Stress in one form or another affects our daily lives, although a little is generally considered good for us and helps keep us motivated. But how is stress connected to abdominal fat? It’s one of the most unattractive types of excess fat but also one of the deadliest.
When we are under stress, many natural stress-related chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol (the key stress hormone) are released into the bloodstream to keep blood glucose and fats high.
What makes one person more ‘laid-back’ versus the next is determined from one’s stress response. Certain people are high-strung, while others are calmer. Generally, most people fall between the high and lows of these extremes. Genetics plays its role, as well. Both underactive and overactive stress may trigger by variations of their genetic make-up.
Life experiences may intensify stress sensitivity. Stalwart stress reactions may be stem from early environmental factors. Adults who endured significant pressure as children are more prone to the vulnerability of stress.
It is important to understand how it works or responds to intense situations to demystify the stress response. For example, the fight-or-flight response never powers down; as a result, the stress hormones produced by the nervous system will never stop production until the afflicted return to everyday life. As a result, the overwhelmed will have a persistent feeling of defenselessness, impending doom, and anxiety.
Moreover, over-sensitivity to pressure has been associated with severe depression. In some instances, the problem is linked to people who are more challenged by adjusting to the harmful effects of cortisol.
The derivatives of cortisol perform like sedatives which contribute to the general feeling of depression. Excessive amounts of cortisol may trigger a loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, or even an impaired sex drive.
Not to mention, the cardiovascular system is affected during events of fight or flight. Increased cortisol levels may elevate the heart rate and hasten cholesterol and triglyceride levels (the blood pressure and blood lipid). For strokes and the heart, these are serious health factors. Additionally, cortisol levels have been shown to impact how fat is accumulated in the abdomen. Also, stress has been proven to worsen many skin conditions:
How Chronic Stress Is Connected to Belly Fat
Continual stress (chronic stress) leads to constant excess cortisol production. That stimulates the production of glucose. And the excess glucose usually turns into stored fat.
The net effect is increased fat deposited to the abdomen as fat cells because this area is more sensitive to cortisol. The area is also closest to the liver (around our middle), where it can readily be converted back into energy in the future.
Stress hormones get into our bodies for events that pose no real threat to our physical survival in our daily lives. Once the adrenals release cortisol because of increased stress, this hormone does not disappear if no trauma is discovered.
Our protective mechanism kicks in to convert the excess glucose from the release of cortisol to be stored as fat. In particular, research has shown that women are at risk from stress-induced eating and weight gain, and we probably don’t need scientific proof of this.
How many of us have polished off an entire packet of chocolate biscuits during a stressful day when we only intended to eat one! Experiencing stress over long periods (chronic stress) can be one of the times when food craving can happen to us. That is because the body is saying it needs extra fuel for energy.
Typical foods craved can be fatty, sugary foods such as cream cakes, chocolate, sweets, and crisps, often referred to as comfort eating or emotional eating. When we consume these foods, we encourage the production of serotonin in the body, the feel-good hormone, which helps make us feel happy again.
How To Increase Stress And Weight Loss Resistance?
What can we do to reduce cortisol if we accept a connection between chronic stress, elevated cortisol, and weight gain (belly fat)? First, we need to focus on stress management and become more stress-resistant. One of the best ways to neutralize stress and its effects is exercise.
The Importance of Exercise
Any form of physical activity, whether it’s a brisk daily walk, cycling, swimming, jogging, pilates/yoga, or aerobics, leads to the release of endorphins, our feel-good neurotransmitters.
This increase in endorphins in our body leads to a feeling of euphoria, improved appetite, and increased fitness level, all helping to combat the negative effects of stress.
The most important thing is to pick an activity you enjoy. If you’re new to exercise, aim for about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three to four days a week and increase gradually.
If you’re beginning any new fitness program, consult your health care professional, especially if you have any medical conditions or are obese.
Include Stress-busting Foods In Your Diet
Add some stress-busting foods to your diet.A review published in June 2016 in the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences has shown that consuming certain vitamins and minerals found in these stress-busting foods can also be your key to reducing tension. Foods rich in magnesium act as natural tranquilizers. Potassium has been shown to help control high blood pressure.
Foods rich in Vitamin C have a role to play in fighting stress because it’s an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that get released when we’re stressed. Choosing a healthy calorie-controlled balanced diet with a good variety of stress-busting foods can help you reduce your stress levels.
Techniques for Relaxtion
Relaxation exercises take some time, and I already can hear you saying that you don’t have time, but think of the time to recover if you become ill due to stress. You can gain many health benefits from relaxation exercises such as massage, meditation, yoga, or pilates. These techniques can reduce stress symptoms by
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improve blood flow to major muscles
- Slowing your breathing and heart rate
- Improved concentration
- Reduce your anger and frustrations
- Boost your confidence
- Ease your anxiety without food
- Controlled breathing
Another ideal way to release stress is to control your breathing. Pilates practices three-dimensional breathing give these techniques a go by breathing in and imagine your ribs expanding forward, sideways, and backward as you fill your upper chest, lungs, diaphragm, and back with oxygenated air. Here is a nice tutorial of the 2:1 breathing technique:
Sleep And Body Fat
If you get the right amount of deep sleep each night, this really can help reduce body fat if you’re on a diet to lose weight, plus help maintain your ideal weight long-term.
But most of us need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night for optimum health, and it’s is also generally accepted that when your body is not hungry for sleep, it won’t be so hungry for food.
Taking short breaks throughout the day, maybe 1-3 hours, is a great way to lower your stress levels. These can be done in a variety of ways, and here are some ideas for you to try:
- Take a 5-10 minute walk in some fresh air to help relieve stress
- Try some Yoga or Pilates
Take a meditation nap (sit back in a chair and close your eyes, relax your arms and take a few deep breaths. After one 1 minute, open your eyes, and you’ll be surprised how this simple exercise can help you feel more relaxed. Repeat as you want to throughout the day – you could even do this at your office desk!
So can lowering your stress help us lose weight, especially belly fat? Reducing stress to cut belly fat can be challenging. Those of us who are stress eaters tend to gain more abdominal fat during stressful periods than those who don’t.
Even if we’re not overweight, stress can still cause us to gain abdominal fat and heighten our risk of severe health problems. Working on a combination of introducing some simple changes in our day-to-day lives by exercising and eating a healthy balanced diet. And maybe a drop in some relaxation techniques can be the best method for lowering cortisol levels that have risen in response to stress in our daily lives. Be healthy! ?