Fat Storage In The Body

Learn WHY you store fat in different parts of your body.

Where you store body fat indicates which hormone is dominating your metabolism.

The body stores fat in various locations throughout the body, depending on the production and lifecycle of your metabolic hormones. This is true for both men and women.

You know the saying that you can’t exercise out of a bad diet, well this can go a step further as you can’t target your fat spots off with exercise either.

It’s pointless doing a few sit-ups to lose stomach fat, side planks for love handles, jogging for fat thighs and dieting to reduce back fat. You are only going to make matters worse.

Instead, you must focus your energy on the source or cause of excess energy storage in your body. 

I’ll let you into a secret. Body fat distribution is about your hormones, not just genetic factors, which means you can do something about where you naturally store excess body fat. 

Ladies with different body fat

In this article, I want to share that even slight hormonal imbalances can have significant consequences on how and where the excess energy is stored as fat, especially as we age.

Fun fact: women tend to store excess energy as fat in subcutaneous fat cells, so directly under the skin and away from vital organs. More often in the lower half of the body, such as the bum, hips and thighs. 

In contrast, men tend to have increased visceral fat inside the abdomen near the vital internal organs, ready for instant use in times of stress. 

How does the body store excess fat?

Excess calories will be converted into triglycerides and stored in the adipose tissue later if you’re eating more than your body can metabolise. Over time, constant consumption of excessive foods leads to increased body fat, excess visceral fat and weight gain.

Adipocytes are where fat is stored. The number of adipocytes present in the body at birth is almost identical to that observed in adults. 

As a result, what you eat during your teenage years will form the number of fat cells crucial to your future body shape.

Cell size fluctuates and plays a vital role in your body mass index, nutrition and exercise as you age. The volume in the fat cells will increase or decrease due to the amount of fat deposited in our bodies at a specific time.

When we overindulge, the energy stored is converted via the liver cells with fatty acids into triglycerides. Depending on the most dominant metabolic hormone, any surplus is stored in the adipocytes in various body parts. Then, when weight loss occurs, the fat stored is converted back into triglycerides for energy, and the volume of the fat cells will shrink.

The only way you can physically destroy fat cells is via aesthetic skin treatments, such as body sculpting, HIFU or cryolipolysis. take a look at this option at my Skin Health Clinic.

The most common fat storage in the body are;

  • Stomach Fat
  • Love Handles
  • Hips and Thighs
  • Back Fat

Body fat distribution is more complex than once thought, mainly because certain foods have changed. The quality of the ingredients in the food you buy today is closely linked with various health conditions and chronic diseases. The food on the shelves in supermarkets contains unrecognisable chemicals that your liver has to metabolise, and when these are too toxic and consumed in large amounts, they are stored in your fat cells. 

Where fat is stored is more about the dominant hormonal imbalance than the calories consumed. 

Fat storing hormones and receptors

Hormones are essentially messengers made in the glands and organs of your endocrine system and, along with your nervous system, control and regulate all internal functions in the body. 

Hormones work with various receptors on your cell membrane to regulate balance via negative feedback loops. As the bloodstream transports the hormones, they interact with the receptors on the cells to either store fat or release the stored energy back out into the bloodstream. 

Interestingly, the body will house more fat-storing receptors on the more stubborn areas of fat. As these often contain toxins the liver could not metabolise, so your body is not keen to release the energy and toxins from these fat cells for energy.

A stubborn area of fat has a higher density of alpha two receptors as they block the release of energy and have high GLUT4 receptors, too, as they are insulin dependent inhibitors that like to store fat. 

You can often tell the most stubborn fat storage areas on your body by the blood flow. If the area is cold to the touch, it is likely to have less blood flow to transport hormones to the receptors to help break down the fat and carry it away to be metabolised. 

The main metabolic health hormones that influence fat storage are cortisol, insulin, oestrogen and thyroxine.

The way these hormones communicate is through a complex system in the body. A slight imbalance in one can profoundly affect other hormone receptors and cause us to store fat in a specific area of our bodies.

Why do hormones influence fat storage?

