We’re often being told that diet and exercise alone will never shift stubborn fat deposits. But naturopath Max Tomlinson knows different.
For the past 25 years he’s been running a successful fat spot reduction programme at his London clinic, targeting what he calls the ‘weird, disproportionate fat deposits’ that frustrate so many of his clients.
‘I see young women who have tried rigorous diets and exercise regimes to get rid of a big bottom, only to lose weight from their chests and faces, and menopausal women who tend to accumulate fat on their stomachs and under their upper arms as they age,’ he says.
Max believes the reason fat gets laid down in specific areas is often hormonal.
‘A multitude of processes in the body are co-ordinated by hormones, and hormones govern where we store fat,’ he says.
Problems arise because many of us live in a state of hormonal imbalance caused by poor diet, stress, environmental pollution and lack of effective exercise.
Max believes that each fat spot (whether it’s stomach fat, the bra-bulge kind, big thighs and bottom fat or ‘bingo wings’) is caused by the action or inaction of a specific hormone.
By correcting your own personal hormonal imbalance through targeted diet, exercise, supplements and lifestyle changes, he is convinced you can shift those stubborn fat spots.
He recommends a healthy Mediterranean-style diet (fruit, vegetables, fish, a little meat, healthy oils, but no sugar, junk food and little dairy or alcohol), a daily multi-vitamin and mineral and fish oil capsule, and a programme of regular exercise.
But then the advice for each troublesome fat spot is very specifically tailored to redress the hormonal imbalance that might be causing it. Here, he shows you how to zap those problem areas.
Fat bulging over the back and sides of your jeans could be a sign of a problem with the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels and can lead to unsightly deposits of fat above the hips.
A sugary diet forces the body to pump out insulin (to move the sugar out of the bloodstream). But over time, if sugar intake remains high, the cells can stop responding correctly, causing more insulin to be released, excess glucose to build up in the bloodstream and stubborn areas of unsightly fat are laid down.
ACTION PLAN: To calm insulin production and trim ‘love handles’ you need to manage the sugars and carbohydrates in your diet. So stick to a Mediterranean diet and avoid sugar and quick-burn foods (alcohol, white bread, biscuits, cakes, chips, crisps, processed sweetened breakfast cereals, rice, sweets and fizzy drinks).
Eat foods rich in antioxidants (this helps prevent damage from free radicals and reduces insulin resistance) such as cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, fresh herbs, chilli, cranberries, blueberries, broccoli and green tea.
In addition to multi-vitamins and fish oils, consider supplements in the form of chromium (great for controlling blood sugar levels), magnesium, zinc (helps insulin bind to receptors in cells) and glucomannan fibre in water which improves blood-glucose control and reduces cholesterol levels.
Fat that bulges out of the sides of your bra could be a sign of a sluggish thyroid. This gland governs the rate at which you burn calories from food. Low thyroid function can cause bra-bulge fat as well as stubborn overall weight gain, fatigue and depression.
ACTION PLAN: Certain raw foods can interfere with the correct functioning of the thyroid gland, so limit intake of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, swede, turnips, peaches, soya bean products, spinach and strawberries. But cooking these foods appears to deactivate the bad compounds.
Boost your intake of iodine and selenium to support your thyroid by eating Brazil nuts, brown rice, garlic, kelp, liver, onions, salmon, tuna, wheatgerm and wholegrains.
And relax — the stress hormone cortisol can alter thyroid function. Also, use fluoride-free toothpaste as fluoride can mimic the action of one of the thyroid hormones.
Fat accumulation on the underside of your upper arms can be due to falling testosterone levels as women reach middle age. Boosting testosterone levels can, along with targeted exercise, help to restore shape to the arms.
ACTION PLAN: Have more sex! Falling in love increases your testosterone levels and regular sex sends out signals to the body to make more of the hormone.
Ensure you’re getting enough sleep to maximise testosterone production.
Relax and de-stress — stress suppresses testosterone production.
Lack of exercise suppresses testosterone levels, too, but weight-bearing workouts (such as weight-lifting) cause muscles to signal the cells for more energy and to request more testosterone.
Cut sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet as high blood sugar levels decrease testosterone production, but don’t starve yourself — long-term calorie restriction can further deplete levels of the hormone.
Boost your intake of healthy fats — found in oily fish such as salmon, linseed and avocados — which are required for testosterone production.
BIG THIGHS AND BOTTOM
The female hormone oestrogen promotes fat storage around the top of the legs, and many of us are exposed to high levels of both natural (in water and farmed meat) and synthetic oestrogens (chemicals in plastics and non-stick coatings) in the environment.
ACTION PLAN: Eat more fruit, vegetables and wholegrains as they contain special substances which bind to, and help excrete, excess oestrogen.
Cut down on alcohol, painkillers and drinks laden with chemical preservatives and colouring agents as these hamper the liver’s efforts to clear excess oestrogens.
Eat live natural yogurt to boost the friendly bacteria in your gut which help clear oestrogen via the gastrointestinal tract. And cut back on coffee. A study found that the caffeine in more than two cups per day can trigger the release of higher oestrogen levels in women.
A paunch may indicate a problem with the adrenal glands and over-production of the hormone cortisol. Unmanaged long-term stress causes the body to produce too much cortisol which can raise blood glucose levels. This, in turn, triggers the release of insulin, which instructs the body to store excess glucose as stubborn deposits of fat around the stomach.
The main dietary culprit is too many sugar-based calories especially in the form of alcohol and refined (white) grains and flours.
ACTION PLAN: Relax — anything that helps you to unwind reduces stress levels and breaks the hormonal cycle that is causing your body to lay down belly fat. Studies show that rest will also decrease cravings for calorie-dense foods.
Keep blood glucose levels stable in the face of stress-induced cortisol surges. Increase consumption of slow-burn, low-GI foods (wholegrains, vegetables, pulses, fish and meat) and cut out high-GI foods (processed foods, cereals, sugar, dairy products, dried fruit, beer, wine, fruit juice and coffee).
Moderate exercise can reduce stress, but don’t over do it.
by Susan Floyd