Hormones play a huge role in the distribution of fat in our bodies as we age and, when tipped out of balance, such as when we’re pregnant or entering the menopause, they cause our shape to change.
Millions of years ago, our bodies were designed to react quickly to danger so we could run or fight if threatened. When your brain thinks your life is in danger it stimulates the release of adrenaline and cortisol hormones which provide instant energy for 5-10 minutes, allowing you to react swiftly to dangerous situations.
Unfortunately, many modern lifestyles mean that stress (our ‘perceived threat’) is almost continuous and comes without the natural release that fighting or fleeing might provide. Unless you do something physical all that extra energy in the form of fat and glucose has nowhere to go. It is simply re-deposited as fat, mostly on the abdomen.
Fat targets the middle because it is close to the liver where it can be quickly converted back into energy if needed - ready for the next stress attack. Your body keeps this convenient fat store ready for instant use and creates cravings and appetite increases to ensure good supplies of necessary fuel.
Before the menopause, oestrogen levels are high so fat tends to be stored as easier-to-lose subcutaneous fat (just below the skin) and less fat is stored in and around the abdomen. During menopause, when oestrogen levels start to fall, the subcutaneous fat is broken down and there is a subsequent tendency for fat to accumulate in and around the abdomen - the hormonal balance in the body is thrown off.
What’s the solution?
The keys to hormonal balance and fat loss are exercise and appetite…
Exercise - Time is a huge factor in our busy lives but you need to plan exercise into your weekly routine. Without a plan there is no regularity and without regularity, you will fail!
Appetite - Your body is refuelling after all this fighting or fleeing, so people under constant stress often feel constantly hungry. Worse, their body urges them to eat foods most useful after all that ‘activity’ – carbohydrates (like sugar) and fats.
Additionally, if you cut too many calories your body thinks there is a famine and that causes stress! Your metabolism will slow to maintain your fat stores and if your blood sugar levels fluctuate (as they do for most women), your body will release adrenaline as if under stress – again, encouraging your body to store fat.
The solution is to find a way of eating and exercising that tells your body all is well –and reassures it that it is not under stress:
- Eat regularly – every 2-3 hours. Regulate your intake of food so even under stress you are still eating within timed limits – so no dieting! This will stop you overeating in response to stress.
- Weight training for fat loss at least twice per week. Include specific weight training to retain lean tissue which increases your metabolism, burns fat and shapes your body.
- Cardio vascular exercise at least 3 times per week maintains a hormonal balance by burning your excess fat stores retained by your body to respond to stress.
- Look at your stress levels and manage them - exercise frequently, take time out and rationally consider the challenges facing you.
Is that it?!
But menopause is not the end of the world! It’s just that the distribution of fat within your body is different and you have to be more diligent with your diet and exercise regime. Your workouts should include strength training, fat burning and interval cardio training to burn the maximum number of calories from fat. Food intake should be minimised, regularised and nutrient-rich – with predominantly whole foods and fibre.
Hormonal changes affect each woman differently so pay attention to how you feel. Be aware of your body and feed your body good whole foods that won’t pack on the pounds. The key is calories in versus calories out. By knowing more about what’s going on inside your body makes it easier to overcome with time and specific training. But it is hard work – the abdomen is the last place fat comes off and the first place that it goes on!
Fat Loss expert Livia Francis specialises in long term fat loss training programmes for women, helping them to lose fat by sculpting lean muscle, oxidising fat during cardio workouts and motivating ladies toward regaining their pre-baby and pre-menopausal figures.
FitFreedom guidelines are proven to work over time. Just how much fat you lose is dependent on how dedicated you are to the programme. So stay committed and keep a long-term vision. Keep up the great work and make sure you are using the right workouts!
For more information on FitFreedom programmes and how Livia can help you regain your pre-baby or pre-menopausal figure, visit www.fitfreedom.co.uk, follow her on Twitter @livfitfreedom and keep her up to date with your achievements on the FitFreedom Facebook page!