How Fat Loss Works: Part 1 of 2
Q: What’s the best way to Lose Body Fat?
A: Set your body up to use body fat as fuel. Part 1
To successfully lose body fat your body must be set up in a way that encourages efficient shuttling of stored fat out of your body’s fat cells to be used as fuel.
This requires that certain metabolic processes are balanced.
Knowing which metabolic processes and how you can influence them will make a world of difference when you are trying to lose body fat.
Today we’re covering the first step of setting our body up to use body fat stores as fuel.
- First, the amazing fact that Our Body Fat is an Organ. How that fact changes everything about how we approach using it as fuel.
- A quick overview of HOW our body STORES fat for fuel.
- The 2 top criteria that sets our body to USE the stored body fat or not.
- Hurdles that keep us from using stored body fat as fuel.
- Focused Actions we can take to remove these 2 hurdles.
My hope is that by sharing what your amazing body needs set up in order to efficiently USE your stored body fat that you will
- have a couple of ah-ha moments,
- maybe feel relieved if you’ve struggled with trying to lose excess body fat.
- then by the end, feel empowered!
Next time in: 🔗 How Fat Loss Works Part 2
We will build on where we left off. Adding 5 additional criteria that are also SIMPLE to incorporate into our lifestyle. 💌 SUBSCRIBE. Let’s dive in.
What’s the best way to lose body fat?
The best way to lose body fat is to set your body up to USE body fat as fuel.
A quick note before we begin. We cannot choose where on our body we lose body fat first.
Over time, as the body uses its fat stores for fuel, all the areas including where we personally want our excess body fat to reduce will.
a 🚧 BUMMER 🚧 alert
Typically the last area the body reduces its fat storage; especially when it comes to women; is the belly region.
What will often happen, which can be discouraging to many, is our belly will tend to appear bigger as we reduce our overall body fat stores. It is helpful to know this is a temporary situation. 😊 Please do not get derailed! Keep going.
I will explain how and why this happens in an upcoming post/video for you. If you’d like an email when new articles are posted you can click here to 💌 SUBSCRIBE.
Now let’s jump into the amazing body fat fact.
Our Body Fat is an Organ.
“Though it was once considered a mere energy storage site, AT (Adipose Tissue is made up of fat cells) is now considered an important endocrine organ and site of inflammatory cell signaling that governs not only survival but also plays critical roles in reproduction and in glucometabolic homeostasis.” (1)
What does this mean?
This means your body fat isn’t a storage container where fat only shuttles in and out dependent on caloric deficit alone.
Your body fat is instead an actual functioning organ.
As with all your other organs your body fat organ is involved in many aspects of your wellbeing.
Listing just a few influences your body fat has AND is also influenced by:
Blood sugar balance is where we are starting today.
This is because it is simple (maybe not easy- but it is simple) to influence.
With a bit of awareness about our blood sugar and its impact on stored body fat we can, in a very powerful way, immediately incorporate today’s information.
This is ESPECIALLY true if you are counting calories and feeling frustrated.
How is knowing body fat is an organ helpful?
Our organs (stored body fat is an organ) make up our body systems.
Your body fat is sending messaging out and receiving messages.
These messages include the directions to:
– Shuttle fat into storage.
– KEEP the fat cell gates closed to preserve its fat stores.
– Open the gates of the fat cell when it’s okay to use body fat stores as fuel.
Knowing the fat cells are an organ that influences and is influenced by hormonal messaging is key when it comes to how we try to lose body fat.
How we are set up to STORE Body Fat helps us make sense of how we can set ourselves up to use it.
How we are set up to store fat matters when it comes to our efforts of trying to use the body fat we already have.
Collectively all our CELLS need a certain amount of calories for energy. To fulfill that need we eat.
Our digestive juices help break down the foods we eat into recognizable molecules for the body to use.
Then what happens is:
When we eat, the levels of circulating insulin in our bloodstream increase.
When circulating insulin goes up our body will not use stored fat as energy.
Insulin helps move glucose into cells. Your cells use glucose for energy.
Your body first stores a little extra glucose in your liver, muscles, and the excess shuttles into your fat cells.
Once glucose moves into your cells, your blood sugar level goes back down and signal another hormone called hormone-sensitive lipase.
