Belly Fat—Simplified!

Belly fat

Fourteen years after my mom passed away, I finally got around to cleaning out the boxes containing her belongings. There was lots of memorabilia, and seeing old photos of my mom spawned what I hope is a timely subject.

I noticed in her photos that as she went from childhood to young womanhood to motherhood, and finally to old age, she never went from looking thin to getting a square shape and a big belly! Hmm…thinking, thinking. Seeing those old family photos triggered a question in my mind: What exactly is this “belly fat” phenomenon so many of us battle? And more importantly, why did my mom not have it?

Lynn Mayer, CNC, is a close associate and a Standard Process mentor. During a recent visit in her home, we discussed this very subject. I thought to share some of that conversation with you, my dear readers. Back when I first met Lynn to discuss several health issues, including belly fat, I weighed 160 pounds at a short 5 feet, 4 inches. Approximately 8 months later, I’m at 135 and moving down nicely to my natural weight prior to menopause, 115 to 120 pounds. For whatever it’s worth, to anyone out there agonizing over extra weight, sluggishness, or related symptoms such as middle-age spread, this article is for you!

I would often hear my mom discuss this issue with her neighbor. About other women she would say, “Oh, she’s just in the change of life.” At a certain point in everyone’s life, that change takes place—and sometimes it’s a harsh one at that!

This change of life also applies to men. So listen up gentlemen, as much of what happens to women will also happen to you. In the case of females, this time in our life is referred to as “premenopausal,” and it can last for years. Because this topic involves the complex subject of how changes in the endocrine system cause such disruption, I’ve chosen to keep my explanations and recommendations, based on my conversation with Lynn Mayer, as short, simple, and easy-to-understand as possible.

What causes the so called “change of life” in our bodies as we age?

We all have a highly complex endocrine system. This group of glands and organs is most vital during our childbearing years. When your body senses that this time is coming to an end, regardless of whether or not you had any children, the endocrine system begins to decrease its output of certain hormones either gradually or abruptly. An abrupt decrease may have a medical reason such as a hysterectomy or some other type of disturbance.

The result of a decrease in hormones is that the body begins to recognize that something is very wrong. In its infinite wisdom, it tries to deliver the message with a cascade of uncomfortable, unwelcome symptoms. Yes, change is an ordeal!

Without making this article into a book, you can get a deeper understanding of the endocrine system here.

What are premenopausal symptoms?

Although many women go through this period of life with little or no symptoms, others experience mild to severe repercussions like the following:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Hot flushes (frequently called flashes)
  • Vaginal dryness/pain with intercourse
  • Frequent urination or incontinence
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings
  • Weight gain

What medical remedies can be used?

Bio-identical hormones For the most part, these are considered a safe choice to help relieve premenopausal symptoms. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and several medical specialty groups, the hormones marketed as “bio-identical” and “natural” aren’t any safer than hormones used in traditional hormone therapy, and there’s no evidence that they’re any more effective. Natural means the hormones in the product come from plant or animal sources rather than synthesized in a lab. But many of these products still need to be commercially processed to become bio-identical. From a holistic point of view, as Lynn Mayer and I discussed, I thought to present a safer option.

What are the main culprits behind weight gain and other symptoms?

Due to the complexity of this subject, I’ll only discuss what happens with two of the major hormones when they’re not in balance: adrenaline and cortisol, both of which are produced by the adrenal glands. (Note: The adrenal glands are encased in layers of cholesterol, which is why cholesterol is such an important component of healthy adrenals.)

The adrenaline hormone serves as a warning signal that danger is afoot. It accelerates our heartbeat and increases our rate of breath. It can also produce hyperventilation and asthma-like effects, as well as anxiety, fear, and other symptoms. Adrenalin causes multiple chemical changes in our brains and bodies to help us defend ourselves from whatever danger we’re in—or that we perceive we’re in! In due time, consistent overstimulation caused by the ongoing outpouring of this hormone may cause adrenal fatigue.

Once the adrenals reach this dangerous stage, cortisol becomes dysfunctional. It can no longer do its job of moderating our blood sugar levels and controlling how our bodies use fuel sources (fats, carbs, and proteins). This can cause dysfunctional aerobic/fat burning action so we burn more sugar and less fat. The end result is, of course, belly fat, thigh fat, butt fat, and emotional distress. This leads to a distortion of our once normal size, and it affects our overall health. It may contribute to diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many other serious health issues.

What are some natural techniques to bring hormones into balance?

Once again, I can only share the techniques I’ve learned from my own experience. I’ll list them in the order of importance and what worked for me.

