Read an Excerpt
where your belly fat came from and why it won't budge
My guess is that you picked up this book because, over the last few years, you have put on ten, twenty, thirty, or even forty extra pounds around your abdomen, hips, and thighs. The extra weight makes you feel uncomfortable and unattractive. You've tried dieting and exercising to lose the belly fat, and while you may have lost a few pounds here and there for short periods of time, the bulk of your extra weight just hangs on.
In Part 1, you'll learn the medical reason why your belly fat appeared and why it just won't budge, no matter how hard you try. In Chapter 1, you'll learn how hormone balance is intricately connected with your body's metabolism and its predisposition to store fat. Even more important, you'll come to understand why estrogen dominance is very likely the primary hidden culprit adding pounds to your belly and inches to your waist. Already wondering if you might be estrogen dominant? In Chapter 2, you'll learn how to self-diagnose the problem.
The Hidden Weight-
When people hear the term hormonal imbalance, most immediately think about the change of life, menopause. Although it's true that women going through menopause have significant hormonal changes, the issues associated with hormonal imbalance, such as abdominal weight gain, typically begin in a woman's early to mid-thirties and a man's early forties.
In fact, weight-loss research proves that because of shifting hormone production, the average person will add one to two pounds around his or her middle each year between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. As long as your body's cellular metabolism is compromised by an untreated hormone imbalancemost particularly estrogen dominancethe extra pounds around your middle will be nearly impossible to lose.
I firmly believe that estrogen dominance is an epidemic in North America. We Americans are aging, we are constantly exposed to environmental estrogens, and too many of us are overweight.
Unfortunately, because the pharmaceutical industry has created so much marketing hype about a woman's need for estrogen replacement as a fountain-of-youth treatment for menopause, most medical practitioners and healthcare consumers are misinformed and/or confused. The consequence for millions of people is that the very real condition of estrogen dominance is often overlooked or, worse, misdiagnosed and mistreated. For instance, consider the case of a woman I'll call Sylvia.
Sylvia, a thirty-six-year-old divorced mother of three, came to my office six months after moving to Florida from Oregon. She said that she had gained twenty-five pounds in three years and was suffering from what she called the 'love-handle blues.' She was in tears as she explained the following:
Ever since my divorce three years ago, I have felt as if someone was pumping up a spare tire around my middle. I used to wear size 6 pants, and now I can barely squeeze into size 10. I swear I'm not eating any more than I did five years ago. If anything, I eat less. Even though I go to the gym and walk on a treadmill at least five hours a week, this fat around my belly just won't budge.
I can't go on this way. I am almost at the point of considering diet pills. Also, my doctor on the West Coast had put me on antidepressants, but my prescription has expired. Please help me.
Sylvia's age, weight gain, and mild depression were common indicators of an underlying hormonal imbalance, specifically estrogen dominance. I told Sylvia that I could help her without diet pills or antidepressants. After following the plan for six weeks, she walked into the office a changed woman. She had lost nine pounds and an inch and a half from her waist. Within ten weeks, she celebrated with a shopping spree for new size 8 pants. In my practice, I have helped thousands of people like Sylvia, people who had no idea that shifting hormone production was the hidden culprit causing their weight gain.
In order for you to understand how a hormone imbalance could affect your weight, here's a quick refresher course in the production and function of your sex hormones.
estrogen and progesterone: a careful balancing act
The human body produces three sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. In this book I focus primarily on estrogen and progesterone because both medical research and my experience prove that they play the starring roles in any hormone-related weight-gain drama.
healthy hormone function from puberty to thirty
When a woman begins to menstruate until she is approximately thirty years old, her ratio of estrogen to progesterone is optimal. In this ideal scenario, estrogen does the following for her:
• Develops the sex organs and secondary sex characteristics such as breasts and pubic hair.
• Maintains the menstrual cycle.
• Supports the growth and function of the uterus, specifically creating the lining of the uterus to prepare it for pregnancy.
• Stimulates cell growth.
During these same years, progesterone does the following:
• Maintains the uterus and prepares it for pregnancy during the reproductive years.
• Promotes the survival of an ovum (egg) once it is fertilized.
• Stimulates bone building that can prevent or treat osteoporosis.
• Acts as a natural diuretic to prevent bloating.
In women and men, progesterone also does the following:
• Serves as a natural antidepressant.
• Fosters a calming effect on the body.
• Maintains libido.
• Promotes regular sleep patterns.
• Opposes estrogen's predisposition to promote cell growth, thereby providing protection from uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer as well as fibrocystic disease in females and an increased risk of prostate cancer in males.
As you can see, when they are in sync, estrogen and progesterone are responsible for important biochemical functions in both the female and male bodies. When the ratio of estrogen and progesterone gets out of sync, many health issues arise, including unwanted weight gain.
what is estrogen dominance?
It is important to understand that being estrogen dominant doesn't mean that your body is producing too much estrogen; rather, it means that your body's estrogen production is not balanced by progesterone production. Estrogen dominance occurs when the natural ratio of estrogen to progesterone is upsetin other words, when the body's internal estrogen-to-progesterone seesaw becomes tilted.
a weight-gain double whammyhow your body becomes a 'fat magnet'
Estrogen dominance causes a host of metabolic disturbances, which occur much like a chicken-and-egg relationship:
• Too much estrogen circulating in the body increases body fat, and fatty tissue within the body produces and stores more estrogen. Body fat contains an enzyme that converts adrenal steroids to estrogen. At a cellular level, body fat continues to produce more estrogen, and a high estrogen level, in turn, causes the body to increase its store of fatty tissue. In other words, your belly becomes a 'fat magnet.'
• When you're estrogen dominant, your body is unable to effectively use fat stores for energy, which means that your body's ability to metabolize or burn body fat for calories is compromised. The result is extra weight that won't go away even with more exercise or less eating.
• When high estrogen levels are unopposed by sufficient progesterone, the resulting condition of estrogen dominance also impacts your body fat's distribution. In both men and women, higher estrogen levels predispose the body to store fat around the abdomen. In women, estrogen dominance causes fat to be stored around the waist, hips, and thighs, and it's the main reason that many middle-age women have pear-shaped bodies. Estrogen dominance is also the reason for the middle-age spare tire in men.
effects on the thyroid gland
The thyroid gland is best known for its metabolic function affecting weight. Estrogen dominance renders the thyroid hormones dysfunctional, causing your body's metabolism to slow down. The resulting condition is called relative hypothyroidism. In addition, the changes in your body's blood sugar levelssome of which occur naturally with age and some of which are due to a hormone imbalanceare also linked to weight gain. As the body's progesterone production decreases with age and estrogen becomes dominant, your body releases insulin more rapidly and more often. When fluctuating hormones unnaturally stimulate insulin release, you get hungry faster and will often crave sugar. In fact, these food cravings can sometimes be uncontrollable, and people who are estrogen dominant tend to consume more sweets even when they aren't truly hungry. As a result, they ingest more calories than their bodies require and pack on even more pounds.
If you are a woman in your thirties, you need to understand that estrogen dominance is not 'your mother's problem.' For most women, estrogen dominance is a concern to be reckoned with long before middle age or menopause. As a woman approaches her midthirties, the balance of hormones within her body begins to shift, starting with a decline in progesterone. In fact, progesterone production declines 120 times more rapidly than does estrogen production. It is this downward shift in progesterone production that causes the body to become estrogen dominant.
Contrary to the popular belief that estrogen is solely a female hormone, men can also be estrogen dominant. In men, progesterone is produced in the adrenal and testicular tissue. When men reach their forties, falling progesterone levels lead to a fall in testosterone levels. As both the progesterone and testosterone levels decline, the male body becomes estrogen dominant. To find out if estrogen dominance is responsible for your increased belly fatand possibly a host of other physical, mental, and emotional concerns and health riskscontinue reading. Chapter 2 will help you to understand how age, body fat, and environmental toxins can join forces to sabotage your inner hormonal equilibrium.
©2007.C. W. Randolph, M.D., Genie James. All rights reserved. Reprinted from From Belly Fat to Belly Flat. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street , Deerfield Beach , FL 33442.