Hormone-sensitive lipase signals our fat cells that we can open the ‘cell gates’ to slowly use our fat stores as fuel.
Re-Cap How our body stores fat and what needs to be in place to release it.
High levels of circulating insulin in our bloodstream give our body the signal to move and store excess triglycerides (fat) into our cells. As well its messages to our cells to hold on to the stores we already have.
Low levels of circulating insulin allow our other hormone called hormone-sensitive lipase to signal to the fat cell it’s okay to release the stored fat cells.
Now, this is a gross oversimplification of how fat loss occurs.
But it is highly beneficial for those trying to lose excess body fat to know that:
Knowing this is empowering. How so? Well, once we know how it is set up to work we can set ourselves up to influence our circulating insulin and hormone-sensitive lipase levels to enable excess stored fat to be used as fuel.
The body needs 2 things to lose body fat.
For the hormone-sensitive lipase to signal it’s okay for our fat cells to release our stored fat molecules for fuel there are criteria that must be met:
🔸 a caloric deficit.
🔸 and low circulating insulin.
When there is a reduced level of circulating insulin it is picked up by the hormone sensitive lipase which signals to your body it is okay to USE stored fat molecules. (2)
When there is a caloric deficit and low circulating insulin fat stores can be released to be used as fuel.
Your fat cells open the gates per se of the fat cell and allow fat molecules to be shuttled out for fuel.
That is until you eat or drink something again. Eating increases circulating insulin.
When you eat or drink the insulin circulating in your bloodstream rises and once again the signal to stop using fat for fuel is sent out.
This magnificent communication between hormones is amazing.
You don’t even spend time thinking about it. You eat, digestive enzymes work to break down what you’ve eaten, your hormone insulin comes out, molecules are shuttled to be used as energy where needed, the excess is converted into triglycerides and stored.
What happens next is your circulating insulin levels lower. Over time your body will need more energy. Your Hormone Sensitive Lipase begins its job.
It signals your fat cells that it’s a good time to release the backup fuel source for energy.
As Dr. Jensen endocrinologist specializing in obesity succinctly puts it:
“You need your energy in energy out to work really well. Your fat cell has got to be able to store fat when it’s there and it’s got to be able to let it go when it needs to let it go.” (3) – colors added
How body fat loss works.
How body fat loss works. First, we eat. Your collective body fat organ needs to have your hormone insulin increase the amount circulating in your bloodstream to be able to move triglycerides made from excess calories into your fat cells to store.
Next, the body needs to have the circulating amount of insulin recede.
The circulating insulin needs to decrease enough for your hormone-sensitive lipase to kick in. Your hormone-sensitive lipase senses it’s time to let go of the stored body fat as fuel.
The hormone insulin is where we want to place our focus on.
The very first 🎯 focused action to take is slowly increase the time between eating.
Hurdles. 4 hurdles that compromise using body fat as fuel. Why are they hurdles? They promote increased circulating insulin.
Hurdles- NOT lack of willpower keeps many from successfully using excess stored body fat as fuel.
Hurdles- NOT lack of willpower keeps many from successfully using excess stored body fat as fuel.
I can assure you, after 4 decades in the wellness field, that it’s not a lack of motivation, willpower, or adherence that keeps most from achieving their goal of losing body fat.
Instead, it’s a few hurdles.
Hurdles that you may not even know exist.
Once you are aware of the hurdles you can remove them.
Removing them will enable you to set your body up to use and lose body fat stores.
I am going to lay out 4 of the most common hurdles today along with the focused actions to remove them.
The following are the 4 top hurdles that slow or impede the release of stored body fat.
Each compromises body fat use because all 4 promote increase circulating insulin.
The great news: we can influence all of them with Simple Self Care 🎯 Focused Actions in the 52 Weeks ☀️ of Self Care with mo. This is why it is the starting place for EVERY health and wellness goal. Let’s look at the 4 hurdles.
4 Hurdles that impede fat loss:
Hurdle 1. High Carb Foods or Constant Snacking throughout the day.
Each time we eat circulating insulin goes up. Higher carb foods increase circulating insulin more than protein and fat. Post-eating insulin keeps the hormone-sensitive lipase from signaling the fat cell to release stores.
When eating meals/snacks close together our insulin remains too high to ever give hormone-sensitive lipase a chance.
