Stubboorn Body Fat: How Does it Affect You?

Everyone walking on the face of this earth has an abundance of fat cells throughout their bodies. In fact, if you’re a healthy adult with normal body composition, you have approximately 30 billion fat cells. This is an astronomical number when you think about it. Did you ever wonder why you have so many? Have you ever wondered what those fat cells are for?The answer is, fat cells are part of our genetic code and they allowed us to use stored energy when food was scarce. This survival mechanism is very much the same today as it was 10,000 years ago. However, today our needs have changed. There is an abundance of food in modern society today.

When you consume too many calories, your body goes into storage mode for that “rainy day,” so to speak, but the “rainy day” does not happen. So your body simply stores those extra calories as fat. When you eat less calories then your body demands your cells release stored fat for energy. Pretty simple equation, however it does not appear that all fat is the same.

The placement of fat deposits on our bodies varies depending on each person’s genetic influences, lifestyle choices and nutritional intake. Men tend to store their body fat around their bellies and chest. Women tend to store it around there hips, buttocks, thighs and back of their arms. A complete discussion of hormones and fat storage would be beyond the scope of this article, but let it suffice to say that certain hormonal process do determine body fat distribution.

There is one major factor that many people do not realize when they are attempting to lose body fat and this can be a stumbling block in anyone’s long term success. Many people approach fat loss and fitness with great enthusiasm and determination. With this attitude, they lose body fat and feel great, but even so, they just do not seem to get rid of ALL they fat they want to. They lose fat successfully for a time, but ultimately get stuck just before all of the fat is completely gone.

This is commonly known as a plateau and this plateau phenomenon causes many people who were previously successful to lose their enthusiasm and return to their old ways. When old habits take over again – and this happens to the majority of dieters – the body fat comes back with a vengeance. This is due to programming of the fat cell. Each time you try to lose body fat again, it seems to take longer and require more effort.

So what is the real solution? It’s simple – you must understand how fat cells work and how to get past the plateau phenomenon and defeat this last bit of body fat, that we often call stubborn fat.

I have worked with many clients and I would say most of them have a good amount of stubborn body fat. This fat is literally “programmed” to be very difficult to lose. It seems to remain on our bodies no matter what we do, hence the word stubborn fat. Modern diets and weight loss programs almost all seem to work in the beginning, but then they never really address this crucial part of fat loss – the last bit of stubborn fat.

Stubborn fat develops when your hormonal pathways are broken down. Age does play a role in this: Fat deposits increase and become more resistant to fat loss methods as you get older. This you have little control over, but some things that lead to stubborn fat development are under your control. Yo yo dieting is one of them. Losing weight on crash diets and then regaining it – often known as the “rebound effect” – will only increase stubborn fat in the long run. A decrease in exercise and activity level also compounds the stubborn fat problem. This is why people who crash diet on low calories and refuse to exercise and move their bodies, often have the worst stubborn fat problems of all.

Our ancestors really never had to deal with this problem because they moved and engaged in physical labor as a regular part of daily life, whereas technological conveniences and the modern lifestyle have caused many of us to become lazy and inactive.

Stubborn fat is metabolized extremely slowly and is resistant to the hormonal process that takes place while the fat burning process is started up. To burn fat, the adrenal hormones better known as adrenaline and noradrenaline, attach to the fat cell receptors and essentially “open them up” so the fat can be used in the energy pathways. There are two kinds of receptors in your fat cells: one is alpha and the other beta. The beta receptors are much more active and respond to adrenal hormones. To lose body fat, the adrenal hormones switch on and the body begins to use fat as energy. However, in the case of people with stubborn fat, this does not occur, so no body fat is lost.

According to my good friend and colleague Ori Hofmekler, author of the warrior diet, “stubborn fat” has a lower ratio of beta receptors to alpha receptors.” Therefore, your body’s hormonal “fat dissolver,” adrenaline, will not be able to enter the fat cell and open the door. Ori also points out that “to make these matters worse, stubborn fat has more estrogen receptors which cause even more stubborn fat.”

