There are many causes for belly fat storage in women, but in this article we will focus on the five biggest, as they are completely different for women than they are for men.
In my experience and research, I have found that the most common problems that women face have to do with one, or more of the following:
Vitamin D, and/or
WHAT ROLE DOES THE THYROID PLAY IN BELLY FAT STORAGE FOR WOMEN?
Thyroid minerals seem to play a much bigger role in weight loss in women than it does for men. Studies show that one in ten men are affected by thyroid issues, compared to one in ten women. The American Thyroid Association estimates that five to eight women are affected by Hashimoto’s to every one man.
Our thyroids produce a hormone known as T4 (thyroxine), which gets converted into T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 is the active thyroid hormone that acts on the tissues & cells in our bodies to control metabolism. It does this by increasing oxygen in the mitochondria that causes thermogenesis (burning of fat). T3 also plays a vital role in metabolising glucose/carbohydrates.
The inability to produce adequate levels of T3 will make it difficult to efficiently burn glucose in the cell. Glucose eventually gets converted into fat in the liver through a process called de novo lipogenesis (storing of fat), and liver fat accumulates to… guess what… belly fat.
HOW TO HACK YOUR THYROID
Iodine is critical for creating thyroid hormone. In supplement form it is usually sold in the form of sea kelp, but seafood, and seaweed are the best food sources.
When the thyroid converts iodine it also creates hydrogen peroxide, which can can trigger symptoms in people with autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s. Selenium is a mineral that is needed for the conversion of T4 into T3 that also neutralises hydrogen peroxide, so it should be taken alongside iodine.
Zinc is another important thyroid mineral, which needed to trigger the thyroid hormone receptors in the hypothalamus gland of the brain.
LOW CALORIE DIETS
HOW DO LOW CALORIE DIETS CAUSE BELLY FAT IN WOMEN?
Studies show that women are more likely to go low-cal than men. Even though staying in a calorie deficit is important for weight loss dropping too many can be counterproductive.
When calories drop too low the body increases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to make more thyroid, but instead of converting T4 to T3 it starts producing reverse T3. Reverse T3 blocks the thyroid receptors, so that normal T3 cannot bind. This makes a slow metabolism even slower.
To avoid creating too much reverse T3 you should keep your deficit within the 200-500kcal range, and go back to baseline every 4-5 days.
NOT GETTING ENOUGH PROTEIN
Micronutrients are those that have calories, which means they give us energy. Besides carbohydrates, and fats, protein is one of the three macronutrients. Protein is needed to build and repair muscles & bones, and to make hormones & enzymes.
That means it can increase lean body mass (LBM). The more LBM the higher the basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of calories needed to maintain a person’s bodyweight. Our BMR is responsible for 60-70% of the calories we burn. Therefore, lean body mass is directly linked to metabolic health. The higher the lean body mass, the more calories burned at rest.
Protein also burns more calories during digestion than any other food, and is more satiating, which means you’re less likely to binge on crap food.
Women should consume 1.5 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of bodyweight per day, while men need 2 grams per kilo.
IS VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY ONE OF THE MAIN CAUSES OF BELLY FAT IN WOMEN?
Despite the name, Vitamin D is actually a hormone. It is the only hormone that our bodies can’t create on its own. Vitamin D must be consumed through food, or obtained through sunlight.
In a Study from the American Journal of Clinical Medicine, named Effects of Weight Loss on Serum Vitamin D in Menopausal Women, 439 women aged 50-75 took part in a year long trial. The women were split into four groups: 1) diet only; 2) exercise & diet; 3) exercise only, and; 4) a controlled group.
The study found that the women who lost 5-10% of their bodyweight had an increase in Vitamin D3, but when they lost 15% that number tripled. What does this mean?
Vitamin D is fat soluble, so it will be released during thermogenesis. When this happens, uncoupling protein-3 also gets released, which stops excess fat from getting into cells. Instead the fat gets burnt, or excreted. The conclusion suggests that metabolism of Vitamin D.
HOW IS STRESS ONE OF THE MAIN CAUSES OF BELLY FAT IN WOMEN?
A study published in the Journal of Brain & Behaviour found that women are two times more likely to suffer from anxiety & stress than men.
Stress can be caused by a lot of things, but the most common is a lack of sleep. With a lot of people, a lack of sleep also leads consuming too much caffeine during the day. Both of these issues can contribute to adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands sit jus above the kidneys. Stress causes adrenaline, and cortisol (stress hormone) to be released from the adrenal glands. There are four times more cortisol receptors in the abdominals compared to the rest of the body, so stress eating means that a considerable amount of that chocolate cake is going to be stored around the mid-section.