If you want to decrease fat stores:
The thing to do is focus your efforts on spreading out meals and avoiding grazing throughout the day.
As your body adapts to longer times between meals your messaging improves all the way around. Your body and brain will be happier as well as you’ll feel more satisfied with meals.
Stated a different way. To lose body fat avoid:
Higher carb meals and constant grazing. Why? Because both keep insulin circulating at higher levels. This means hormone-sensitive lipase will not be able to signal to the fat cell to use its stored fat.
A constant s-l-o-w source of energy from your fat cells keeps you happy.
Your cells want and need a constant, slow, energy supply. Optimally we pull on our fat stores between meals.
If your cells are unable to pull a steady supply of fuel from your fat cells due to high levels of circulating insulin or fast plummeting of insulin they solicit help.
This is when more hormones get involved.
The other hormones drive you to find something to eat immediately. Your brain wants fast sugar. This is why your desire to eat seems uncontrollable.
Your body is actually trying to protect you/your brain. In this circumstance, you cannot imagine feeling well by spreading the time between meals out further and further.
You end up snacking more and more.
Most often the snacks are carbs, sugary drinks, or caffeine anything to get some more QUICK fuel.
There is never enough time for the hormone-sensitive lipase hormone to signal for the release of fat from fat cells.
Sometimes though this is not obvious. Here is an example.
Let’s look at the scenario I heard often when it came to those wanting to lose body fat:
—mo, I get up and eat a healthy bowl of oats. About an hour later I’m already hungry again. I have a healthy banana sliced on some toast maybe some almond butter. I drink some almond milk. Often a cup of coffee. A short time later I feel like I have to lie down. If I can’t lie down I have another coffee maybe with a piece of toast.
My snacking begins around 11.
I need something else to eat. Because I’m being good about calories, I choose to eat let’s say carrots. I choose carrots since they are low-calorie.
By lunchtime, I’m starving.
Typically I have a bagel sandwich and veggies or salad and 1/2 sandwich. I hardly get through to 4 pm but I try and wait to have a snack and coffee.
This gets me through till supper.
Following supper, I’ll have a small dessert or a nighttime snack. I ALWAYS stay within my allotted calories. Even with all this effort of grazing and staying in calories I still don’t lose weight. What can I possibly be doing wrong?
What signaling is going on?
First, the insulin went up and then plummeted. This created an emergency need for more sugar no time for hormone-sensitive lipase to kick in.
The carrot promoted increased insulin circulating back in the bloodstream. Because it was so close to lunchtime there was not enough time for insulin to taper enough for hormone-sensitive lipase to then kick in.
Every time we eat our insulin is increased so it can do its job. The amount it increases is dependent on the food type.
A low-calorie food can be a high-carb food.
A low-calorie food that is high carb can be a fat loss hurdle for calorie counters.
Depending on quick high carb foods (even though low in calories) throughout the day keeps insulin circulating at a higher level.
PLUS — because the ‘healthy’ LOW-CALORIE snack did not offer the satiety or the slower source of energy that a food choice like protein or fat would have, you need to snack again.
I’m NOT saying carrots are bad.
I’m sharing that for the purpose of having times where insulin is not circulating at a level for a long enough span that hormone-sensitive lipase can signal our fat cells to open the gates and use the stored fat source).
Bottom line the timing and the food type matter when it comes to fat loss.
When it comes to the timing of your snacking, as well as choices of snacks throughout the day — BOTH will determine your level of circulating insulin.
Your circulating insulin will determine if your body holds onto or uses body fat for fuel.
This is how fat loss works.
Choosing snacks high in healthy sources of Protein or Fat – while staying at the same calorie level– will help you achieve your goal of using fat stores.
Remember the opposite is true if the choice is for high-carb (even if low-calorie) snacks.
Bringing us full circle:
Calorie counting is EXTREMELY important BUT just as important is your level of circulating insulin when it comes to your goal. (1)
This is why the eating scenario I shared above doesn’t work when it comes to fat loss.
Throughout the example day, there was never enough time for the insulin to lower long enough for the hormone-sensitive lipase to signal to the fat cells to use fat.
This is FRUSTRATING because calories were within the client’s recommended range for losing body fat.
Reducing chronic high insulin takes time. But it is time well spent. This is because it’s the way to help set your body up to lose excess body fat.
