Fat Distribution Patterns

January 06, 2017

Weight loss should be effortless but your hormones prevent that from being the case. Yes, I said hormones. Not calories.

Research has proven time and time again that it is not solely HOW MUCH you eat, but WHAT YOU eat, that determines your metabolic capacity. For most of you here, having adopted the low carb lifestyle, this is not news, but many of you do not understand why it works, or how to further optimize your health through diet and hormonal balance.

Each week I will break down the factors you need to consider in your fat loss formula, and give you actionable steps to personalize and improve your diet and lifestyle.

Let’s make fat loss simple, together!


Fat Distribution Patterns- where you store fat can tell you what is feeding your fat!

Fat loss is not easy. Not a revolutionary statement, I know. If fat loss was simple then there would no obesity, no billion dollar ‘fad-diet’ industry, and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this.

The reason that fat loss can be so frustrating is that many things can play into it. Stress, sleep, diet choices, genetics, hormones and the list goes on. Although many of the above list cannot be fully understood without testing, what we do know is that many of our hormones can leave signature patterns of fat gain.

Hormones are all about Balance

When it comes to hormones there is no such thing as a good or a bad hormone. The only thing that matters is how well balanced they are with each other. Without going into too much detail, our hormones are like a symphony, women are acutely aware of this with our menstrual cycles but it applies to men as well.  Outside of reproduction, these hormones also affect our weight. We don’t want too much estrogen, or too little testosterone as they can both cause fat gain for different reasons. In another example, we also have metabolic hormones that need to be balanced surrounding meals. Our insulin will increase after meals, taking leptin up with it and lowering our glucagon. In an ideal world, when these work well we can easily burn fat as fuel when we need it, but for many people this is not the case! (If you are unfamiliar with any of these hormones then stay tuned throughout the next few weeks!)

So, where do you tend to store your weight?

In the Chest

  • In both men and women weight gain in the chest can be related to estrogen. This is most evident in women, with breast tissue, but men can also show elevated estrogen levels through weight gain in their chest.

On your Triceps

  • Fat gain on the backs of the arms (your triceps) can be contributed to by a number of hormones. Low levels of testosterone (an androgen), low levels of DHEA-s (an androgen from your adrenal gland) or high insulin levels. Sagging skin and a decreased sex drive can often be associated with low androgens, where as belly fat gain and stress are also related to DHEA-s and insulin levels.

On your Back, especially in the area of the shoulder blades.

  • Weight gain on the back, known as bra line fat in women, or fat pads present in men, is often related to insulin levels. Along with the abdomen this is one of the first areas to gain fat, when related to insulin levels, and it is also one of the first areas to lose it when diet and lifestyle get back on track.

On the front of your Stomach.

  • Carrying weight in the front of your abdomen, presenting as fat pad or a pouch, that is in the lower stomach can represent the consequences of stress, cortisol imbalance and often insulin. The relationship between stress and insulin is a chicken or egg situation. When cortisol rises your body thinks that it is running from a bear, this is your sympathetic stress response. This allows for your blood sugar to rise, so that you have the energy you need to keep up that movement and safely escape. The issue in our society is that we often feel stress when we are sitting in the car or at our desks, so we do not have any use for the extra blood sugar that is circulating around. This then causes your insulin to rise to lower blood sugar, and shuttle it into fat. For that reason, both insulin and cortisol can be involved with this fat distribution pattern.

On the sides of your abdomen (AKA Love handles).

  • This area is more tied to elevated levels of insulin and blood sugar imbalances. In general, an enlarged waist is associated with metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance. This is also true when you tend to gain weight in your love handles. As discussed above stress can play into this weight gain pattern, as well as diet, lack of exercise and genetics.

On your hips and thighs.

  • Weight gain in the hips and thighs is associated with fertility and femininity in many cultures. This is because this pattern of weight gain is most associated with elevated estrogen levels and/or xenoestrogen exposure. There are specific estrogen receptors on the fat cells in this area that stimulate lipogenesis (fat depositing). Although this fat distribution pattern is not associated with metabolic syndrome or some of the other cardiovascular disease risks it is still troublesome to many women and men. This weight also tends to be harder to lose, as diet and lifestyle changes are critical, but so too is hormonal regulation.

The take home, although the fat patterns above represent a template, you may not perfectly fit within that template, and in fact people often have multiple hormone imbalances which can cause overlapping fat gain patterns.

This understanding marks the START of your personal Fat Loss Formula!

Stay Tuned!

Next week I will be cover the BIGGEST fat loss obstacle that I see in clinical practice. Don’t miss it!

Dr. Sarah Wilson is a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, Ontario. Having overcome her own metabolic challenges Dr. Sarah uses her personal experience and knowledge of the latest research to help you achieve food freedom and the fat loss (and health) that you desire. She works with patients locally, and on Skype, to improve their metabolism, balance their hormones and improve their energy. Find out more at sarahwilsonnd.com or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sarahwilsonnd/)

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