The remedy for this is to make sure you get 7-9 hours sleep per night, and to incorporate practices into your life that help reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, nature walks, warm, candle-lit baths, etc.
If you want to trigger me, just say that saturated fat is unhealthy. I’m here to show you that it is not. In fact, including saturated fat in our diets is essential for maintaining an optimal biological state of well-being.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SATURATED FAT?
Saturated fat is needed for:
Mental development – the brain is made up of mostly saturated fat and cholesterol.
Bone development – saturated fats metabolise calcium.
Cardiovascular function – the lungs are coated with fatty acids that are saturated.
The nervous system – as in the brain the nervous system is largely made up of saturated fats.
Hormonal support – saturated fats are the building blocks to making hormones such as testosterone, oestrogen, cortisol, etc.
According to the independent study, A Critical Review of Cardio Disease by Dr Walter Willet from Harvard School of Public Health, we can see that saturated fat is not linked to heart disease and protects against strokes. Daily nut consumption is associated with a 35% decrease in the risk of heart attacks. Consuming full fat dairy is associated with a 60% reduction in risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers high density cholesterol, triglyceride levels and inflammation markers. People that eat egg yolks can reduce the chance of becoming diabetic by 42%. I highly recommend reading Dr Willett’s book, Eat, Drink and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating if you want to gain more of an understanding of his research.
WHY IS SATURATED FAT SEEN AS UNHEALTHY?
You should never trust the science. Question it always. Lessons learned during the recent COVID pandemic have proven why this approach is most important. The same goes for the scientific understanding of saturated fat.
To understand the history, we must go back to the 1920s to spend time with Dr Charles Best & Dr Frederick Banting, two scientists who earned a Nobel Peace Prize for purifying insulin, making it available for pharmaceutical use. They also made some other interesting discoveries.
Drs Best & Banting were the first scientists to discover an accumulation of fat in and around the organs in diabetics. This discovery lead them to believe that dietary fat was the cause of type 2 diabetes. The development of the infamous food pyramid that was pushed onto the public was a direct result of this. It could be fair to say that certain powerful food corporations were able capitalise on these studies, but that’s a different conversation altogether!
Fortunately, technology has advanced a lot since the 1920s. The science that was missing from their research was the role of the liver. The liver plays a key role in fat metabolism. It is now known that the liver converts sugars into fat to be stored, either as subcutaneous – on the outside of the body – or visceral fat – in and around the organs. In fact, to put it quite simply, body fat is nothing more than stored sugar. Once there is no more room for it to be stored in the liver, the body is forced to store fat in the pancreas. When this happens, a person loses the ability to create insulin on their own. Welcome to type 2 diabetes.
Since the recommendation of ‘low fat’ diets by the bodies that govern food & drugs, we have noticed a 400%+ increase in heart disease, diabetes & obesity. Until the public is completely re-educated about nutrition this problem isn’t going to get better.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SATURATED FATS?
Palmitic acid is often considered an unhealthy saturated fat because people often associate it with palm oil, but you will find that the acid (not the oil product) is already a part of our biological make up. Here are the different types of saturated fatty acids and their benefits:
Caprylic acid – found in coconut oil, dairy, breast milk, nuts. Great for the immune system, acne, and is anti-viral.
Lauric acid – found in coconut oil, breast milk. Needed for the immune system and is anti-viral.
Palmitic acid – abundant in fish, nuts, seeds, animal products. 50% of cell membrane is made up palmitic acid.
Butyric acid – found in butter and vegetable sources. This is the main fatty acid that feeds cells in the colon.
WHICH FATS SHOULD I AVOID?
We can put lipids (fats) into three categories – saturated, unsaturated and trans.
Unsaturated fats – EPAs & DHAs – are the omegas. These often get promoted as ‘healthy fats’, but you should now understand that saturated fat is just as important.
Trans fats increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems. They are found in hydrogenated foods. This is when a hydrogen atom is introduced to an oil to solidify it, preventing it from going rank. Margarine often disguised as ‘spreadable butter’ is a form of trans fat. Trans fats can also be found in fast food, microwave meals and other processed foods. We should avoid these fats at all costs.
The rule that I follow says, if you can dig it from the ground, pick it from a tree or plant, or slaughter it and it’s still in its unaltered state then it is OK to eat. The most important part of that statement is that it is still in its unaltered state. Meaning unrefined and unprocessed.