We will move into more of this in the future after the 3 Nutrients section in the ☀️ 52 Weeks of Simple Self Care with mo.
When your goal is to lose body fat 🎯 The focused action is to slowly transition to:
🎯 Focused action:
Space out your meals having each provide the best-unprocessed protein that works with your budget, a good fat source, and a small portion of carbs is how you will set your body up to lose fat.
Done consistently over time, your high circulating insulin will have a chance to decrease.
This means your hormone-sensitive lipase will have the chance to signal your fat stores it is okay to open the gates for fat stores to be used between meals as fuel. It is how fat loss will happen.
RE-CAP of Hurdle 1: Higher Circulating Insulin
Hurdle 1: Higher circulating insulin keeps you from accessing your slow sustainable source of energy (fat). It impedes fat loss. It does this by
It can even be contributing to AND a result of the remaining 3 hurdles.:
Hurdle 2: Chronic Stress
Chronic stress elevates the stress hormone cortisol.
Study after study points out:
Elevated Stress Hormone Cortisol promotes increased insulin.
‘….elevated cortisol, over the long term, consistently produces glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.” (7)
” the body remains in a general insulin-resistant state when cortisol levels are chronically elevated….Over time, the pancreas struggles to keep up with the high demand for insulin, glucose levels in the blood remain high, the cells cannot get the sugar they need, and the cycle continues.” (2)
“ increased stress hormone of cortisol promotes increased insulin.(9)(3)
This ongoing scenario will promote
Increased insulin promotes increased fat storage and decreased fat release from stored fat cells.
“…that serum cortisol is positively correlated with waist circumference among male and female subjects, supporting findings that repeated or chronic stress plays a potential role in the development of overweight and obesity.”(11)
Because our body is integrated and interconnected the disruption of hurdle 1 and hurdle 2 literally set up hurdle 3.
Hurdle 3 Insufficient or Ineffective Sleep
Higher levels of insulin can disrupt your sleep. (10)
When it comes to fat loss it is helpful to wean yourself off eating right before bed.
The reason for this: regularly eating before bed has been shown to decrease the amount of good sleep you experience.
The same holds true for alcohol.
Why? Alcohol increases insulin.
Over time ongoing lack of good sleep increases blood sugar. A vicious cycle begins. More and more your higher blood sugar levels will negatively impact your sleep, Your poor sleep will negatively impact your blood glucose.
“Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity.”(12)
Increased circulating insulin keeps the body from using fat stores as fuel.
“Derangements in sleep also affect glucose homeostasis and appetite control. Impaired sleep thus might contribute to the rising prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity in modern society.” (13)
Fat Loss Hurdle 4
Hurdle 4 Hypothalamus inflammation
“… hypothalamic inflammation was reported to affect hypothalamic hormonal (e.g., leptin and insulin) signaling to cause central dysregulation of energy balance leading to obesity development. Your hypothalamus is located in your brain and helps to stimulate and regulate temperature, weight, emotions, sleep…”(14)
How does Hypothalamus inflammation occur?
Overeating. Chronically overeating stresses our cells.
Because our body is made up of systems that are made up of organs which are made up of tissues that are made up of cells.
Chronically stressed cells which of course make up our tissues that make our organs that are our systems make for stressed systems.
The Hypothalamus produces hormones one of which is insulin.
“hypothalamic inflammation, which may result from overnutrition-induced intracellular stresses or disease-associated systemic inflammatory factors, extracellular and intracellular environments of hypothalamic cells are disrupted, leading to central metabolic dysregulations and various diseases.”
Specific 🎯Focused Action You can take to reduce this High Insulin Hurdle:
If you are using the 52 weeks ☀️ of Simple Self Care with mo program
👉🏼Continue using your HPA Axis 🎯 Focused Actions.
Each AM, PM, and Creating CALM Focused Harmony music in the background. Each of the 8 techniques I have provided you totals just a few minutes each day.
Alternatively, if you are not using the program
👉🏼 Use relaxation techniques throughout the day that work for you.
The goal is to reduce your stress loop and strengthen your relaxation loop.
As your relaxation loop retrains and your cortisol levels out you’ll find your ‘need’ for food right before bed will diminish.
