Why Stress is Making You Fat

Why is it that some people carry a large proportion of their weight in their midsection while others do not? Is it just a “luck of the draw” kind of thing, or is there something that they are, or aren’t, doing that is causing them to retain fat in their bellies? The good news is, there are definitely things that can be done to prevent fat from accumulating in the gut, and the even better news is it has little to do with dieting and exercising more.

Research and studies have shown that the main culprit when it comes to fat accumulation around the midsection is the high levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the body to provide energy when faced with a “fight or flight” situation. This hormone accumulates in the body when chronic stress is present. The body has no way of dissipating this excess cortisol so it ends up impacting other systems in the body and the end result is fat storage.

Why should a little extra around the middle be a concern to anyone? Carrying excess weight in your belly contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease so it should be priority #1 for everyone in this situation. Getting rid of a cortisol belly begins with managing the stress levels in your life. There is no way to totally eliminate stress but these six tips are daily things to implement into your life to reduce the production of cortisol and the resulting belly fat and weight gain.

Instead of trying to add all six to your life all at once (this can set you up for overwhelm and failure if you aren’t careful), add one suggestion each week to your routine and see how it feels. You don’t want stress reduction to cause even more frustration, and in turn, more stress.

Six Steps to Get Rid of the Stress Belly:

Meditate – taking five to ten minutes a day to be silent and focus on nothing more than your breath can do wonders for your stress level; see my blog post “5 Minutes to Eliminate Food Cravings” for basic beginner’s instructions.

Deep Breathing – deep breaths (10 breaths lasting 4-5 seconds each) done slowly can activate a nerve in the calming center in your brain, resulting in an overall feeling of calm

Switch to Green Tea – although it has caffeine for an energy boost it also has thernine, which stimulates the calming neurotransmitter, GABA. You get the energy but also the calm to follow

Keep Healthy Foods Handy – during inevitable times of stress, be sure to have healthy options for snacks handy so your choices are limited. Given your state of hormones during stressful times, if there is an unhealthy option, it will be the one you select. Set yourself up for less damage by having fruits and vegetables around, as well as good sources of protein

Eat at the Right Time – try to eat at least one hour after awakening and have your largest meal early in the day, and lessen your calorie intake as the day progresses. This will allow you to use the calories consumed but also cortisol is naturally released when you eat so it is best to have that occur early in the day when energy is needed; eating too late will increase your cortisol levels and will make it difficult to sleep.

Workout Consistently – a fabulous stress-reliever, keeping your body moving will allow you to use the cortisol your body naturally produces and it also increases the receptivity of the hormones impacted by high levels of cortisol.

Use a Gratitude Journal – every night or every morning, write in a journal everything you are grateful for in your life. Do it everyday and the positive feelings that result will help you deal with your stress levels. It allows you to focus on the positives in your life and changes your outlook on your particular situation.

Incorporating these positive steps into your life will not only result in less stress but an overall feeling of positivity from doing something constructive for your health. Be patient, consistent, and persistent and over time things will change for the better. You are in it for the long haul, not overnight success.

Looking for more guidance on ways to reduce stress and its impact on your weight? Click here.