The dreaded McDonald Belly (MB) is both a cause and an effect. It is insidious because you do not need to be otherwise fat to have it. Our doctor calls it being “skinny fat” because it is possible to slim down and yet hang onto visceral fat. I identify it as both a cause and effect because it is the result of insulin resistance and it is a cause of insulin resistance. It is the result of inflammation and it is a cause of inflammation. It is an effect of other out of whack hormones and it is a cause of out of whack hormones. It also has a similar relationship with high triglycerides and other lipid issues.
Because of the chicken and egg character of the problem, MB is a formidable foe. Your ability to defeat it will be determined by how committed you are to a long “healthspan”. The war on MB will be more like trench warfare than a blitzkrieg. The MB does not form overnight and it will not go away overnight. I have not found a particular genetic anomaly you can look for on your 23 and Me results that is responsible for the MB. The MTHFR defect could certainly be a contributor if not the outright cause.
The difficulty in sorting out the problem is that close family members share both genes and experiences. We grew up eating the same foods and developing many of the same tastes and habits. Is nature or nurture responsible for the MB? The other difficulty is that we live in the United States in an era of prosperity where food is abundant and ubiquitous. Our parents lived through two world wars and a depression and only later in life did they experience McDonald’s hamburgers and convenience stores at every intersection. Our parents also expended far more physical energy to accomplish everyday tasks. Mom washed clothes in a bathtub using a scrub board and she hung them out to dry on a line. She then ironed almost everything. How many calories a week did that burn when she had four small children and our dad to care for. Mom also talked about living with no central heat. We now know that chronic exposure to cold produces “brown fat”. This fat is loaded with little energy factories called mitochondria that will provide the heat needed through a cold winter.
The reason I saved this topic until now is that MB will only be defeated by doing everything covered in the last eight posts and more. Insulin resistance and inflammation must be effectively managed. Hormones must be balanced by a skilled doctor working with you until your body is functioning correctly. You will need to be disciplined in your eating habits long term. No short-term fix will get the job done. Fasting works wonders for me but only in the context of a healthy Mediterranean diet, day in and day out. Activity that builds muscle and causes you to sweat, stretch and breathe hard is also essential but if you go from sedentary to active too abruptly, you are likely to get injured or worse.
Age and alcohol are two additional factors that pump up the MB. Nothing can be done about the first but the second can be managed. The debate about alcohol being good or bad for you is ongoing. I prefer to believe the people who say red wine is good for you. Moderation is the challenge. We eliminated all alcohol for 21 days when we did the elimination diet. That experience forced us to seek out other adult beverages that do not contain alcohol. I now brew caffeine free kombucha that fills that slot.