The stress-belly fat connection
You may have noticed that gaining weight around your mid-section is fairly easy but losing it is a nightmare. While your arms, legs and buttocks may look amazing, your belly area seems to stubbornly defy all attempts at exercising and diet. The reason for this is that losing belly fat goes a bit beyond just eating right and exercising.
There are other lifestyle factors involved as well and if those are ignored, you will continue to spin your wheels never fully achieving your goals. It is important to take a holistic approach to losing your belly for optimal results. This section will provide you with the tips and tools you need to do just that!
The first question we need to ask is what causes you to gain weight around your midsection?
We can all agree that beer bellies and muffin tops – the fat that spills over the waist of a tight pair of pants or skirt – are not a sight to behold. But still, when it comes to your pooch, the situation is more dire than your appearance. Aside from chronic illnesses, stress too has been strongly linked to excess belly fat.
Like it or not, the human body is designed to have a fast response towards danger. When your brain has a reason to believe that you are in danger, it triggers the release of stress hormones.
When you are stressed, your body releases ‘fight or flight’ hormones that are secreted in your adrenal glands and these are epinephrine, cortisol and norepinephrine. The moment you get stressed, these hormones are immediately launched.
So, what’s the correlation between these hormones and excess belly fat?
Epinephrine relaxes your abdominal muscles and intestines and also decreases the flow of blood to these organs.
Norepinephrine on the other hand instructs your body to stop producing insulin to allow it to have a good amount of fast acting blood glucose for the energy it needs to fight or flee.
Once whatever was stressing you passes the cortisol hormone now tells your body to stop secreting these hormones and go back to its normal digestive function. Although it’s normal for your cortisol hormone levels to oscillate up and down through the day, if you suffer from chronic stress, your cortisol levels soar and stay up there.
When your cortisol levels are high as a result of being stressed, your body in essence resists weight loss. This is because your body interprets this as starvation and so it holds on to all the fat it can get.
Cortisol also somehow manages to take fat from your healthier areas such as your hips and butt and move it to your belly that has more cortisol receptors. This sees peripheral fat turned into unhealthy and dangerous visceral fat which increases inflammation as well as insulin resistance in your body.
As a result, your increased belly fat leads to more cortisol being produced because belly fat has higher concentrations of an enzyme that transforms inactive cortisol into active cortisol creating an endless and vicious cycle of visceral fat.
Cortisol levels also have an effect on thyroid function. High cortisol levels can cause hypoglycemia. These imbalanced sugar levels eventually lead to thyroid problems that if not addressed early enough also affect the proper functioning of the liver. It is therefore ever more important for you to work on reducing any excess belly fat.
The best way to help stabilize this stress-belly fat connection is to practice healthy and effective stress management techniques on a daily basis. In the next section, we will look at several methods that are not only effective but backed by science!