Muffin tops, beer bellies or belly fat are not only annoying from an aesthetic point of view but waist measurements are one of the best indicators of potential health issues including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

The cause of belly fat has more to do with hormones and food quality than the quantity of calories.  The most relevant hormones related to belly fat are insulin, cortisol and to a lesser extent estrogen.

Insulin

Balancing your blood sugar and reducing insulin levels is critical to reducing belly fat.  Continuously high insulin levels not only promote fat storage around your waist, increase hunger cravings like crazy but actually block fat burning.  Low stable insulin levels are win win win when it comes to belly fat.

Low glycemic meals, adequate protein and eliminating processed sugars go along way to reducing insulin levels.

Cortisol

Cortisol is the stress hormone released when life is a bit crazy.  The problem is many people feel that way the majority of the time and excess cortisol contributes to belly fat.  When the body is in crisis mode our ancient genes promote fat storage of whatever calories it can.  This made sense 1000 years ago for our survival but less so now when famine is not the issue for most people.

Not only does our outside world and emotions create stress or result in excess cortisol but high insulin levels or too low blood sugar levels (erratic blood sugar) can also create stress for our bodies or even over exercising and poor sleep can also lead to higher cortisol levels.

Estrogen

It is well known that fat produces estrogen.  When a person’s hormones are out of balance this imbalance can create weight issues, which in turn can cause more of a hormone imbalance and the cycle continues.  When a woman reaches menopause her fat distribution is rebalanced and becomes more similar to that of a man’s, which tend to accumulate fat around the waist instead of hips and thighs.

Stress also plays a role in weight gain after menopause as the adrenal glands which take over in some of the hormone production after the ovaries decrease output, may be too taxed or depleted from constant stress hormone production and not able to adequately take on this extra task, furthering hormonal imbalance and weight issues.