2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Where Did This Tummy Fat Come From?

Click here for the Health Tip link.

Now that the swine flu appears to be playing itself out, we can take up a health concern that I am asked about at least ten times a week, always by women and always with various degrees of desperation in their voices.

“I never had this before!,” she’ll say, pointing to some midsection roundness (some will prod it, others jiggle it slightly). “I look pregnant!” (forgetting how pregnant women actually look). “Do I have a tumor? I know it’s not gas…”

Given the number of before-and-after advertisements I see online offering the “secret” to a flat abdomen (a single, non-calorie-burning mouse click away), it appears we’re in some sort of a pouch epidemic threatening the well-being of Western womanhood.

Getting rid of the tummy is your job. Explaining it is mine:
• It’s easier to gain weight as we get older simply because our metabolism slows down. Conversely, you may have noticed, it is harder to lose weight with the usually effective combination of exercise and calorie restriction.
• With aging, starting in your thirties, muscle mass diminishes, replaced by (guess what?) fat.
• Genetically, some people gain weight in their abdominal areas, while others gain it in their hips and buttocks.
• The real villain accelerating weight gain in the tummy is stress.

Here’s why…

The negative mental energy of chronic stress–worrying about a terrible job, bad relationship, the economy, your tummy itself–activates your brain to stimulate two stress-responding glands, your adrenals (two walnut sized glands sitting one each atop your kidneys) and your thyroid (in your neck). When your fight-or-flight response is triggered, to escape some sudden threat against you such as a mugger, both glands speed their hormone release to put your body into temporary overdrive and get you out of the scary situation.

However, if mental stress goes on non-stop, these glands become fatigued.

With thyroid fatigue, your metabolism slows down, you feel cold, you put on weight, and you’re too tired to exercise. With adrenal fatigue, you’re not only tired, but your energy level crashes at about 3 pm every afternoon.

The adrenal response to life’s stresses occurs in two phases. First, a burst of adrenalin to initiate the adrenalin rush, triggered by something that really blew your mind (the child support check bounced). It generally lasts a few seconds (“I was so mad I felt my heart was pounding through my chest.”). With more protracted stress (“every day at the office is sheer Hell”), a second adrenal hormone, cortisol, takes over, churning out for weeks and weeks, until it too finally depletes (adrenal fatigue).

The cortisol sets in motion some changes in your body that are called “primitive,” meaning that while they may be useful in the long-term stress situations for mammals and Neanderthals, they are less useful if you’re a working woman. One primitive message from cortisol: “Prepare for danger! Food is going to be scarce,” as it issues a directive to your metabolism to prepare for starvation.

This message has a twofold result. First, you want to eat more food (ever notice you eat more when stressed?). And second, it signals your body not to burn those precious calories, instead storing them as high-energy fat in case actual starvation hits the herd/tribe. Hoard the fat where it can be used (it’s soft fat, did you notice, the kind that’s burned first) and keep it portable in case the herd/tribe has to move to a new location. That’s why your fat is stored in your tummy, rather than your legs.

Sometimes these primitive physiologic reflexes can be so annoying.

Interestingly, this sequence of events is exactly what occurs when people are given high doses of the medication prednisone, a potent synthetic form of cortisone. Patients get very hungry when taking prednisone, and after a few weeks can feel their belts tighten as their midsections expand.

So the very first question I ask my patient sitting across from me, either prodding angrily at her tummy or grabbing it with both hands and jiggling, is “So what kind of stress have you been under for the past year?”

Frozen like a deer in headlights, eyes widen, “Horrible! It’s been a terrible year.”

Next time: what to do about your burgeoning tummy.

Leave a Comment


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700
More>>

Recent Health Tips

  • To A Long and Healthy Life!

    You may have read earlier this summer about the public health statisticians who announced that Chicagoans could get a reasonable estimate about how long they’ll live based on their neighborhood, sort of a Death by Zip Code. If you live in Streeterville, you’ve got a good chance to reach 90. If you’re struggling in Englewood, you’re lucky to hit 60. That gap, by the way, Read More

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!