Before we get into why you may be holding on to fat, let’s go over where fat in our bodies comes from. Excess calories from food we eat covert to triglycerides, a type of fatty acid. Very simply, excess carbohydrates and protein are stored in adipose sites, or fat cells. and excess dietary fat is broken down by the lipolysis and reesterification processes and stored as fat. Triglycerides are comprised of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which require oxidation to be broken down- in other words, breathing.
Did you know that the primary way to eliminate fat is through the lungs? Yes, yet another incredible function of breath.
While at rest and through daily activity, we are constantly breaking down carbon bonds. Add exercise into the mix, and we break down even more. When we eat food, we balance out our fat loss-fat intake ratio and maintain weight. To supremely oversimplify things one could say that in order to shed some weight, move more and eat less.
What if you are already doing this and not seeing any results? We are not, fortunately, such simple beings. There are several factors that could be getting in the way.
While acute inflammation, like the type caused by hormetic stressors initiate a positive biological response, chronic, low level, systemic inflammation releases chemicals in the body causing irregular appetite and glucose regulation.
What can cause systemic inflammation? Some of the usual suspects are over exercising, inflammatory foods, poor sleep habits or sleep deprivation, and chronic stress. We won’t get into the specifics of over exercising here, but with regards to inflammatory foods, the greatest offenders are vegetable oils or polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) . These oils are processed in high temperatures and high pressure are easily oxidized and become rancid. These oils are associated with atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. While sugar is also inflammatory, the body is able to process it, especially through exercise. This is not the case with PUFAs.
With regards to stress, when in a constant state of stress, we mess with the body’s lymbic system. This is our flight-fight response and when thrown out of whack, causes the release of a cascade of hormones distorting the control of hunger and causing the immune system to overreact. Chronic stress from toxins in the environment and once again, over exercising, can also increase cell danger response, causing negative metabolic mechanisms influencing fat loss and appetite dysregulation.
Blood glucose levels are in a constant state of flux. The body either shovels glucose into muscle and into the liver or can convert and store it as fat. When these levels fluctuate too high or too low and are out of control, it can cause major problems. When we exercise, the body utilizes glucose in muscles. If we don’t move enough throughout the day and use up extra glucose, it gets stockpiled as fat. Luckily, there are simple ways to regulate blood glucose levels.
Strength training. When we strength train, we increase the drive of glucose into muscle cells. Strength training decreases blood glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity. It is especially helpful before eating a large meal. Keep this in mind next Thanksgiving!
Doing a cardiovascular workout, first thing in the morning, in a fasted state.
Taking a 10-30 minute walk after a meal.
Standing after eating. Walking is more effective, but even simply standing after a meal is helpful, as opposed to sitting as is alternating between standing and sitting throughout the day.
Consuming blood sugar balancing foods such as ceylon cinnamon, berberine, rock lotus extract, bitter melon extract, gymnemma sylvertra, and apple cider vinegar.
Fiber. insoluble dietary fiber inhibits the conversion of glucose to fatty acids in the liver thereby reduces accumulation of fatty in adipose tissue and improves glucose tolerance. increase insulin sensitivity, prevent diet induced insulin resistance. get fiber from sweet potato, dark leafy greens, legumes, or being in a state of ketosis also helps mimic fiber intake.
Stress overload is arguably the number one cause of death in our modern world, laying the groundwork for the proliferation of every disease known to humankind. It is also a major reason we cannot get rid of unwanted fat. When stressed, the body releases a cascade of hormones directed towards survival, in lieu of those geared towards immune function, digestion and protein synthesis. In the face of a looming emergency, or in acute situations, this is essential. In normal life, chronic stress is directly related to increased inflammation, elevated cholesterol levels, hypertension - and extra weight, especially around the midsection.
If all else is in check - you are moving adequately throughout the day, eating a clean diet free of all processed foods as well as sugar and controlling glycemic variability - yet your waist remains undesirably thicker than you’d like, cortisol levels may be the thorn in your side. Upping your stress management game to reduce cortisol production may be indispensable .
An element that may also be contributing to stress overload is over exercising as well. This does not only apply to athletes. If you are exercising but not allowing for proper recovery, not sufficiently feeding your body nutrients and not getting enough quality sleep, you too may fall into this category.
