Where You Store Fat Can Tell You A Lot About Your Health
Photography by Freepik
What’s your flab telling you?
Worst case scenario: decoding your trouble ‘flab’ spots could alert you to an underlying medical condition. Best case scenario: it could help you to finally shift that muffin top.
You’ve done countless sit-ups, but your tummy is far from flat. You’ve performed triceps dips until your arms ached, but those bingo wings just keep on flapping. And as if that’s not bad enough, these areas are also the first to be affected the minute you gain a kilo.
According to integrated medical practitioner Dr Ela Manga, there may be a reason for these stubborn fat deposits. “Sometimes, weight gain is not a simple case of consuming more kilojoules than you’re using up. It might be a symptom of an underlying metabolic imbalance or a dysfunction of an endocrine or organ system.” More commonly, it could be an indicator of specific lifestyle changes you need to make and hadn’t thought of. In other words, your niggly jiggly bits may be clues as to what’s really going on inside your body.
So, what’s your flab really telling you?
You’ve Got ‘Moon Face’
The problem: When you gain weight, it shows on your face first. Or you have a tendency towards chubby cheeks and fat pads on the collarbone and the back of the neck.
Probable causes: too much alcohol and/or stress. Regular drinking can cause dehydration and its rebound effect: bloating, says UK nutritionist Jason Camm. But the moon-faced appearance can also be caused by elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, such as in Cushing’s syndrome, says dietician Elienne Horwitz, WH weight-loss advisor. “High levels of cortisol may be stimulated by taking certain drugs or by the presence of a tumour on the pituitary or adrenal glands.”
Fix it: If you are a drinker, cut back and aim for four alcohol-free days a week. If not, and you’ve noticed weight gain on your face and trunk, but not other parts of your body, visit your GP. If you’re on chronic medication, a change of meds may be all that’s needed. (Kick-start your new, healthy routine with Women’s Health’s Lean Body Blitz!)
You’ve Got ‘Bingo Wings’
The problem: Flabby skin under your arms that sways like a pendulum whenever you wave.
Probable causes: toxins and/or not lifting enough. A combination of too few curls and too many toxins can cause the dreaded wings, but medically speaking, they’re not a reason to be worried. According to Manga, fat on the upper arms may be caused by an overall body-weight increase or by atrophying triceps muscles (usually caused by ageing or lack of exercise). Arms also tend to look saggy when skin loses elasticity.
Fix it: Take up strength training and a healthier diet. Hot yoga can also be effective as it raises your body’s core temperature and helps to eliminate a build-up of toxins.
The problem: You have no discernible ankles, struggle to zip up knee-high boots, and your legs can feel heavy.
Probable causes: fatigue and water retention. Swollen calves can be a result of too little restorative sleep, according to celebrity trainer James Duigan. However, “it’s important to distinguish between fat accumulation and fluid retention,” says Manga, pointing out that cankles could simply be genetic. Cardiac conditions and kidney disease are other possible causes. “If your ankle changes shape suddenly, your lymphatic circulation may have slowed, leading to fluid retention in the calf area,” says Manga. To test for oedema (fluid retention) press down on the swollen area for five seconds. If it stays depressed, you’re retaining water.
Fix it: If your ankles have swelled up suddenly, see a doctor to make sure there is no cardiac or kidney connection. Once you’ve ruled this out (or if you have permanently heavy calves) you need to stimulate the lymphatic flow via exercise and dry brushing. Duigan recommends avoiding carbs and sugar three hours before bed and aiming for a minimum of seven hours’ sleep a night. According to Manga, certain herbs, like cleaver’s tincture, dandelion and burdock, may also help.
Looking for more ways to bust the flab? Try this tummy-banishing workout.