Let’s face it, belly fat is the worst. Not only is it unattractive and difficult to lose, but it’s one of the best indicators of disease. Increased belly fat in comparison to smaller hips, also known as the Waist-To-Hip ratio (WHR), is particularly dangerous. Research (not that it’s needed) has shown that apple-shaped-people (more belly fat and higher WHR), have a myriad of health risks compared to those that are pear shaped (less belly fat and lower WHR). Increased WHR and belly fat is associated with:
- lower mental capacity1
- decrease attractiveness2 3
- lower fertility and sexual function4
- increased sexual-related cancers (prostate, ovarian)5 6
- hypertension & cardiovascular disease7
- increased mortality (impending death)9
Researchers have even studied and correlated increased WHR to decreased female attractiveness.10 Seriously? I’m endlessly amazed by the things people get research grants for; anyone reading this please give me one million dollars and I’ll correlate people getting punched in the face with decreased happiness.
Determining Your Risk
Forget about blood chemistry, doctor physicals, and IQ measurements. Instead, just look in the mirror. Is your belly swollen and hanging over your waist, or are your hips wide with a thin belly? Are you an apple body type or a pear? What is your Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR)?
This WHR number is such an important health indicator that I want you to measure your number right now, before you read the rest of this article. After you have your WHR number, I’ll tell you about why we get belly fat and the three simple solutions to make it go away rapidly.
Begin by measuring your waist at the widest point, usually about five inches below the bottom of your sternum, just above the belly button. Do this with constant tension on the tissue without distorting it. Then, while keeping your feet together, measure your hips at the widest point around the hips and glutes.
Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio by dividing your waist measurement by hip measurement (W ÷ H ).
Waist circumference ________ / (divided) by hip circumference ________ = WHR _______________
Using the chart below, you can determine your risk. The World Health Organization defines high risk level and obesity above .90 for men and above .85 for women.
Ok, so now we know how bad belly fat is, we’ve measured our number and know our risk level. But now we need to understand what causes it.
The answer: STRESS!
In the body, stress response is measured by the release and measurable level of the stress hormone called cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. When stress is high, cortisol is high; when cortisol is high, belly fat is high.11
The Three Phases of Stress
Phase I is normal stress and normal recovery. Phase II is extensive stress and no recovery. Phase III is when the system can handle no more stress and simply breaks.
After the demands on our system and our reserves are exceeded, health plummets precipitously. Negative changes in our body become visible. All of a sudden you look and feel old. Joints hurt and libido disappears. Exhaustion, inflammation, weight gain, and brain fog settle in. The brain malfunctions, making even simple tasks difficult. Hormone, nervous, vascular, and enzyme systems decrease. As all of this happens and cortisol goes up, visceral organ fat increases and belly fat appears. The more belly fat you have (the higher WHR) the further into breakage you are. It’s really that simple.
The Solution to Belly Fat
So now you know that stress increases cortisol and cortisol increases belly fat. So the real question is how do we get rid of cortisol (stress) so our belly fat can go away.
There are three highly effective ways for a person with belly fat to eliminate it.
#1: Don’t eat Sugar
Contrary to belief, the number one cause of high cortisol is not a bad job, an angry spouse or money problems. It’s sugar and refined carbohydrates. Sugar results in far higher cortisol output than emotional stress.
When you eat sugar and refined carbohydrates, the body increases insulin production. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that pushes sugar into the cells. When sugar is consumed, the body almost always overshoots insulin production, which is why many of us get a low blood sugar reaction after overeating carbohydrates and sugar.
To counter this overshoot, the body has to produce cortisol to pull the sugar back out of the cells. This blood sugar yo-yo game between insulin and cortisol production is massively stressful on the body and the cause of belly fat. If you want to stop it, stop eating sugar – all of it. Try eating like humans did for 99% of our known past. Eat real food. Eat meat, eat fat, eat vegetables. Save the fruit for only local fruit in season ( i.e. don’t eat pineapples and bananas is February…)
It’s not really that complicated but it can be very hard. It means if you want to get rid of belly fat you’re going to have to pass on your favorite carbohydrate-laden food. Sorry, there’s no easy way around that one.
#2: Move. A Lot
After you quit eating sugar, you need to move.
An article in the New York Times from 2011 called, “Is Sitting A Lethal Activity? Sitting Is The New Smoking” examined the collaborated research of Dr.’s Levine and M. Jensen from the Mayo Clinic. The intent of the controlled six-year study was to find a reason for different metabolic rates among people. What they stumbled upon was that the group that didn’t gain weight simply moved more.12
To quote Dr. Jensen:
The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more. They hadn’t started exercising more – that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements . . . like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t.”