As mentioned above, in order to lose weight you must expend more energy through movement than you intake through everything you consume - breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, liquids, etc. Even if you exercise once a day, if you otherwise lead a sedentary life, you may not be moving enough to counterbalance your intake of food. This can lead to blood sugar dysregulation, metabolic syndrome, increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even premature death. For this reason, it is important to sprinkle bouts of activity throughout the day. This could mean setting an alarm and doing air squats or a set of jumping jacks or push ups or taking a 2 minute walk every 30-60 minutes. An easy on ramp is to pace throughout the day or to walk when on the phone whenever possible.
As discussed above, over exercising is a thing - and not one only reserved for competitive athletes. Whether it be inflammation or stress overload or hormone dysregulation, too much exercise without proper recovery can be extremely taxing on the nervous system and body as a whole. The results? A weakened immune system, fatigue, mood swings, hormone dysregulation, thyroid issues, physical pain or discomfort, sleep disorders, an irregular appetite.
We at Deep Health Evolution are all about sufficient recovery - and it seems like it’s catching on. More and more boutique studios specializing in recovery have been popping up. Two of our favorites are ReCOVER NYC (use code GC20 for a 20% discount) and BDYSQD in the Boston area. If you intend to live a life that is not only long, but also healthful and joyful without discomfort, aches, pains, etc, this is a critical component to your wellness regimen. If you are interested in learning more and feeling great, consider working with us. We have a toolbox full of useful recovery methods and tools to share.
Not getting enough quality sleep
The importance of restorative sleep is no longer a secret. There are severe consequences to getting fewer than the recommended 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. On the weight gain front, just one night of subpar sleeping can raise cortisol levels, increase insulin resistance and glycemic variability, stimulate hunger and lead to appetite cravings. The long term side effects of poor sleep are a weakened immune and nervous system, neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes, just to name a few. What’s worse is that all the conditions named above affect quality of sleep, adding fuel to the fire. For sleep tips, read THIS blog post.
Exposure to toxins from pesticides and other chemicals as well as an overburden of life stressors such as financial stress or relationship stress, lack of sleep, heavy metal accumulation, dietary deficiencies, over exercising and gut dysregulation can lead to hormonal imbalances. The result? Metabolic issues that open the doors to increases in appetite and inflammation. If you are experiencing weight gain or the inability to lose weight despite you best efforts, this is something you may want to test for. Discuss it with an endocrinologist. You may need some thyroid support or to change your diet and the water you drink. Making other simple changes may make all the difference.
Micronutrients play a role in metabolism, weight gain, fat loss and obesity. Some of the most significant ones to be aware of are vitamin D, chromium, biotin, thiamine, magnesium, boron, vitamin A, vitamin K2 and choline and antioxidants. Necessary micronutrient levels vary from person to person so it is very difficult to determine appropriate levels without testing. Deficiencies can be caused by digestive or gut issues or other individual differences. If you are deficient in micronutrients, this could be the cause of sleep and cognitive concerns as well as chronic disease.
Having said all this, here are 3 tricks that may help.
One is cold exposure. Frequent cold showers or a cold soak can enhance the formation of brown or beige fat, a type of fat triggered by cold to burn white, unwanted fat (or the fat around your organs, belly, hips, rear end and thighs).
Two is change. If you have been doing the same workout at the same time of day using the same weights, etc, for over 12 weeks, your body has adapted and needs a new challenge in order to respond.
Three is happiness. How satisfied are you in all aspects of your life - work, home, relationships, spiritually, financially? How often are you immersed in nature? Do you feel like you are evolving or do you feel like you are stuck? The happiness factor, your outlook on the life you lead, can determine how well you sleep, how much/often you move, how and what you eat - your overall stress load. Identify the areas that need some fixing and take steps to make small changes.
As you contemplate and digest (pun intended) this information, realize that the biggest factor influencing positive change is your mindset. Open your mind and foster a growth mindset. Be honest and clear about what you truly desire with regards to your overall quality of life. Then step up. You must be willing to make the changes necessary to get there. Little by little is key. Patience is key. Pick one manageable thing - the one you know you can and will do and stick with it. Momentum will shift - ride the wave that blossoms from feeling your work transform you.