone. With studies showing a chicken and egg situation here because abdominal fat may also lower testosterone as well as it being a symptom of it.



    Thyroid imbalance can also affect weight with an overactive leading to weight loss and an underactive leading to weight gain. The Thyroid is also responsible for many processes in the body from regulating metabolism to reproduction and weight gain and loss. In Hypo-Thyroidism the function of the Thyroid or the effectiveness of the T3 and T4 is compromised. This can lead to a range of symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain and cold intolerance, dry skin and thinning of the outer third of the eyebrows. However Thyroid may not in itself be responsible for weight gain in just the stomach area, other factors such as diet and Oestrogen/Testosterone levels may be at play here too and do often occur together. Rarely with severe Thyroid disease ‘Myxoedema’ can occur when fluid builds up in the tissues is giving the appearance of excessive fat – but this an uncommon yet serious complication.



    Serotonin is mostly produced in the gut and in much smaller amounts in the central nervous system from an amino acid called Tryptophan. It doesn’t just help with mood regulation such as in the case of anxiety and depression, it also helps regulate intestinal movements, muscle contraction, body temperature, sleep and energy and platelet clotting.

    It is easily depleted by consistent over consumption of alcohol, drugs, sugar and carbohydrates as these substances temporarily raise serotonin levels then we crash after. This may be why when we feel tired or low we crave these sorts of foods.

    Peripheral Serotonin has been implicated in the slowing of the metabolism, as a typical western diet is full of the refined carbohydrates/sugars that generate this. What happens is too much of this peripheral serotonin leads to an inhibition of the mechanisms that activate brown fat which signals to the body to speed up its metabolism. Brown fat evolved to help keep us from shivering all the time but it is very different from ‘white’ fat. Babies have much larger levels of brown fat and it naturally declines with age. But studies have shown that people who are obese have next to no brown fat and instead it is all white visceral fat.


    Imbalance of the hormones is common and can hinder our weight loss goals. It is worth getting checked by a GP if you suspect an imbalance and along with medical advice a good nutrition programme from a certified nutritionist can help get you back on track.


    By Karen Ross – Ross Holistic Nutrition. www.ross-holistic-nutrition.co.uk

    (Find me on Facebook and Pinterest too!)

    [1] Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Nov: 40(11)1863-1872

  • Posted by Kate on July 6, 2016 at 5:52 am

    The best way to lose weight is to accept that calories count. Many people believe that if they eat healthy and exercise, they will lose weight. Unfortunately, eating healthy foods is not enough. Creating a calorie deficit is an essential part of losing weight. http://www.dietmythsandfacts.com

    • Posted by Jason Fletcher on July 6, 2016 at 1:53 pm
      in reply to Kate

      “Most people who may be overweight if they are honest probably could cut some calories and I agree in many cases this deficit is part of the solution. Where I disagree is how big a role this part should take and I think if someone were to say weightloss is simply calories in and calories out and ignore hormonal factors – well I would argue this overly simplistic and outdated and probably very demoralising for someone who may have for example an under active Thyroid. We should of course always remember that weight is no definitive reflection of the state of our health either. The metabolisation of energy from calories can vary according to the source of the calorie with higher protein/fat diets now being seen as more efficient than low fat high carb. The function of Hormones such as Cortisol and the Thyroid hormones can also affect the bodies efficiency at metabolising energy from calories too and is also why a very low fat diet affects hormone production because fat is needed for for production and synthesis of hormones. – The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has a good article touching on some of this -“Is a calorie a calorie?” http://www.ajcn.nutrition.org .
      If that is a little dry for your liking then some articles can be found at http://www.authoritynutrition.com “Why Calories In, Calories Out Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story” or “Why the Calories In Calories Out Argument is False(How to Eat Well and Live Right) by Tom Ewer http://www.healthyenough.net
      Or “Harvard says Calories In/Calories Out Model is flawed(so what do we use instead?” http://www.thegreatestfitnessexperiments.com

      As always no one size fits all model works and it’s great to have an honest and balanced discussion on weight loss and health. Karen….

    • Posted by Jason Fletcher on July 6, 2016 at 4:30 pm
      in reply to Kate

      I thought the article was more about body shape than weight loss. This area is a difficult one for many Mums and males and females.who have held a large amount of weight in the past. As Karen says, it’s not one size fits all and she refers to how the body may react with certain conditions. Jase

  • Posted by Jason Fletcher on July 10, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I didn’t the the article said their was and isn’t really about weight loss. I agree that a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight. However, eating a sound diet providing your.body with the right balance of nutrients and not have starving yourself is a big deal and goes a long between reaching your goals and or exceeding them. Particularly when you need also need to perform. This calorie deficit argument is right, but often abused.


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