Do you have a body bugbear — an area with which you’re never happy, no matter how toned you are otherwise? Well, experts say there may be a scientific reason behind it — be it a muffin top, chunky ankles, or bingo wings. For research shows excess weight may gather in certain areas, regardless of how much you diet or exercise, as a result of hormone imbalances.
‘Our metabolism is complex. There are lots of reasons people are different shapes, but hormones are key,’ explains Saffron Whitehead, a professor of physiology at St George’s Hospital in London.
‘Lifestyle, diet and genetics play a part,’ adds Max Tomlinson, a nutritionist and the author of Target Your Fat Spots. ‘The good news is, there’s lots you can do to redress the balance by changing hormone levels.’ Here, experts reveal the surprising causes of carrying a bit extra — and how to lose it.
THE CULPRIT: Cortisol
Our bodies evolved to react to danger by producing the stress hormone cortisol, to trigger the release of energy for the ‘fight or flight’ response. ‘We are constantly under stress,’ says Dr Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist specialising in women’s health. ‘Our excess cortisol sparks the release of energy in the form of fat and glucose. ‘This is redeposited as fat round your middle, near the liver. We think this is so it can quickly change back into energy if needed.’
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
‘Reduce stress — for example, with meditation or by listening to relaxing music,’ says Dr Glenville. ‘Eat little and often to keep blood sugar levels stable, as fluctuations can trigger cortisol release.’ Eat foods with a low glycemic load, such as apples, wholegrain bread or cashews, which slowly release energy. And avoid running for 45 minutes or more — this can, in fact,trigger cortisol production.