Wendy Powell

Lose your bulge, not your curves | The truth about the fat around your middle

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If you’ve gained some weight since pregnancy and motherhood, you want to lose fat… but not your curves! You don’t want your weight loss to show as a gaunt face or a flat chest, but you do want to ditch the jelly belly. Don’t know about you, but I don’t want skinny – I want strong and fit!

Well, I have a little good news on this front. There are reasons your body is storing disproportionate fat around your middle – and whilst restricting low-quality calories and exercising smart have a fundamental role to play, it has just as much to do with balancing your hormones.

So if you’re waging war on your flab purely by taking a calories in/calories out approach, the chances are you won’t be entirely successful. You might drop a few pounds, but there will be stubborn bulges of fat you just can’t shift.

With mummy tummies – i.e. fat around the stomach area – the most likely stick-in-the-mud is the stress hormone cortisol. Medium to long-term stress (that’s emotional stress, as well as stress on your body caused by a poor diet, lack of sleep and stress) increases cortisol levels, which in turn raises blood sugar.

Higher blood sugar triggers the overproduction of insulin, the ‘fat storage hormone’, which is responsible for wrapping our tummies in a tyre of hard-to-shift fat.

Stress seems pretty unavoidable when you’re a mum. When our children are young, every hour throws us another curveball: a tantrum, sick to mop, a sleepless baby to calm, a rash to examine, a sibling argument to defuse.

Adrenaline pumps – and that makes us throw a hormonal wobbler!

So, while this is definitely not as ‘easy’ as it may sound ‘simple’, there are a few approaches you can try that will help you balance your hormones (and melt the belly fat!):

  1. Limit sugar and refined carbs: This is the most important box to tick! Radically cut down your intake of the sugar you can see (in sweets, biscuits, and cakes) and the sugar you can’t see (in white bread, baked beans, fruit juice, and booze). These foods raise blood glucose levels, elevating insulin levels and causing fat to cling to the stomach.
  2. Be spicy: Grate a cinnamon stick and add some spice to your breakfast or yogurt. A small amount daily has been found to keep blood sugar levels stable, preventing the overproduction of insulin.
  3. Get more sleep: Sleep is an important time for your body to regulate hormones. Losing just one hour’s sleep a night can raise insulin levels in the body. It also makes you more likely to eat and drink bad stuff, such as caffeine, which makes your body release cortisol.
  4. Eat in peace: Keeping mealtimes sacred (no computer, no TV, no phone and no book to distract you) has been linked to reduced cortisol levels and decreased body fat.
  5. Release tension: Exercise, have a bath, read a magazine, meditate – do whatever helps you to shake off the stress of the day.
  6. Be a peaceful parent: Yeah right… well, we can try!! Avoiding shouting helps keep everyone’s stress levels down. It’s not always easy, but even the most model parent (know one of them? Me neither) sometimes needs to take a deep breath to avoid sending her heartbeat into overdrive!

Remember: Doing ab exercises will not give you a flat belly. Making the right food choices and balancing your hormones will do that. The right ab exercises will get you strong abs, but if you want to see them, you need to lose the fat. Have fun on your mission to balance the hormones that are hindering your mummy tummy fat loss or hiding your abs!

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