If all this sounds bad enough, what makes it even worse is that if you indulge in the typical modern diet and sedentary lifestyle, this often results in reduced insulin sensitivity (read my past article on Insulin Sensitivity for more information). Added on top of everything else, your fat tissue becomes so incredibly resistant to your attempts to lose it, it seems like you will be stuck with it forever.

Diets fail because they only look at the caloric reduction side of the equation. You need to understand the other variables in the equation – exercise and lifestyle. You need to understand the deeper issues you are really dealing with. Getting rid of stubborn fat is not nearly as simple as just slashing calories and dieting. Stubborn fat is the result of a complex interplay of biological and hormonal processes – all of which are affected by how you eat, how you move and the type of lifestyle you lead.

Now that you understand why you have stubborn fat, right down to the hormone and receptor level, the question is “How do you alter your nutrition, exercise and lifestyle to get rid if this resistant body fat?”

When it comes to the physical make-up of men versus women, many of the differences are obvious. Men, on average, are 10-15% larger than women, weigh 20% more, and are 30% stronger (especially when considering upper body strength). Testosterone is one of the major hormones active in a man’s body. Men also produce more HGH (human growth hormone). Testosterone stimulates muscle enlargement and bone growth and also raises the level of red blood cells in a man’s blood stream.

What you may not know, however, is that all of these factors combine to make oxygen much more available to a man’s cells than a woman’s cells. That means a man could be working at 50% of his capacity during physical activity, but a woman would have to be working at 70% of her capacity in order to keep up. It is not as easy for her cells to absorb oxygen.

This is due partly to the fact that women have a smaller percentage of lean tissue (muscle, organs, etc.) and a much higher percentage of body fat. Though this is detrimental in a short sprint, a higher percentage of fat means that women can power their cells longer from their body’s reserves without stopping to eat or drink in order to refuel. This may translate into greater endurance. Studies comparing men and women in running, swimming, and speed skating have all shown that the differences in time vs. distance decreased between men and women as the length of the event progressed.

Hundreds of studies have showed some interesting differences between men and women in nearly every area. Looking through the research, you would discover all kinds of facts such as how much more likely women are to wear a seatbelt than men (2 times more likely), to how often they are the sexual initiators in a monogamous relationship (65% of the time).

As interesting as those facts may be, let’s concentrate on the differences between men and women that have an effect on women’s physical fitness. These differences are primarily found in the functioning of a woman’s hormones and the construction and function of her fat cells. These two factors influence everything from the way a woman’s metabolism functions; to how likely she is to suffer from stubborn fat and other health related diseases such as osteoporosis.

Though the construction of the male and female fat cell is basically the same, they differ vastly when is comes to size and function. To begin with, a women’s fat cell is five times larger than a man’s! In addition, not only are women’s cells capable of holding more fat, they are genetically programmed to do so.

It all comes down to enzymes:

Lipogenic – Fat Storing Enzymes
Lipolytic – Fat Releasing Enzymes

Though these enzymes are present in both men and women, women’s bodies have two times the number of Lipogenic (fat storing) enzymes, and only half the number of Lipolytic (fat releasing) enzymes. This is the genetic legacy of women’s role as the childbearing and nurturing gender of the species. Nature wanted to ensure that women were carrying around enough fat cells to nurture their growing babies and to breast-feed them once they were born. A baby in-utero requires the mother to burn at least 300 extra calories a day and breast-feeding can require as much as 500 extra calories.

In addition to the normal caloric needs of a baby, our foremothers also held onto extra body fat in case of a drought or famine. This extra fat was stored in the hips, thighs, and buttocks. Therefore, the females who survived famine and drought to pass down their genes were the women whose bodies were adept at storing fat. Skinny thighs in the past were a serious liability, serving only to increase the risk of death when food supplies became scarce. These enzymes tend to be balanced in a healthy person. Too much l of either develops an unbalanced system develops and leads to insulin resistance, leading contributor to stubborn fat.