Lack of movement, also known as a ‘sedentary lifestyle,’ is a disease of modern commerce and the solution is to get more aerobic movement. Go out and buy a movement tracker and make sure that you’re getting 10,000 movements per day. Don’t stop moving until you’ve gotten to 10,000.
All movements are aerobic until you increase your heart rate past a specific level and your body is unable to utilize fat and oxygen for energy. Then you enter anaerobic exercise. This is when you start burning sugar for energy and your body has to produce cortisol to pull that sugar out of the cells. If you want to exercise, use a heart rate monitor and don’t go past your aerobic max heart rate. This can be calculated by taking 180 minus your age.
Example: I’m a 38 year old male. 180 – 38 = 142. So when I exercise I don’t go past a heart rate of 142 to ensure that I’m moving aerobically and not producing excess cortisol.
#3: Take Adrenal Supplements
Logic should dictate that if stress and cortisol create belly fat and cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, then it’s important to have healthy adrenal function if we want to get rid of belly fat.
The only way to balance cortisol (other than diet and exercise) is to take nutrients for the adrenal glands that are designed to help balance cortisol levels. Our adrenal glands use up a lot of nutrition when they’re stressed. Only by providing that nutrition can they keep up without allowing our cortisol levels to increase. The primary nutrients they need are vitamin C and the B vitamins. They also need minerals, trace minerals, adaptogenic herbs and glandulars.
I believe that anyone who is stressed needs to take adrenal supplements. This includes all people that live in a polluted area, have a job, need to fight traffic, are married or have children (cough cough…all of us).
From a personal level, I believe taking adrenal support has literally saved my life. While there are many good brands out there, personally I take and have had great success with our product called Adrenal Food.
Wishing you a low WHR,
Dr. Tim Weeks
If you’re in the greater Cleveland area, we encourage you to check out our weight loss program, watch some testimonials, and see what Whole Body Health can do for you.
If you’re not local, no worries! We also offer online consultations to those who can’t find help near by.
 Lassek, W.; Gaulin S. (January 2008). “Waist-hip ratio and cognitive ability: is gluteofemoral fat a privileged store of neurodevelopmental resources?”. Evolution and Human Behavior. 29 (1): 26–34
 Singh, Devendra (1994-01-01). “Is thin really beautiful and good? Relationship between waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and female attractiveness”. Personality and Individual Differences. 16 (1): 123–132.
 Singh, Devendra; Young, Robert K. (1995-11-01). “Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio, breasts, and hips: Role in judgments of female attractiveness and desirability for relationships”. Ethology and Sociobiology. 16 (6): 483–507
 Dixson, Barnaby J.; Grimshaw, Gina M.; Linklater, Wayne L.; Dixson, Alan F. (2011-02-01). “Eye-tracking of men’s preferences for waist-to-hip ratio and breast size of women”. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 40 (1): 43–50.
 Singh D (December 2002). “Female mate value at a glance: relationship of waist-to-hip ratio to health, fecundity and attractiveness” (PDF). Neuro Endocrinol. Lett. 23. Suppl 4: 81–91
 Marlowe, F; Apicella, C; Reed, D (2005). “Men’s preferences for women’s profile waist-to-hip ratio in two societies” (PDF). Evolution and Human Behavior. 26 (6): 458–68
 Mørkedal B, Romundstad PR, Vatten LJ (2011). “Informativeness of indices of blood pressure, obesity and serum lipids in relation to ischaemic heart disease mortality: the HUNT-II study”. European Journal of Epidemiology. 26 (6): 457–461.
 Picon PX, Leitão CB, Gerchman F, Azevedo MJ, Silveiro SP, Gross JL, Canani LH (April 2007). “[Waist measure and waist-to-hip ratio and identification of clinical conditions of cardiovascular risk: multicentric study in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients]”. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metabol (in Portuguese). 51 (3): 443–9.
 Srikanthan P, Seeman TE, Karlamangla AS. Waist-Hip-Ratio as a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality in High-Functioning Older Adults. Annals of epidemiology. 2009;19(10):724-731. doi:10.1016/j.annepidem.2009.05.003.
 Wardle, J; Chida, Y; Gibson, EL; Whitaker, KL; Steptoe, A (2011). “Stress and adiposity: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies”. Obesity. 19 (4): 771–778. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.241. PMID 20948519.