One of the benefits of your cravings diminishing is it is easier to wean off the habit of eating before bed. Weaning off eating before bed helps improve your sleep.
Improved sleep helps cortisol levels.
Cortisol levels that are optimized mean circulating insulin is optimized.
Optimized insulin means insulin-sensitive lipase has more opportunity to message fat cells that it is good to release and use stored fat as fuel.
The bottom line:
To LOSE body fat you FIRST set your body up to USE stored fat as fuel.
The 4 common hurdles that keep your body from using body fat as fuel even when your calories are in a deficit have something in common. They all promote high levels of circulating insulin.
Addressing them with the simple focused actions will help you reduce the high levels of circulating insulin allowing hormone-sensitive lipase to signal your fat cells to open the cell doors and let the stored fat out to be used as fuel.
To set your body up to USE body fat as fuel optimizes your circulating insulin level. It is the first foundational piece.
You can achieve this by:
— SLOWLY moving from high carb meals and snacks to 3 balanced meals that are focused on getting the right amount of calories from unprocessed protein and best quality fat that your budget allows.
— Using your HPA Axis Focused Actions each AM, PM during the day as well as the spine stabilizing training and deep postural muscle training.
The Simplify Self Care with mo Focused Actions we are incorporating ☀️ one week at a time over the 52 weeks are designed to support your goal of using excess body fat as fuel! You’ve got this!
Our Body Fat is an Organ. It is part of our Endocrine system.
The Body Fat Organ sends and receives hormone messages.
These messages dictate how we use body fat.
Reducing circulating Insulin so hormone-sensitive lipase can direct the body to use the body’s fat stores as energy is the key.
Links 🔗 to posts/videos that may be of interest to you.
🔗 Video: This Is Your Year for Self Care: https://youtu.be/r-4YJUvMr_M
🔗 Video: How to Achieve Your Goal. Start with Leveraging Science: https://youtu.be/qx4uwwLnEjs
🔗 Video: How Sound Strengthens Your Relaxation Loop: https://youtu.be/S2mIL5JwOH0
Linked references for you.
Related to Hurdle 1:
Richard AJ, White U, Elks CM, et al. Adipose Tissue: Physiology to Metabolic Dysfunction. [Updated 2020 Apr 4]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000
Tiner, S. (2019, November). Good Advice on Obesity? Wait for it…. Discovery’s Edge.discoverysedge.mayo.edu/2019/11/26/good-advice-on-obesity-wait-for-it/
Coelho, Marisa et al. “Biochemistry of adipose tissue: an endocrine organ.” Archives of medical science : AMS vol. 9,2 (2013): 191-200. doi:10.5114/aoms.2013.33181
Hurdle 1 and 4:
Liu, Ann G et al. “A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion.” Nutrition journal vol. 16,1 53. 30 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
Madhusoodanan, Jyoti. “The Secret Life of Fat Cells.” ACS central science vol. 4,9 (2018): 1078-1080. doi:10.1021/acscentsci.8b00633
American Society for Nutrition. (2020, November 18). Are high-protein total diet replacements the key to maintaining healthy weight? Science Daily.
Yan, Yu-Xiang et al. “Investigation of the Relationship Between Chronic Stress and Insulin Resistance in a Chinese Population.” Journal of epidemiology vol. 26,7 (2016): 355-60. doi:10.2188/jea.JE20150183
Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy. Today’s Dietitian. (n.d.). https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
Mesarwi, Omar et al. “Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity.” Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America vol. 42,3 (2013): 617-34. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2013.05.001
Ebrahim Samodien, Rabia Johnson, Carmen Pheiffer, Lawrence Mabasa, Melisse Erasmus, Johan Louw, Nireshni Chellan, Diet-induced hypothalamic dysfunction and metabolic disease, and the therapeutic potential of polyphenols,Molecular Metabolism,Volume 27,2019,Pages 1-10,ISSN 2212-8778,
Cai, Dongsheng, and Tiewen Liu. “Hypothalamic inflammation: a double-edged sword to nutritional diseases.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences vol. 1243 (2011): E1-39. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06388.x
Young CM, Scanlan SS, Im HS, Lutwak L. Effect of body composition and other parameters in obese young men of carbohydrate level of reduction diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1971 Mar;24(3):290-6. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/24.3.290. PMID: 5548734.