It is always just on the hips, or your stomach or buttocks… When you notice that you are gaining weight, you notice that it always happens in the same places. How is that possible? We asked Mariëtte Boon, internist in training at the Leiden University Medical Center.
Mariëtte Boon:“That depends, among other things, on your sex hormones. Women have more female hormones estrogen‒ than male hormones (testosterone). With men it is exactly the other way around. In women, this estrogen surplus ensures that fat goes less quickly to your belly, but faster to your hips. When you enter the menopause, the amount of estrogen decreases, so that the amount of testosterone is relatively higher and you get a tummy faster. Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) also have an excess of testosterone and therefore more often have a round stomach.
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“It works differently for men:at a young age, testosterone protects them against getting a tummy tuck. As they get older and the amount of testosterone drops, the fat gets to their stomach faster. Stress hormones can also cause the fat to be moved from your arms and legs to your stomach. How sensitive you are to this varies from person to person. About 10 to 15 percent of the population is extra sensitive to it. There are also drugs, such as prednisone, that mimic the stress hormone. Even then, the extra fat is usually stored in your abdomen.”
“Why you always arrive at the same places is often genetically determined. If all women in a family have broad hips, it probably has to do with their genes. They determine whether the fat is stored in the fat cells of your abdomen or your buttocks.
Programs like Tell Sell lead us to believe that with certain devices or exercises we can 'melt away' our belly fat, but that is a myth. If you burn more calories than you take in and you lose weight, your body determines where the fat is eaten. You have no influence on that yourself. By exercising, eating healthy, sleeping well, keeping your stress level low and taking a critical look at your medication, you can lose the fat around your abdomen or hips. But that takes a lot longer for some than for others.”
Mariëtte Boon (31) is an internist in training at the Leiden University Medical Center. In 2014 she obtained her doctorate cum laude for her research into brown fat. Together with internist-endocrinologist professor Liesbeth van Rossum she wrote the book Fat important (€ 20.99 Ambo|Anthos), full of facts and fables about body fat.