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Stubborn Fat: 5 Facts to Help You Better Understand It

Most people have an area of stubborn fat in their body, an area that has resisted all efforts through diet and exercise and just won’t go away. This stubborn fat is usually the fat just under our skin that you can pinch, the subcutaneous fat, as opposed to the visceral fat that attaches to internal organs like your liver and pancreas. Stubborn fat is incredibly frustrating especially when you eat healthily and exercise regularly, but can’t seem to shift it. However, there are actually many possible reasons as to why that last bit of fat isn’t coming off…and it’s not always to do with exercise and diet. 

These 5 facts about stubborn fat will give you a better insight into what it is, and why you might be having trouble getting rid of it: 

1. Stubborn fat is physiologically different from regular fat

There is a physiological difference between stubborn fat and regular fat. Fat cells have all kinds of different receptors for different purposes, but in the case of stubborn fat, only the alpha-2 receptors and the beta-2 receptors are relevant. Alpha-2 receptors hinder fat burning and beta-2 receptors accelerate fat burning. The ratio of the two receptors determines the rate at which fat is burned, and stubborn fat regions have much higher alpha-2 receptors compared to beta-2 receptors which are why they are so hard to get rid of. One of the ways to inhibit alpha-2 receptors is to keep insulin levels low, and this can be achieved with a low-carb diet. However, as we mention in the next point, it’s not possible to spot-reduce areas of fat, and while a low carb diet will help reduce overall levels of body fat, but the stubborn fat might remain. 

2. We rid our body of some areas of stubborn fat faster than others 

You may have heard that it’s not possible to spot-reduce fat, and it is true. You can’t do crunches just to lose stubborn fat around the abdomen. Exercise increases the amount of calories burned, and with a calorie deficit, you will lose weight from all over your body, not just the part you are working out. So, while crunches are good for building strength and working out the muscles near the belly, they won’t burn off stubborn fat in that area. 

That being said, some people will lose weight at a faster rate from some parts of their bodies compared to others, and where the fat melts off first is totally different from one person to the next. So, while we can’t choose which areas of the body we would like to lose weight from first, some areas will slim down at a faster rate than others, and there’s not a lot that can be done about it.

3. Hormones can increase stubborn fat

When stubborn fat continues to cling to areas of the body even with a healthy diet and regular exercise, hormones could be the culprit. In females, fat that is primarily stored in the lower body is often due to the impact of the hormone estrogen. Higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can also cause your body to hang on to fat. Hormonal belly fat, in particular, is commonly associated with visceral fat, and as we get older, even a slight disruption in our hormone levels can cause stubborn belly fat to stick. 

Bottom line: If your waistline is getting bigger, but you’re eating right and exercising regularly, hormones could be to blame.

4. Women are more prone than men

Women generally have a higher percentage of body fat than men—body fat content is approximately 25% for normal-sized women compared to 15% for men. Women tend to have more alpha-2 receptors in their stubborn fat regions than men in theirs. In fact, female subcutaneous fat in the lower body has about 9 to 10 times more alpha receptors compared to male lower body fat. Many women trying to lose weight say that fat around their hips, buttocks, and thighs are the last to shed (if at all). Bear in mind, however, that this is very normal, and it’s because women’s bodies are designed to carry children—extra fat in these areas is crucial for childbearing.

5. Stubborn fat can be removed non-surgically

Liposuction is a procedure that most people will have heard of. A thin tube called a cannula is inserted into areas of fat through small incisions in the skin and the fat is suctioned out through a vacuum. The process is surgical, and you may have to stay in hospital depending on the type of surgery you had. With liposuction, you can expect bruising, swelling, and soreness for at least a few weeks. 

However, people who have noticeable fat bulges in certain areas but want to avoid surgery can consider other procedures such as CoolSculpting that can remove the fat cells giving a slimmer silhouette without having to go under the knife. Coolsculpting involves freezing fat cells so they become crystallized and die. The dead fat cells are then naturally processed and eliminated by your body.

Stubborn fat is frustrating, especially if you are eating healthily and exercising regularly. However, as these 5 facts show, it is actually very different to regular fat, and depending on genetics, gender, and hormone levels, it can be almost impossible to shift. However, if you’ve tried everything to rid your body of those stubborn areas of fat to no avail, there are non-surgical procedures that can give your body the helping hand needed to get the shape you want. 

To learn about nonsurgical options to non-surgical ways to combat stubborn fat, contact our office to schedule a complimentary consultation.