Other contributors to stubborn fat are estrogenic compounds called xenoestrogens. These chemicals are a byproduct of fertilizers, plastics, soy isoflavones, certain herbs and petroleum products. These compounds in our food and water supply mimic estrogenic functions and aid in binding to estrogenic fat receptors. This produces induced aromatase influence. Aromatase is an enzyme which helps convert androgens (male hormone) to estrogenic compounds.

When this occurs, it enhances the production of estrone, which is the main culprit in stubborn fat gain in both men and women. Look at many children today and you can see that they take on some very feminized features such as breast fat.

To benefit from a program that reduces stubborn fat, you must first recognize that estrogenic compounds are all around us (and in us). To combat this problem, you need to look at the food you consume and the liquids you drink, as there are many culprits that cause stubborn fat gain.

You move in the direction of gaining stubborn fat when you develop bad eating and lifestyle habits, which cause insulin resistance, a toxic overburden on the liver and elevated estrogen. These all contribute to the fat that will not go away. To open these cells, you should start by heading down the food chain. Minimize or eliminate all refined foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (preferably organic), and exercise.

Your hormones can be a liability when it comes to getting rid of stubborn body fat. For example, the hormone estrogen has a unique relationship with the fat cell. Fat cells can release signals that enable your body to synthesize estrogen and to regulate the reproductive cycle. In turn, estrogen has an effect upon fat cells. An influx of extra estrogen into the body from food sources can cause fat cells to grow and become stubborn.

A similar situation occurs during pregnancy and in mothers who are breast-feeding, as this causes the fat cells in the body to swell so that they are able to absorb and store more fuel. The estrogen is telling them that they need to stock up on extra fat, so the fat cells prepare to do so. This is why a lot of women gain weight when starting birth control pills or when entering menopause when levels of progesterone fall and estrogen becomes the dominant hormone.

Most of the time, women have a more difficult time losing body fat than men. However, men are quickly catching up in this day and age due to the estrogenic foods being consumed in our modern Western society, rife with environmental pollution and refined foods. Ironically, one reason women have a harder time with fat loss than men, is because at any given time, women are more likely to be on a severely restricted diet in order to attain the coveted thinness that’s been established as a standard of beauty and attractiveness in our culture.

Unfortunately, severe and prolonged dieting shuts down the metabolism, sending the body into starvation mode. The fat cells begin sending out even more fat storing enzymes and a significantly smaller amount of fat releasing enzymes. Because the fat cells are afraid of being starved to death and depleted of their stores, they will hold on to the fat they have to the best of their ability, causing the body to start burning lean muscle mass to get the amount of fuel it needs.

Lean muscle mass, located in the skeletal muscles and the organ systems, is the metabolically active part of the body. This means that after the diet is over and your body is out of starvation mode, your metabolism will still not be functioning as well as before the diet, because you have lost some of your muscle mass, which was the engine driving your metabolism.

In addition, the effects of restrictive dieting on your fat storing and releasing enzymes can be permanent. Though the levels will return to closer to a normal level after the diet, the fat releasing enzymes will almost always be at a little lower level than before the diet and the fat storing enzymes will almost always be at a slightly higher level. Even worse: The effects are cumulative. This means that after each successive bout of dieting, it will be harder and harder for you to lose fat and control your weight for the long term.

It sounds hopeless, but it’s not, so don’t panic just yet! This doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with unwanted fat and excess weight for the rest of your life. It only means that you don’t have to diet anymore. Even if you “tortured yourself” with deprivation diets that left you hungry, anxious, and unhappy in the past, what we know about hormones, enzymes and fat cells can actually be great news. You can lose your unwanted fat through good old-fashioned nutrition, calorie-burning and metabolism-stimulating exercise and anti-estrogenic foods.