Faithfulness

In my opinion and experience, desire alone will never bring success. After numerous starts and stops, I recognized my incredible laziness when it came to follow through! I finally realized that I catered to my bad habits when I resisted changes that would help me. The worse habit was getting easily discouraged when change was too slow.

I finally had to make a commitment to be ruthlessly faithful to my plan, day after day after day, no matter what! My recommendations below may give you a launching pad if you’re truly ready to lose the excess weight. Have faith that you can simplify your routine for the sake of your adrenal glands and live a longer, calmer life as you age.

Stress Reduction

I’m defining stress as “activity without real, daily relaxation.” The stress I’m talking about isn’t emergency related or due to some other negative occurrence. That kind of stress sometimes cannot be avoided, and we may need an occasional adrenaline rush to quickly move to a safe place both physically and mentally. But the most damaging kind of stress happens when we’re constantly on the go, rushing through every meal and trying to accomplish more than we could ever fit in one day.

It’s even worse if we don’t take the time to pause several times each day for 15–20 minutes of real relaxation. If we don’t find the time to do this, our adrenal glands can’t recoup from the outpour of adrenaline hormone and/or the emotional garbage we’ve accumulated throughout the day! At some point in time, the adrenals become fatigued and the cortisol hormone starts malfunctioning. See my post “Relaxation: The Cure-All Vitamin” for some tips on how to find real relaxation.

Food Plan

I’m highly involved with the diet philosophy of Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and I often share my knowledge with Lynn Mayer. When I first asked Lynn how I could get rid of my belly fat, she answered simply and softly, “Don’t eat so much!” It genuinely shocked me as I didn’t think I was eating too much!

I did, however, take her advice to heart. I began looking for ways to reduce the amount I ate without giving up complex carbs, animal fats, meats, organs, broths, raw dairy, whole grains, and other foods I enjoy, which are all a part of a healthy Weston A. Price diet. My studies eventually led me to a small but wonderful book called The Cortisol Connection. (Though I recommend the book, I don’t recommend the specific supplement brands or types of supplementation in it. You should consult your own holistic practitioner for testing and spend your money on what your practitioner says is best to fill your needs.)

The Cortisol Connection outlines a unique idea of portioning foods, suggesting that you use your own hand as a measuring tool. The inside of your palm is your allotted amount of protein per meal; your closed fist is the amount of complex carbohydrates; and your entire open hand is the amount of greens and/or vegetables. I was surprised that when I combined this step with the others, within 2 weeks I could feel my slacks getting a bit looser, and my discouragement became an enthusiastic high! Thank you, Lynn!

Metabolism

Here are my two favorite suggestions for revving your metabolism: take 3–4 tablespoons of coconut oil every single day. The fact that coconut oil contains fewer calories isn’t the main reason for its reputation as a low-calorie fat. Rather, the advantage it offers in weight management has more to do with its affect on metabolism. “The Fat That Can Make You Thin” by Dr. Bruce Fife, ND, will teach you more about this ingredient—it’s a must-read article for success.

It’s also important to go for a daily walk, breathing only through your nose, usually for 45 minutes to an hour, or till a good sweat breaks. At that point you’ll be in a fat burning mode for the next 12 hours.

Supplementation: MediHerb

The following supplements address the decrease in estrogen secretion caused by menopause.

Wild Yam Complex – This combination of wild yam, Shatavari and Korean Ginseng provides gentle estrogenic activity to alleviate the menopausal reduction in estrogen. The sage is specific for hot flashes, while St. John’s Wort supports the nervous system and may lessen depression. Last but not least, Black Cohosh is clinically proven to be effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms and is beneficial in osteopenia.

Note: Korean Ginseng is an adaptogen, which greatly improves your body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s due to a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes, or any number of other stressors. These elite herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, and endurance, and they improve mental clarity.

Rehmannia Extract – Provides excellent support for the adrenals and is also beneficial for excessive stress.

Supplementation: Standard Process

Diaplex – This excellent product addresses blood sugar handling imbalances for both pre-diabetics and diabetics.

Simplex F – Indicated for overall endocrine system support. Used for premenstrual symptoms, hot flashes, hypo/hyperthyroid, adrenal conditions, and sympatric autonomic nervous dominance.

Foods and Recipes

One of the best sources of coconut oil recipes can be found here. However, you should still adhere to Sally’s recommendation below concerning adrenal stimulants and choose recipes that exclude chocolate, caffeine, and/or high sugar content. Here are some more tips to keep in mind:

As stated above, Sally Fallon Morrell discourages chocolate, coffee, and/or any caffeine or caffeine-like stimulant foods or beverages. Chocolate contains theobromine, a strong adrenal stimulant similar to caffeine. Also be sure to avoid alcoholic beverages. They truly have a strong depressive effect.