Study comparing consumption of Saturated Fats vs Unsaturated Fats:
http://www.bmj.com/content/353/bmj.i1246 Astrup, A., Dyerberg, J., Elwood, P., Hermansen, K., Hu, F.B., Jakobsen, M.U., …Willett, W.C. (2011). The role of reducing intakes of saturated fat in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: Where does the evidence stand in 2010? [PDF]. Am J Clin Nutr, 93(4): 684–8. doi: 10.3945/ ajcn.110.004622
In a food processor place ground almonds, dried coconut, cashew butter, sweetener and salt and blend until a bound consistency has formed (about 1-2 mins.
In a silicon mould or a greased dish press down the mixture to form a flat base. Place in the freezer for about 30 minutes until solid In a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water melt your chocolate and coconut oil together and stir until fully combined.
Now pour directly on to the shortbread base and place in freezer for about an hour until set.
Remove from the freezer and allow to stand for about 15-20 minutes before using a sharp knife to cut squares. Store inside a sealed container in the fridge.
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup coconut flour plus extra for rolling the
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt for topping
6 tablespoons cold salted butter – very cold
4 tablespoons salted butter melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup ice water
Preheat oven to 205°C.
Put the almond flour, hemp hearts, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Grate the chilled butter, stirring it into the flours. Stir gently with a big spoon to ensure the butter is coated with flour and you can see butter shreds throughout your coconut flour mixture. Add the olive oil and stir gently to combine, then add the water. Let the mixture stand in the refrigerator for at
least 30 minutes.
Dust a sheet of parchment with coconut flour. Roll the chilled dough between sheets of baking parchment until it is about ¼ -inch thick. Cut the dough in the desired shapes. Bake the crackers on the bottom parchment sheet for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to melted butter and brush the crackers while they are hot.
Turn oven off and place back in the oven for 5 minutes. Let cool.
A lot of people think of starvation when you mention the word fasting, but I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case. Intermittent fasting means that you are eating within a certain window of hours in the day and fasting for the rest.
Although there are others, the most popular intermittent fasting schedule follows a 16 – 8 hour split (sixteen hours fasting and eight hours eating). This also includes your sleeping hours during the night. For example, if you stopped eating at 8PM tonight you would then break your fast at 12PM tomorrow.
Firstly, the most important thing to know is that sixteen hours is the magic number and should be your minimum amount of fasting time for reasons that I will get into later. Personally, speaking in terms of body fat loss, I have had the best results when fasting 18-20 hours per day, shortening my eating window down to six or four hours, and so have many of my clients.
The second most important thing to understand is that intermittent fasting does not mean that you can spend your meal times eating junk food. You will not lose weight by fasting alone. Will fasting give you more wiggle room when it comes to cheat meals? Yes. Will you still get all of the other benefits from fasting if you’re not concerned with weight loss? Meh, yes and no.
Let’s not get it twisted. YOU MUST FOLLOW A KETO/LOW CARB BASED DIET AS WELL. No carbs or sugar is the most important aspect of eating healthily.
Nature has given us two sources when it comes to fuelling the cells in our bodies – glucose (sugar), or ketones. Glucose comes from food and ketones are created naturally within the body from our own fat reserves.
In order to understand what happens during the fasted state we first have to understand insulin, which is a key hormone when it comes to fat storage. When we eat, blood sugars rise, so the pancreas has to release insulin to take sugar from the blood to the liver in order to be processed. This is the body’s natural way of lowering blood sugar levels in order to avoid toxicity. Carbohydrates and sugars raise the blood sugars to levels that are particularly higher than those of proteins and dietary fats, which is why I recommend avoiding them altogether.
When insulin is working at high levels, the body is running on glucose and potentially storing fat, so we refer to this as the fed state. It takes 16 hours of fasting to get the insulin levels low enough to enter the fasted state – where you are producing ketones for fuel (burning fat). That is when all of the amazing stuff starts to happen. Human beings have evolved by way of adaptation to eat far more infrequently than we do today. Getting into a fasted state also allows the body to unlock unique proteins that improve brain, gut, bone health and much more.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF KETONES?
are an appetite suppressant
will increase oxygenation in the body
will decrease carbon dioxide levels in the body
can improve thyroidal conditions
increase energy levels
increase good cholesterol and reduce the bad
lower blood pressure
improve mental disorders
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FAST UP TO 24 HOURS?
Although I don’t necessarily recommend it, I’ve known people to fast up to 21 days, but let’s just stick to the first day of fasting for now! Intermittent fasting for 24-hours is the one of the best ways to naturally trigger the anti-ageing, self healing and detoxification processes in the body.
12 HOURS INTO INTERMITTENT FASTING
After 12 hours the body starts to produce ketones.
Growth hormone levels also start to spike at 12 hours. This is beneficial for muscle and bone development.
16 HOURS INTO INTERMITTENT FASTING
18 HOURS INTO INTERMITTENT FASTING
Autophagy – 18 hours into fasting, the body begins to recycle old, damaged and used proteins, organelles (such as mitochondria) and cell membranes, turning them into new ones. A great example of this is the regeneration of Advanced Glycated End Products, or AGEs, which are proteins destroyed by the glycated (sticky) mixture of glucose (sugar) and proteins in the body. It is at this point in the fasted state that the body starts to turn these old, damaged proteins into new amino acids. A person that has undergone dramatic weight loss surgery, for example, could benefit from autophagy if they suffer from ‘loose skin’. That loose skin is only an accumulation of dead proteins that can be recycled into new skin cells, simply by triggering this natural regeneration process.
Amyloid plaque is the dense, insoluble protein that forms between the nerve cells (neurons) and can cause neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s. These proteins get a good clean up when you hit the 18-hour mark. The same applies to all other types of cellular proteins that are no longer working in the body.
24 HOURS INTO INTERMITTENT FASTING
Now you are now freeing yourself of glycogen (stored glucose) built up in the liver. You see, the process of body fat storage looks like this:
GLUCOSE —> GLYCOGEN —> ADIPOSE TISSUE/BODY FAT
In order to get into the visceral (organ) fat, you must burn through the glycogen stores first.
Gut healing from the increase of stem cells. That’s right, you’re now detoxing your gut and you didn’t have to spend a penny on any of those ‘miracle supplements’.
24 hours of fasting improves cardiovascular functions by lowing blood pressure, cholesterol, and reversing heart disease.
The reduction in ‘monocytes’, which are the cells that cause inflammation in the body, helps to eliminate conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and irritable bowel syndrome.
You’re getting smarter! Stimulating the production of a protein in the nerve cells, called Brain Derived Neurotropic Function (BDNF), will improve learning, memory, and the production of new nerve cells in the hippocampus area of the brain.
The scientific world is currently experiencing a lot of breakthroughs when it comes to fasting. It seems as if science is starting to catch up to the ancient knowledge and practices that our ancestors relied on so heavily. Up until about a century ago, people often used fasting as a way to treat a wide range of illnesses. The decline in the practice of fasting can be correlated with the rise of big pharmaceutical companies. As many natural medicines were made illegal by the forces that be, so came the deterioration of the way of life.
It is not in the interest of food, or pharmaceutical companies to encourage fasting as a health option. There is no money in it for them. You have the power.
Get yourself into a 24-hour fast as quickly as possible. That will ensure that you are burning through visceral (organ) fat right away. You will have to get through that before you see anything shift from anywhere else. Try to maintain a minimum 16 hour fast everyday thereafter, keeping it mind that it could take up to one week for your body to properly adjust to the new changes.
Did you know that Type 2 Diabetes and fructose are directly linked?
I’ve talked to so many people over the past year that have gone onto these juice diets, so I thought I’d take the time to set the record straight about how healthy they really are. Some people claim to lose weight, especially in the beginning, but usually end up bigger than before once they go back to eating solid foods.
Let’s be logical here, losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing.
IS FRUIT HEALTHY?
There are lots of great vitamins and minerals in fruit, no doubt. However fruit is full of fructose, which is a sugar. The liver normally converts sugars into fat to be stored throughout the body & organs, but fructose is the only sugar that it cannot process. Instead fructose builds up in the cells and organs creating a resistance to insulin keeping glucose (the form of sugar that your body CAN use) out, causing it to spill back out into the blood stream. This keeps the blood-sugar levels elevated.
WHY IS INSULIN RESISTANCE BAD?
Insulin resistance leads to Type 2 Diabetes and will keep you in a fat-storing state. Eventually, the pancreas loses the ability to produce insulin. Maintaining high levels of fructose in your diet will fast track this process. Avoiding sugary drinks that contain high fructose corn syrup, or glucose-fructose-syrup, and fruit that is high in fructose is definitely a great idea.
Stick to vegetables as much as possible!
I do my best to explain in this video, but if you want to dive deeper into this subject yourself I highly recommend reading ‘The Diabetes Code’ by Dr. Jason Fung. I think it is also available in audio format.