What I am suggesting to you is not a magic bullet solution, and if you’ve been a long term chronic dieter, it might take a lot longer to lose the amount of fat you want to lose. But by putting an end to the quick-results, crash-diet approach and taking the weight loss gradually, you will not only avoid the feelings of deprivation that sabotage many diets, but also, the weight you lose will be three times more likely to stay off.

To improve your results in losing stubborn fat and to reduce estrogenic effects on your body, there are a few steps you must take to ensure your success. Your success will be dependent on your understanding of how to detoxify your liver, eat foods that aid reducing estrogen and exercise.

On this stubborn fat reduction plan, you are going to consume as many anti-estrogenic foods as possible and eliminate as many estrogenic foods as possible. In addition to stimulating greater fat loss, this type of eating will also aid in the detoxification of your liver. Without cleaning out the liver and reducing the chemical build up, your liver becomes overburdened and your fat loss can hit the wall.

There are a few stages in stubborn fat removal, so here we go…

First and foremost you must eat unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and occasional wild salmon. This starts the detoxification of the liver as you eliminate all processed foods, grains, farm fed livestock and chemically altered foods. Try to eat as much organic food as possible.

The base of your anti-stubborn fat plan is to consume an enormous amount of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts, as these vegetables are very anti-estrogenic. Include citrus fruits such as grapefruit, orange and pineapple as they have enzymes in cofactors that help your body against the radical damage and help your liver detoxify.

Supplement your diet with omega-3 fatty acids from wild caught salmon and flaxseed. You can also take an omega-3 fatty acid supplements such as Carlson’s oil available at

Eating raw nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive oil also improves your body’s function. In addition, eating green leafy vegetables, whole oats and barley, legumes (no soy), and spices such as turmeric (cancer fighter), milk thistle (liver detoxer), dandelion root (natural diuretic) and ginger increases loss of stubborn fat by decreasing estrogen in your body

There are many estrogen inhibitors that can help you decrease body fat quickly. According to Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, consuming these foods will greatly improve your ability to remove stubborn fat and decrease estrogenic effects. Hofmekler says there are additional estrogenic inhibitors such as chrysin (passion flower), Apigene (chamomile), Quercetin (onions, garlic) and all of these cofactors can work together to detoxify your liver and get the stubborn fat off.

To simplify, systemize and organize this information, Hofmekler has developed an anti-estrogen, anti-stubborn fat program into three stages:

Stage 1 Defense (Eat Anti-Estrogenic Foods)

Eat Anti-Estrogenic Foods
Estrogen inhibitors
Cruciferous vegetables
Passion flower
Citrus fruits
Chamomile flower
Omega 3 oils
Wild catch salmon
Organic Dairy

Stage 2 Defense (additional foods that promote anti-estrogenic hormones)Raw nuts and seeds
Olives and Olive oil
Rice Germ Oil
Wheat Germ Oil

Stage 3 Defense (Foods that as cofactors and promote liver detoxification)Green Vegetables
Spices (turmeric, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage)
Fruits (citrus, berries, apples, pineapple
Whole oats and barley
Legumes (NO SOY)
Herbs (dandelion root, ginger, alma berries, milk thistle)

Three week plan:

Outlined below is a very simple three week plan that will produce good initial results in just three weeks. After this initial three week phase, you can then to rotate the stages to get continued and even better. You can also alternate the stages by the day. After the first 3 weeks.

Stage 1 for a week
Detox liver

Stage 2 for a week
High Fat for fuel change over

Stage 3 for a week
Food reintroduction

In addition to eating the proper anti-estrogenic foods to remove stubborn fat, it goes without saying that a very important part of any program is exercise. Diet alone is not enough. Regular exercise is not only beneficial for fat loss, but also for your overall health. Exercise lowers body fat, blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. You need to set some goals and plan to exercise on a continuous basis.

If you attempt to lose weight without exercise, you should expect only temporary success and expect to succumb to the rebound effect. This simply means that sooner or later, you will eventually gain back the fat and the harder it will be to remove the next time around.