Consider using organic green powdered Stevia to reduce any sugar highs that may affect the pancreatic function.

Finally, it’s no myth that we can carry an extraordinary amount of fecal matter in our bowels due to poor gut health. This not only adds weight to our body, but it’s also a serious issue that can keep us from achieving superior health. To avoid the consequences of this problem, you must consume a sufficient amount of high fiber whole grains and complex carbohydrate vegetables. Additionally, increasing your consumption of fermented foods should help keep the colon clean. If you’re not familiar with lacto- fermented foods, consider buying my DVD and booklet “Cook Your Way to Wellness.”

An afterthought from the Traditional Cook...

Menopause
The mother of all wake-up calls
After the hormones wear off like party drugs
The house is rewired
By a blind and maybe drunk electrician
Sparks are flying
The thermostat’s out of whack
It’s like living in a Bulgarian hotel!
Adair Lara

Photo from iStock/goa_novi

Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semi-retired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Her website, Traditional Cook, offers the The Lee Household Flour Mill, originally invented by Royal Lee, inventor of Standard Process Supplements. She also carries the WonderMix mixer as well as the Wondermill grain mill. Also check out Maria’s “Cook Your Way to Wellness” DVD (also available on Vimeo). Be sure to join the Selene River Press newsletter to follow Maria’s Tips from The Traditional Cook blog.

Products by Maria Atwood

6 thoughts on “Belly Fat—Simplified!

  1. Morgana says:

    Great article. I think we all think we aren’t eating “that much”. The portioning sounds like a great wake-up call for a great many of us.

    I’ve loved everything you’ve said here with the exception of one thing – there is never any reason or need to get complex carbohydrates or fiber from grains ever. There is nothing in grains or beans that cannot be acquired from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, with far fewer consequences to the digestive system. Anthropological evidence shows, from many preserved human remains from many sites all over the world, that people became shorter in stature and showed many signs of inflammatory disease after grain agriculture became their main source of nourishment. The South American Indians, just to name one group showing obvious indications of this, became much shorter and stockier in build when they began cultivating maize as their main food source.

    A great article outlining this research is here

    http://www.ditext.com/diamond/mistake.html

  2. Stephanie Anderson says:

    Here’s Maria’s reply: My apologies, and yes I did realize that after I wrote the article. Let me explain that now: My mom got caught up in a disagreement with my father about sending my brother and I to a private parochial school, as he was not up to paying tuition. My mom decided that that would not prevent her from getting the education she felt would give us the best chance of success, and so she went to work for a local convent as a cook. She walked 20 blocks every morning and back home every evening—about 24 miles a dayl—five days a week all the school year. How she ever kept that up for about 10+ years is beyond me, but she did. She was also an avid gardener and spent a lot of time outdoors preparing her large garden plot, planting, canning and of course cooking. In other words, she was anything but sedentary. I am sure her metabolic rate was off the charts. And since she was given to cooking with lots of good natural foods, including liver, and making her own whole grain bread and fresh cheese, her body was prepared to deal with the change when it did come. I cannot recall her ever complaining about hot flushes nor was she ever moody. I don’t believe she knew about the importance of what this type of lifestyle does, and which I essentially blogged about by suggesting walking outdoors or even on a treadmill daily, and eating all the natural foods available to us. Without even knowing, she did all the right things! But we always have to look at our early years during which the foundations of our health are laid. She was breast fed and her mother, a master cook, specialized in both traditional Mediterranean and Hispanic foods. Her parents were both from the Basque lands of France and Spain. So her foundations were strong because she was raised on healthy foods. The rest of us have to repair and compensate for the damage done during those early years.

    Thanks for asking.

    Maria Atwood, CNHP

  3. Stephanie Anderson says:

    Morgana, here’s Maria’s reply: Thank you for the kind words. I am very happy that you got some good from it. I will however have to disagree regarding the idea that there is nothing in grains or beans that cannot be acquired from vegetables! – Surely, you must be referring to the Paleo fad which has since its inception slowly been changing to look a whole lot like our Weston A. Price diet which includes ALL the foods that Mother Nature (God) has created for out consumption, including grains and beans!

    I have written a great deal on this subject and invite you to read the book “What’s with Fiber” by Monica Spiller and also please look at my blog post “Ancient Grain Primer”. Along with these suggestions, you may also want to take the time to do some indepth study with the great articles posted at the Weston A. Price website. There you will find that there are ample examples and references where heirloom grains, and yes beans and legumes, have a very special nutritional role in the human diet dating back thousands of years, and that their nutrition is in fact different and not provided in vegetables, fruits, nuts, or seeds. I am reminded of a book review I wrote “Body by God” http://www.westonaprice.org/book-reviews/body-by-god-by-ben-lerner/ in which the author claims we were never intended to drink milk, but rather almond, nut and other types of so-called milk! I asked him what in the world would we do with all the milk cows, goats and other animals that produce milk, as its in their nature to do so? I would therefore ask you the same question: What in the world would we do with all the grains and beans that give people their livelihood, and that have supported mankind with great benefits for eons, and that further provide superior nutrition to our overall well being? All indigenous people, who were far healthier than we are, partook of these foods.

    Mother Nature does not make mistakes, and as far as I can see, the diet philosophy of The Weston A. Price Foundation/Sally Fallon is the only one that includes all the goodness in all the food categories. One last important comment is that when we stop eating a particular food, at some point in time we also stop making the enzyme to digest that food! Not so good a place to be if you ever decide that you’d like a great organic bean burrito wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla :>)

    Maria Atwood, CNHP

  4. Morgana says:

    Thank you Maria, and Stephanie, for your thoughtful and concise, if dogmatic, reply.

    I am not a “paleo” dieter.

    I have studied the Weston A Price website, and have as well read “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” and refer to it often. I also follow several prominent WAPF bloggers. I am well-informed on the WAPF stance on grains.

    Although WAPF presents a compelling argument regarding the ancestral use of grains in the diet, in this instance I cannot ignore the science. We must look to history to correct our mistakes, and in this case grain agriculture, and our subsequent reliance on it, has only made humans sicker and more vulnerable to diseases of inflammation.

    There is also much compelling anecdotal information everywhere regarding
    the positive effects that a grain-free diet has on many health-related
    conditions, particularly in the case of auto-immunity, with scientific
    and medical research being done in this field at this very moment. When
    someone with a severe auto-immune disorder, like that of Multiple
    Sclerosis, can go from being completely incapacitated and relying on
    many medications to simply survive, to living a functional life without
    medications by simply cutting all grains from the diet, attention must
    be given to the idea that grains are simply not as healthy as what is
    claimed by many ancestral diet proponents.

    Having given up grains completely in 2011 and having made no other changes except to replace the grains with more vegetables, I experienced a reduction in inflammation on a High Sensitivity C Reactive Protein test from 2.4 to 0.46. The numeric range for that particular test was 0.0 – 3.0. This was not a low-carb diet. I did, and still do, eat potatoes, plaintains, sweet tubers, squashes, and other starchy vegetables. Those results are undeniable. And others I’ve spoken with are experiencing the same remarkable improvements in biomarker testing after making no other changes to diet other than removing grains.

    My biomarker test results are not exclusive to me. Many, many people are experiencing improvements in health-related issues they’ve suffered for years simply by cutting all grains and beans from their diets. Reductions in seasonal and food-related allergies and reductions in joint and connective tissue discomforts and pain are but a couple of things my friends and family who have eschewed grains have reported.

    There can also be no denying that for humans to eat grains, a good measure of processing is involved. There really is no way for humans to digest grains without processing them, and that processing is what makes them a refined product.

    Ample and adequate amounts of fiber are readily available, without the inflammatory effects, in a diet free of grains. Replacing the fiber from grains with that of vegetables provides more than adequate fiber, and the carbs from starchy tubers replaces starches from grains in a much less inflammatory way.

    Much like the information WAPF presents on the benefits of raw milk, they fail to tell a complete story about the foods they promote.

    As to your argument that both milk cows and grain farmers would lose their living should we turn away from milk and grain consumption, my concerns are NOT with their job security, and nor should anyone else’s be. My concern is health, and what I, and my family, consume to attain that to the best of our efforts. Cows make milk to feed calves, and I’m sure that’s the profession they would return to-

  5. Stephanie Anderson says:

    I agree, Morgana, that we’re not looking out for any food producers’ job security! I’m sure that’s not exactly what Maria meant but I’ll let her reply if she wants to. It’s difficult to cover this large topic in one post and in comments on a blog. So I just wanted to add that no one food is right for anyone. And an important factor to consider is that any whole, unrefined food grown and prepared correctly should be easy for the body to digest. Mostly our problems stem from the fact that our bodies are not operating as they once did because of damage from genetic deficiencies. Naturally, we’ll feel better when
    we stop eating foods that don’t work for us for whatever reason. The idea, however, is to provide a wide variety of whole foods grown on the healthiest soils possible to assist in the reversal of our nutritional disintegration for all people. In that quest, I wish you the very best. And if you’d like some interesting reading on the topic, you’ll find that Dr. Royal Lee wrote extensively about how nutrition deficiencies are passed down. Email me at [email protected] and I’ll send you some samples.

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