Monday, September 15, 2008

Does it seem that your fat cells have a mind of their own?

Some of us just need to think cake for the scales to start spinning those numbers skyward bound. Believe it or not, fat does play an important role in our overall health. It is found in the lining of our cells, it cushions important organs and is the starting block to produce many hormones that our body needs in order to function properly. As with so many other things, fat consumption is all about balance and knowing how to achieve this balance will help towards maintaining a healthy body and mind.

Fat is an important source of energy and way back when the winter months prevented us from hunting for food, our fat stores provided our body with energy needed to survive. Thankfully, the supermarket has replaced the hunting ground and all we need to do is pop down the road to stock up on food for the week. With ever increasing demands on our time, exercise often gets overlooked and those fat stores keep growing, and in turn, so does our waistline and the health concerns that comes with this.

Having too much fat can interfere with your body’s ability to metabolise sugars, contributing to weight gain and predisposing you to Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes. It can also increase the likelihood of reproductive problems. Excess fat, especially abdominal fat, is like an oestrogen factory and can lead to oestrogen dominant conditions such as heavy bleeding, irregular or longer periods, PMS, fibroids or endometriosis. On the other hand, too little fat can cause its own problems such as loss of menstrual periods and infertility.

Fat cells can only hold so much and when this quota has been reached, cells in fat tissue mature to allow for extra fat storage. This process continues as long as excess fat is present and maximum cell volume has been reached. When fat is released from the cell and the cell is not needed any longer, it shrinks and will either be put on hold in case it is needed in the future or it will die.

Changes in body shape around menopause are largely due to the deposition of abdominal fat. A decline in oestrogen levels seems to be directly related to an increase in central abdominal fat stores, among other common menopausal symptoms, and this may be the body’s way of trying to produce more oestrogen to balance the hormonal picture.

For some women, cutting calories and increasing physical exercise will kick start weight loss but for others, it’s not that simple. Other factors need to be taken into consideration before the body starts to release fat stores.

  1. Address hormonal imbalances: this will ultimately dictate how your body is utilising the food you are consuming and oversees what is used as energy and what is stored as fat. If you are experiencing problems with your menstrual cycle such as heavy or painful bleeding, an irregular cycle, continuous discharge or infertility, you could have an underlying hormonal imbalance. Your MassAttack program will identify your individual areas of imbalance and provide you with the tools needed to correct these.
  2. Reduce stress: apart from comfort eating when we’re stressed, elevated levels of stress hormones can slow metabolism, disrupt blood sugar regulation contributing to cravings, mood swings and energy slumps and favours abdominal fat deposition.
  3. Combat cravings: stabilising blood sugar levels through regular intake of protein based foods and snacks can help as can nutrients such as Chromium, Lipoic Acid and the herb Gymnema.
  4. Dietary modification: regardless of whether there is an underlying hormonal issue, eating smaller, healthy meals while increasing energy output will be a necessity for shifting extra weight.
  5. Develop an exercise plan you can stick to: this is an integral part to any weight loss strategy and should include cardio activities (aerobics, running/jogging & cycling/spinning), strengthening exercises (yoga or pilates) and resistance training (e.g. weights) to increase muscle mass. Increasing muscle mass will also increase your metabolic rate.
  6. Clean out your fridge and cupboards: remove temptation and get rid of the fatty, processed foods that seem so handy when we are in a rush. Eating healthy doesn’t have to take hours preparation. Keep sliced veggies in air tight containers in the fridge so they are ready when you are. It only takes a few minutes to throw together a stir-fry, salad or an omelette. Cut up carrot or celery sticks to dip into hummus or mashed avocado and keep a mix of nuts and seeds handy for a quick snack
  7. Don’t overfill your plate: it’s much harder to stop eating when there is food still on your plate so start with a smaller portion and listen to when your body tells you it’s had enough. Keep an eye on the size of your plate or bowl too as this will influence how much food you serve
  8. Eat slowly and without distraction: we are more likely to hear the full signals our brain is sending if we are not glued to the T.V., reading a magazine or eating lunch at our desk in front of the computer. Concentrate on what you are eating and allow enough time for your food to digest properly. Enjoy the experience.

Rather than cutting out fat altogether, focus needs to be placed on correcting those areas that are contributing to stubborn weight gain. Looking at what’s going on hormonally is a good place to start as this is a major factor that is often overlooked. Clean out your unhealthy thoughts and habits and replace them with positive, goal orientated steps to get you motivated and on the path to good health. Just think of how much better you will feel…