Do you have extra weight around your belly? Specifically, we’re talking about “muffin top” or “love handle” type of excess fat.
Women can carry excess weight in different places, and having some extra in your butt and thighs is more of a vanity concern than a health danger. Abdominal fat is a different story. Don’t get us wrong, it’s completely natural and normal for women to have a belly! We are not advocating that women should have a flat stomach. Bellies are natural and good! But if you are overweight, or if you are normal weight but the majority of your fat is around the middle, there may be cause for concern.
Why is excess belly fat a health danger?
There are two types of belly fat: Subcutaneous fat which lies right under your skin (the fat you can pinch) and deep visceral fat that covers your internal organs. It’s visceral fat, also called “visceral adipose tissue” or VAT, that is dangerous. Here’s why:
Visceral fat is metabolically active. In fact it’s so active that it is considered to function as an additional organ! Unfortunately this type of fat overproduces harmful substances, such as inflammatory molecules called cytokines, and can alter the effects of weight regulating hormones like leptin. You want leptin in the perfect amount, as it signals that you are full and no longer hungry. The problem is that as you gain weight, your fat produces higher and higher levels of leptin. Your brain becomes resistant to the leptin signal, which means you feel hungry all the time despite high levels of leptin. This is known as leptin resistance.
By nature, visceral fat will make you fatter and more inflamed. It increases your risk for many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s bad news all around.
how do you know if your belly fat is in the danger zone?
If you take a tape measure, and measure your belly at the level of your belly button, and then measure the widest part of your hips, your belly measurement should be smaller. If it’s not, then you probably have visceral fat.
Another way to tell is if your waist measurement is 35 inches or higher – this is proven to increase health risks associated with visceral fat.
So… Get out the tape measure.
What does belly fat have to do with PCOS?
If you have visceral fat and you’re female, it’s worth checking out if you have PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Consider these statistics for the world’s females:
- 10 – 20 % have PCOS – it’s an epidemic.
- 70% with PCOS have excess visceral fat.
Not all women with visceral fat have PCOS, but there’s such a high correlation that in our practices, we always screen women with excess belly fat for PCOS.
Why screen for PCOS?
PCOS and belly fat require a different approach to heal compared to belly fat alone. PCOS is not a visceral fat syndrome — It’s a hormone imbalance syndrome. Not just hormones of weight regulation, but also reproductive hormones. If you don’t address the hormonal imbalances, you will always. struggle to get rid of your belly fat.
PCOS carries its own set of potential symptoms, including irregular menstrual cycles, fertility problems, unwanted hair growth, and adult acne. PCOS also carries its own set of potential risk factors, such as increased risk for endometrial cancer, infertility and associated autoimmune disease. It’s a syndrome that is important to identify so that your healing approach is spot on.
What if your belly fat is due to PCOS? Then what?
Is your PCOS caused by the same metabolic problems that caused your belly fat, or is PCOS responsible for creating your belly fat in the first place? Either way, rest assured that by addressing your PCOS, both your hormone balance and your belly fat can be healed. You can reverse PCOS and all of its associated symptoms.
Hopefully you want to reverse it! Not just because of the struggle associated with losing belly fat and dealing with all of the other annoying PCOS symptoms but also to fix your long-term health and improve longevity.
Many women with PCOS and belly fat are told to lose weight. Easier said than done! Tackling this project successfully takes:
- Social and community support.
- Lifestyle habit changes.
- Investigation and treatment of the root causes underlying your PCOS.
Are you wondering if your belly fat is due to PCOS? Start by taking our quiz!