For many people, belly fat is one of those things that never seem to vanish, no matter how hard they exercise. Granted, some us naturally carry our weight around the tummy area – however, did you know that stress may be the reason for the extra weight around your middle? In this post, I want to share some of the research along with practical tips that allow you to melt away your pouch!
Medical research has established that in response to stress, our bodies produce many hormones – and one in particular, cortisol, will send you rummaging for ice cream or other high-calorie foods to replenish the energy your body believes it spent handling a stressful event!
This system worked well for our ancestors who needed lots of energy responding to physical threats and who required extra calories to replace those they spent. But modern stress situations don’t usually involve charging across a prairie, so we oftentimes end up consuming more calories than we burn.
Moreover, chronic stress tells our bodies to keep producing cortisol, causing us to constantly reach for sugar and similarly rich foods. Cortisol also prompts our bodies to store fat – particularly in the middle – so we have a reserve for the next panic-worthy situation. This cortisol cue can make you pack on the pounds even if you have a perfect diet!
The Good News – Here’s How To Lose Belly Fat!
The good news is that stress-induced pounds can melt away quickly with a few tweaks to your diet, exercise, and stress-management tools. Obviously, increased belly fat, like all other excess body fat, is primarily a consequence of consuming too many calories for your basal metabolism and level of activity – so modifying your diet to consume less calories is one angle.
Another angle specific to decreasing belly fat is to reduce cortisol levels produced in response to inflammation, stress and anxiety. That in turn will allow your body to distribute your body fats more evenly, showing up as a tightened tummy. How to do it? Here’s a few tips you might apply that are good for decreasing belly fat, but also great for overall health.
1 | Sleep Longer And More Deeply
- For starters, eliminate caffeine from your diet. It’s the quickest way to reduce cortisol production – just 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour, and cortisol levels can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood.
- Drink calming herbal teas at night in place of caffeinated beverages, particularly red bush that can calm a nervous stomach in the process.
- Combine whole-grain carbs with foods containing tryptophane, the amino acid that helps trigger the sleep hormone, like turkey.
2 | Reduce Cellular Stress and Increase Brain Function
- Omega-3 fatty acids can lower cortisol release influenced by mental stress, so focus on incorporating mono-unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, safflower oil, avocado, and nuts into your diet.
- Regular aerobic exercise will improve blood flow and oxygenation of the brain, increasing brain output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression.
- Music or massage therapy, laughing and humor can also reduce cortisol – all without side effects!
- Enhanced consumption of anti-inflammatories, particular those high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E has also been shown to affect cortisol lowering.
3 | Keep Blood Sugar Stable
Eating large amounts of carbohydrates prompts your body to release cortisol to keep up with rising insulin levels. Choose carbohydrates lower on the glycemic index – for example quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth – and balance the meal out with protein and a little bit of fat.