Where do you store your fat?  Many people end up with excess fat in different places.  Why would this be?  My goal for this article is to help you understand why you store your fat where you do and what that fat storage means to you.  Knowing where you store fat can help you understand how your body (and your hormones) are working.

There are 4 major hormones that are typically talked about when it comes to packing on the pounds.  They are Insulin, Testosterone, Growth Hormone, and Cortisol.  I’ve talked about them in several other articles (which you can read here and here).  In this quad, insulin is the ringleader.  The major problem we see in people is that Insulin tends to get out of control.  We eat excessive amounts of sugars and carbohydrates, which skyrockets insulin.  Insulin is our body’s way to use and/or store those sugars and carbs.  The problem with high levels of insulin is that it affects our other hormones.  When insulin is constantly high, we move into FAT STORAGE mode.  Our body knows that it is receiving ample food, and starts packing it away in our muscles as glycogen, our liver as glycogen, in subcutaneous (under the skin) tissue as fat, and around our organs as fat.

Our muscles need glycogen in order to have an energy supply during prolonged physical exertion.  The glycogen in our liver though, seems to produce some feelings of cravings for sugary items.  And obviously, not many of us are excited about the fat storage.  Around your organs is the more dangerous of the two.  We see this pattern appear more so in men, and we can it the apple appearance.  High amounts of fat in your midsection is seen to be associated with high amounts of fat around the organs.  This is dangerous because it is associated with a higher incidence of heart disease and heart attacks.

There are several other major problems with this high insulin pattern.  One is that it predisposes us to becoming diabetic.  Diabetes can come in several forms, either shutting the pancreas down and making us rely on insulin shots, or our receptors become insensitive to insulin and will no longer accept it to store nutrients.  This means SUGARS remain in our bloodstream.  And when sugars remain in the bloodstream bad things happen.  We see inflammation.  We see premature aging.  We see heart disease.  I cannot stress enough, that you do not want to deal with the effects of diabetes.

Back to the other hormones that I mentioned above… with high insulin levels we tend to see a drop off in growth hormone and testosterone levels.  Growth hormone is responsible for helping our body repair.  If we have an intense workout, growth hormone helps our muscles to repair and become stronger.  If we become injured, growth hormone helps to heal the damaged tissue.  You can see how not controlling your insulin levels negatively affects the way your body heals, which is a contributing reason for ‘not feeling like you are young anymore.’

And with inflammation levels going up, we see cortisol appear on the scene.  Cortisol is our adrenal glands’ response to stress in the body.  It helps to control it.  However, with prolonged inflammation and stress, cortisol tends to get out of control and can throw off other systems in our bodies.  With high cortisol levels, it also becomes difficult for our body to heal.  We would call this adrenal fatigue.

So what hormones are to blame with where you put your fat?

[col1]Fat Storage Site


Back of the arm


‘Love Handles’


Back ‘bra fat’

[col2]Hormone Imbalance:Women

↑ testosterone, cortisol, insulin, ↓ growth hormone

↑ insulin, ↓ DHEA

↑ estrogen, ↓ progesterone

insulin & blood sugar imbalance

↑ estrogen

↑ testosterone, insulin

↓ growth hormone[/col2]

[col3]Hormone Imbalance:Men

↑ estrogen, cortisol, insulin, ↓ testosterone, growth hormone

↑ insulin, ↓ DHEA

↑ estrogen

insulin & blood sugar imbalance

↑ estrogen

↑ insulin

↓ growth hormone[/col3]

Unfortunately, being fat creates more fat.

Once we start packing on fat, our fat actually produces more hormones that perpetuate a state of ‘fatness.’  Fat cells will produce the hormone estrogen, which when in excess is associated with weight gain (among other things you can read about here).  Another hormone that is produced is called Resistin, which increases fat and insulin resistance (which is associated with diabetes type 2).  Fat cells also produce INFLAMMATORY compounds, such as IL-6 (interleukin 6) and CRP (c-reactive protein).  Inflammation can lead to disease formation and more fat gain.  These chemicals contribute directly to arterial damage, insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and heart disease.

On the positive side, fat cells will also produce two hormones called leptin and adiponectin. These hormones help to increase fat burning and to cool the inflammation caused by the fat cells.  Getting adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, taking a fish oil supplement, and exercise all help to increase the activity of these hormones!

It’s always important to remember that fat loss is a slow process!  And it is always more safe to lose weight in a slower fashion.  If you think of it this way…. how long did it take you to gain the weight?  It should not take a shorter amount of time to lose it (so to speak).

Fat loss advice:

1.  Remove processed foods from your diet!  Foods that have been prepared in a factory contain chemicals, which slow your body’s detoxification pathways down.  This in turn will make your body’s ability to function on a cellular level more sluggish.  FRESH FOODS always!

2.  ORGANIC!  I cannot stress organic enough!  If we want our body’s to work as best they can, then we need to give our body’s the best possible fuel.  Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides have been found to cause cellular damage in our body’s in countless research studies!  Get rid of it!  You don’t need it!

3.  SKIP the sugar!  No it’s not awful if you have a treat every now and again.  But don’t make a habit of it.  The more you indulge, the more your insulin goes haywire.  And as I wrote above, insulin in the ringleader in this hormone game.  You need your insulin to be as stable as possible for the rest of your body to be balanced. The more sugar you eat, the more inflammation you create in your body. Help dampen the inflammation (and cut out the sugar) by taking an anti-inflammatory supplement like curcumin, fish oil, or a specialty blend.

4.  Drink water!  Too many of us do not consume enough water.  Our body’s are made of a high ratio of water.. anywhere from 60-80%.  Every cellular process your body engages in needs water in order to function.  Think about running outside on a hot day, when your mouth starts to get dry and you can’t find water.  You start to get tired, you start to slow down.  That is exactly what happens to your cells when they do not have enough water.  And unfortunately we do not notice it when we first start shifting into a state of dehydration.  Read more about water here and here. And if you are exercising regularly, it is also important to replace lost electrolytes (potassium, chloride, calcium that helps out cell walls function). It is easy to get these nutrients by adding them to water with an electrolyte powder.

5.  As you have noticed, I have listed exercise last.  YES it is important!  But what you put in your mouth is even more important!  Get your diet straight, then get your butt to the gym 😉  And lift some weights why don’t ya!  That’s how we boost our metabolism and start losing fat!  Treadmill is fine for maybe 30 minutes, but get off and pick up something heavy!  I didn’t mention it above, but excessive cardio can lead to excess cortisol – read about it here.  Read about lifting weights here and here and here.

These are great starters for everyone looking to get healthy and FIT!  Happy near years!  I hope 2015 kicks butt!

My love,

Dr. Kristin