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Lose Your Love Handles by Balancing Your Hormones

Muffin top or buddha belly getting you down? Can't wear fitted shirts because you are embarrassed of your love handles? First and foremost, love your body p
Nov 3, 2010 | Joy McCarthy

Muffin top or buddha belly getting you down? Can't wear fitted shirts because you are embarrassed of your love handles? First and foremost, love your body precisely where you are at. There is no sense in being critical of your body because this negative energy is only going to reinforce bad habits.

You are the best person to love every single part of you and if you don't, then you can't possibly expect someone else to! I'm not gonna lie to you and say I don't work hard at preventing love handles but I do put in an effort every single day - by eating and exercising for hormonal balance.

You may be surprised to learn that your hormone levels have a great deal to do with where you store your fat - this goes for both men and women. Much of the information I'm sharing with you today is adapted from one of my favourite books, The Hormone Diet which I use in my own practice with clients. There are two hormones involved when love handles are around: insulin and cortisol.

Carrying weight around your gut (aka "love handles") is worse than fat around your hips or thighs and this is in part due to insulin resistance. It is also indicative of an imbalance in cortisol levels. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone, which, if chronically high, can result in increased fat around the gut. Feeling stressed out or depressed about this may even worsen the problem by promoting overeating, particularly of refined carbs. Try and stay positive. You are reading this article, so that means you are taking positive steps!

What is insulin? It is the chemical (hormone) signal that allows sugar to enter your cells to create energy. If these sugars are not consumed as energy (ie. if you eat too many of them) they will be stored as fat, around your middle.

What is insulin resistance? "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. When the pancreas fails to sustain this increased demand for insulin production, it can lead to type 2 diabetes which is linked to heart disease and will physically manifest as excess fat around the waist, or an apple body shape.

The bad news is insulin resistance is on the rise every single day. Why? Well it's quite simple, look at our diet of excess intake of sugar or carbohydrates from the S.A.D = Standard American Diet of white rice, white pasta, white bread, pizza, pop, candy, baked goods. It is also related to alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and stress.

Five Ways to Banish Those Pesky Love Handles:

Eliminate sugar completely from your diet. The key here is to keep insulin levels low for fat loss to occur and keep your blood sugar balanced. This will also prevent overeating and cravings. Here are a bunch of articles on how to kick your sugar habit . Still hooked on candy? Check this article, it will help: learn more .

Eat protein at every meal and snack. Not only is it thermogenic (meaning, it stimulates metabolic rate), but it balances your blood sugar. What are healthy sources of protein? Beans, nuts, seeds, fish, chia, quinoa, dark leafy greens, tempeh (not tofu), organic eggs/meat/chicken, lastly high quality protein powders.

Eat healthy fish like salmon or sardines rich in omega 3 fats or take a fish oil supplement. These are great for reducing body fat. According to Dr. Turner, it seems that omega 3 oils (EPA/DHA capsules) mixed with GLA (gamma linoleic acid) boost fat loss through increased heat production (thermogenesis) and increase the ability to maintain weight loss.

Lift weights along with cardiovascular exercise. Lifting weights helps to rebalance your hormones and increases your metabolic rate so you burn those love handles at rest! Don't overdo the cardio, which is what most people are doing. I lift weights 2-3 times per week and I used to be a cardio-holic years ago. Lifting weights will change your body, increase your confidence and make you feel very joyous. Hire a trainer to give you a good ol' fashion booty kicking!

Keep your stress in check. Easier said than done right? I consult my clients on managing stress every single day because it is the one thing getting in the way of most people reaching their health goals. The problem with stress is elevated levels of cortisol increase the breakdown of muscle mass and increase fat around the middle. Breathe, breathe, breathe! Take a yoga class, go for a walk outdoors in nature, read a good book, watch a funny movie and of course, spend time with people who you love and are admiring of you.

VeggieGirl   •   November 3, 2010

Although I do not have love handles, I definitely need more protein, need to reduce my stress... but you already know all of this ;)


D   •   November 3, 2010

this is a great article! Just what I needed to hear. I am not an apple shape, but during times of stress I definitely do gain weight in the midsection. In many of your posts you mention that you used to have hormonal imbalance and it really effected your well-being and ability to be joyous. My question is, how did you "diagnose" or determine that you had hormonal imbalance? Did you base it on specific symptoms outlined by dietitian/medical professional or was it something you discovered and treated yourself? I am asking because I have very debilitating depressive episodes that revolve around my menstrual cycle and wonder what type of action I should be taking. Diet of course, is key to feeling better but I wonder if I should bring this up to a doctor, see a dietitian or just continue to improve my diet on my own. Thank you for your time sorry about this long post!


Anna   •   November 4, 2010

How much cardio is considered overdoing it? Joy, what is your stance on high interval intensity training in comparison to lifting weights? I follow Zuzana's workouts from, and she's professing that HIIT is the best way to lose fat because it combines cardio and strength training, which also builds muscle that increases your metabolic rest rate. Yet, I read on, say, that's fit blog that simply running is the best way to lose fat, when here you say not to overdo it. What's the best form or combination of exercises for fat loss would you say if it could be put as simply?


[email protected]/   •   November 8, 2010

I LOVE the new site!!!! It looks sooo beautiful! I just joined twitter so I will be following your tweets now :) Would love for you to follow me too @healthymodel xx sarah

joyousness   •   November 8, 2010

bet365   •   November 11, 2010

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James   •   September 11, 2016

You completely ignored the role fat plays in insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes


Richa   •   April 5, 2018

Thank you so much

Rachel Molenda   •   April 6, 2018

civic   •   June 5, 2018

I planning to start my waist training routine, can you give me some advise?

Joy McCarthy   •   June 5, 2018

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