Instead of using the diet-only approach, emphasize the diet and exercise combination and focus on increasing your daily activity level overall (refer to my article titled, “movement sufficiency, not calorie deficiency” for more information on exercising more rather than just eating less, and here are a few quick and practical suggestions:

Walk to the store instead of driving, go for a bike ride, walk upstairs in office buildings rather than using the elevator, and park your car at the end of the parking lot instead of looking for the front row spot. Take short walk during daily breaks or after you get home. Mow your lawn with a push mower, vacuum your carpets every other day, tidy up you backyard, basement or garage, iron your clothes, wash your windows, and play with your kids. These activities are usually not looked at as “exercise” or “workouts,” but all the activity adds up at the end of the day and it can work wonders as it accumulates over the long haul.

Naturally, of course, you should also have a more structured and formal exercise program to achieve maximum reductions in body fat. Even mowing your lawn has health benefits and burns some calories, but for really making inroads into those stubborn fat stores, more intense and focused exercise is a must.

A great type of routine for stubborn fat loss goals is a circuit training program. This style of training not only raises your metabolism, improves your cardiovascular ability, and increases strength, it is also time efficient. Put together a routine that uses large body parts such as legs, chest, back and shoulders into groups and perform all of the exercises nonstop. You can also mix cardio interval training into your circuit workouts or in addition to your circuit workouts to increase the fat burning effect.

Here is an example of an effective and time efficient circuit program that can easily be performed at home with nothing but dumbbells and a swiss ball.

A1 – Swiss ball Squats (ball up against the wall)
A2 – Dumbbell Cleans
A3 – Dumbbell Flys on a Swiss Ball
A4 – Lunge
A5 – Dumbbell 3 Matrix (side laterals, bent laterals, front laterals)
A6 – Dumbbell Row

Do each exercise with perfect form for 6-8 reps and then get on your cardio equipment and go hard for 1-2 minutes. Rest about 90 seconds between before repeating the circuit 2-3 more times, as your schedule and fitness level dictate.

You can easily take one or two ideas out of this series, put them to work and immediately begin to see improvements in stubborn fat reduction. However, the real “secret,” if there is one, is putting all the pieces together into a comprehensive healthy lifestyle overall.

The lifestyle below suggestions may seem basic and general, but when combined with what you’ve learned in this article series, they will have a profound impact on your outcome.

1. Don’t diet – Eat reasonably but do not starve or deprive yourself; avoid yo-yo dieting
2. Avoid empty calories and processed refined foods like sodas and sweets
3. Eat many smaller meals – eat light at every meal to keep blood sugar steady and metabolism stoked
4. Eat healthy fat- Eat omega 3 fatty acids such as those found in salmon to promote proper hormone function and balance
5. Eat a LOT of vegetables, focusing on the cruciferous variety
6. Drink lots of water – What can you say other than, “without it, you will die!” Drink a 1?2 and ounce for very pound you weigh
7. Get sufficient quality and quantity of sleep
8. Keep stress to minimum
9. Avoid excessive and chronic use of stimulants
10. Exercise – Just a little increase in daily activities will go a long way towards improving your health; add circuits and intervals to knock off the most stubborn fat.
11. Have a little fun – find an exercise program you enjoy and do it.

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About the Author:

David Grisaffi
David Grisaffi majored in physical education and holds multiple certifications including 3 from the prestigious CHEK Institute: Level II high Performance Exercise Kinesiologist, Golf Biomechanic, and health and lifestyle counselor. He’s also certified by the ISSA as a personal trainer and specialist in performance nutrition. David has been a high school wrestling and baseball coach and is currently an independent trainer and strength coach. He has been sought after by some of the top athletes in professional sports including world champion boxer Greg Haugen and professional golfer Michael Putnam. David’s ebook, Firm And Flatten Your Abs is an online best seller which teaches you how develop “six pack abs” while improving strength, function and athletic power at the same time. Find out more on the home page at: