Did you know that where your body stores fat is indicative of what’s going on internally for you on a hormonal level? Hormones are often related to how much body fat we have and where the fat sits on our body. Therefore, understanding what your hormones are trying to tell you can be helpful in shrinking fat away. Without arming yourself with this type of knowledge, you run the risk of hitting a plateau quickly in your weight loss journey, simply because you’re taking the wrong approach for what your body actually needs. Often when stress & hormones are the cause of weight gain, a Clean Eating approach is the healthiest, most sustainable and fastest way to get results.
Now remember that not all body fat is evil. A certain amount of body fat is essential for hormone production, transporting fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E & K, and can even help reduce the risk for certain diseases. The body fat range for an average woman is between 25-31% (1). The body fat range for women who are in the “fit range” is 21-24%. Toni, who’s pictured below, is a beautiful example of how we support women lose weight and get their lives back without starving, dieting or struggling with the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge.
Body fat can be found on several different areas of the body, so let’s explore some of these parts and discuss exactly why fat develops in those regions:
Love handles: Love handles are often associated with elevated levels of insulin (a hormone that regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates in the bloodstream). Reducing processed carbohydrate and sugar consumption can help with this region. In addition, doing side crunches, planks, and burpees can also help reduce the appearance of love handles by increasing muscle tone. However, keep in mind that sometimes less is more when it comes to exercise. And above all else, Clean Eating and truly making a positive shift in your lifestyle is ultimately what brings the most change.
Thighs: Body fat in this region can be associated with elevated estrogen levels; the primary female sex hormone. Avoid using plastic tupperware or plastic water bottles with BPA, limit your exposure to chemicals such as parabens or phthalates in skin care products, drink plenty of water, choose organic dairy and beef, avoid non-organic soy, and get enough sleep at night; all of these things can help improve your estrogen levels.
Back of Arms: Low testosterone levels and elevated insulin levels may be the cause of fat on the back of the arms, and the reason why many of us cover them up with clothing. Although testosterone is often thought of the male hormone, women have a small amount in the adrenal glands and ovaries. Increasing intake of healthy fats such as avocados and fatty fish may help improve this region, as well as building muscle through weight lifting exercises.
Upper Back: Thyroxine is a hormone our thyroid gland secretes into our bloodstream and can be associated with upper back fat when levels are low. Fortunately, there are dietary modifications you can do to help improve your thyroxine hormone such as eating more cruciferous vegetables, avoiding gluten and soy, and increasing healthy fat intake.
Belly: This region is one of the most common places for body fat, and unfortunately one of the most dangerous as well. Belly fat can increase our risk for heart disease, as well as increase blood pressure and blood sugars. Belly fat can be associated with several hormones such as elevated estrogen, insulin, and cortisol (our stress hormone). Reducing stress and sugar consumption, while increasing nutrients in the diet through lean meats, vegetables, and fruit may help improve this region. Billie and her son lost 59 pounds and totally transformed their health by taking the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge. The challenge is designed to support you in your shift to Clean Eating while helping you develop a new relationship with food, breaking sugar addiction and losing weight in a sustainable way. In addition, reducing cortisol levels through stress management techniques such as meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep can also help.
Although body fat is not often a favorite topic of discussion among women, don’t let it scare you. Knowing which hormones impact certain regions on the body, and making appropriate changes may help you overcome your weight loss struggles and finally begin to see the weight come off like these women did.
And remember, no matter how much body fat you’re carrying right now, LOVE YOUR BODY. This is part of the journey. If you want to lose weight, that’s a wonderful goal to look and feel healthy, but be kind to yourself all the way to transformation.
WebMD. Body fat measurement: Percentage vs. body mass. 2017. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/body-fat-measurement#1
Written By: Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD