Love handles aren’t just unattractive, carrying weight around your abdomen is bad for your health—worse than carrying weight on your hips or thighs. Excess fat around the waist, or an apple body shape, is suggestive of insulin resistance, a condition that is linked to the development of heart disease and diabetes. It is also indicative of an imbalance in cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, which, if chronically high, can result in increased deposition of fat around the abdomen. To further complicate the situation, feeling stressed out or depressed may worsen the problem.
Insulin is the chemical signal that allows sugar to enter your cells to be used as fuel. Insulin levels also have a direct impact on body composition, as these sugars are later stored as fat if they are not consumed as a source of energy. Insulin resistance causes levels of insulin in the blood to increase. This increase is related to a reduced sensitivity of the body tissues, like muscle, to normal levels of the hormone. As a result, the body tries to overcome this by secreting more insulin from the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes ensues when the pancreas fails to sustain this increased demand for insulin production.
It is currently estimated that one out of every four Americans has insulin resistance. A primary cause is excess intake of sugar or carbohydrates typical of many diets today. This includes foods such as pop or candy as well as cakes, muffins, pastries, chips, crackers, pizza and many other processed foods. Insulin resistance may also be attributed to lack of exercise, overindulging in alcohol, stress, a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure and excess body fat, especially around the abdomen.
Six surefire ways to lose “the handles”
- To put you on the fast track to fat loss, bump up your protein. For the first eight weeks or so, concentrate on eating equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates at each meal and snack. Sticking to about 20 to 25 grams of each per meal and about 15 to 20 grams per snack is probably a good place to start, depending on your body size and workout schedule.
- Take essential fatty acids in the form of fish oils. These are great for reducing cholesterol, body fat and inflammation. It seems that omega-3 oils (EPA/DHA) mixed with GLA (gamma linoleic acid) boost fat loss through increased heat production (thermogenesis) and increase the ability to maintain weight loss.
- Cut sugar completely from your diet and eat low glycemic carbohydrates to keep insulin levels low. Low insulin levels are favorable for fat loss. To maintain steady blood sugar levels, eat every three or four hours. This will also help you avoid overeating in one sitting.
- Take conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is one of only a few supplements that has actually been proven to stimulate loss of fat and increase lean muscle mass. This is not a supplement that works right away—so commit to taking it religiously for at least three months. Typical dosage is 1500 mg twice a day.
- Use an exercise plan that incorporates cardiovascular exercise along with weight training. Do not overdo cardiovascular exercise as it can damage the muscle fibers that you are working so hard to build and maintain. Do your weight training first, followed by your cardio if you are doing them both on the same day. This will ensure your strength is at a maximum for lifting and you will continue to burn fat during your cardio session.
- Keep stress levels manageable. Elevated levels of stress hormone (cortisol) can have a negative effect on body composition by increasing the breakdown of muscle mass and increasing the deposition of fat around the abdomen. Relora is an herbal compound found to be effective in keeping stress hormone levels balanced and reducing abdominal fat. Phosphatidylserine may also help to reduce stress hormone levels and protect body tissues like the brain and muscles from the negative effects of stress.