Short-term exposure to cortisol is essential for managing our energy levels, but excessive long-term production causes visceral fat storage. It is stored around your waistline or as abdominal fat, sending a signal to the brain that stored energy is quickly available as it may need access to it immediately.

This has the highest risk of metabolic syndrome, leading to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In visceral adipose tissue, the fat cells are stored very close to your liver and other major organs.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that inhibits the cells’ ability to absorb glucose from circulation. High cortisol levels make cells less receptive to the insulin hormone messages and cause them to resist taking up glucose from the circulation for energy.

As a result, the body responds by producing even more insulin to overcome this resistance and high blood sugar levels. Because of this, your ability to follow a healthy diet and to lose weight becomes more difficult.

You can read my article about the ten signs of insulin resistance.

This results in high insulin circulation, which encourages fat storage in areas like the love handles and the top of the hips.

That’s why if you have high cortisol levels and insulin resistance, your body accumulates deposits around the stomach and hips. Your body shape is more likely to be either an apple shape or an avocado shape

High cortisol leads to increased appetite, decreased metabolic rate, loss of muscle tissue, increased abdominal weight gain and water retention.

The increase in appetite creates cravings for more processed food which contains endocrine disrupters chemicals, some known as Phthalates.  These plastics can not be destroyed by the liver detoxification process so they are stored in our subcutaneous fat cells.

When oestrogen is the more dominant hormone, as well as common symptoms such as heavy periods, PMS, PCOS and endometriosis. The body will take advantage of the high amount of fat-soluble hormone, to protect the major organs from the endocrine disrupters, and store them in our subcutaneous fat cells, away from the vital organs and endocrine system, in the hips, thighs and bottom.

Therefore, the body shape is more likely to be pear-shaped. 

Oestrogen works with the thyroid to help control metabolism. When oestrogen is dominant, it inhibits T3 production, which can keep T4 in your body for longer than usual. As a result, you gain weight even if you’re not eating more calories than average.

If you have low levels of thyroid hormones, such as low T3 or triiodothyronine, you would likely also see an increase in appetite and, therefore, abdominal weight gain as the body’s metabolism slows down and relies on high cortisol levels for energy. 

However, suppose thyroid hormones strongly influence your metabolism of fat cells throughout the body, such as a T4 and T3 imbalance, which often occurs in menopause. In that case, this can slow down your metabolism, and you will notice an increase in fat mass in the upper body. 

Fat is stored across the back.

When this is closer to the thyroid, it is a key indicator of hypothyroidism, especially on the back of the neck or a goitre, a lump at the front of the neck.

Your body shape is more likely to resemble a strawberry, heavier across the shoulders than in the thighs.

What can I do to improve hormonal dominance?

The good news is that the body responds to the healthy environment we expose it to. With the right nutritional balance in our diet, we can increase our metabolism and promote healthy fat distribution in the body.

Remember, hormonal imbalances contribute significantly to where the body stores excess energy from what you eat, so don’t neglect your nutrition!

Any imbalance in the levels of these hormones directly affects where and how you burn fat for energy or store it for later.

Therefore, keeping your hormones balanced and communication open and free-flowing is the most critical factor when improving metabolic pathway health and function. 

In summary, our metabolic health reflects the three main metabolic pathways that regulate hormone production.

By understanding how your body regulates your hormones, you can focus on the different parts of your metabolic health and target your fat stores.

The three main metabolic pathways that influence your hormone production are related to the delivery of energy into your cells, detoxifying toxins and metabolic waste, and hormone production.

Understanding how these three pathways work together can improve your metabolic function and help preserve a healthy weight by reducing the amount of fat stored in unwanted places.

Cortisol, insulin, oestrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormone balance is essential for supporting healthy body composition.

Combined with unbalanced eating habits and lack of exercise, the accumulation of excess fat around the tummy can lead to serious long-term health problems.

To learn how your current food and lifestyle choices are affecting the three metabolic pathways register and watch now my metabolic health webinar – it’s quite mind blowing! I will share with you what your Doctor won’t tell you and most personal trainers don’t know.

Content from this article was inspired by a book I read by Max Tomlinson in 2013 called: Target your fat spots – how to banish your bulges – You can click here to take a look  or Purchase