The talk surrounding stress and belly fat is a very popular theory these days. Why? Because so many of us are over-fat and over-stressed!
However, the stress/belly fat connection comes from research showing that increased levels of the hormone cortisol¬ are associated with higher levels of deep abdominal fat.
What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands during times of “stress”- both physical and psychological. Its main function has to do with gluconeogenesis (the generation of glucose) and metabolizing fat, carbohydrate, and protein in the body.
Is there a link between stress, cortisol, and appetite?
According to research by Len Kravitz, Ph.D., and Suzanne Schneider, Ph.D., at the University of New Mexico, “animal and human studies have demonstrated that cortisol injections are associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain.” In the study, women who showed increased levels of cortisol following stressful laboratory tests, chose to eat excess amounts of food that were high in fat and sugar.
What causes your cortisol levels to spike?
Turns out a lot of things can lift your cortisol levels, everything from stress and stressful situations, to smoking, a lack of sleep, over eating, drinking too much caffeine, or consuming too much alcohol.
Research has shown that abdominal fat, especially the deep layer, called visceral fat, functions differently, or metabolically. It’s this visceral fat that seems to be the most problematic kind of fat, because it’s associated with diabetes and heart disease.
But wait, there is a silver lining. Because this deep belly fat is so metabolically active, it’s a lot easier to budge. The key is to get moving and take action!
The Bottom Line
Is stress the cause of our national obesity epidemic? Probably not. It’s most likely do to eating more and moving less. And sure, for some, it’s been inherited from family members. That’s not to say that stress and high levels of cortisol don’t contribute; it’s more complex than that.
The Best Way to Whittle Your Middle?
If you thought sit ups, think again. Although crunches and core exercises are terrific for building strength and tone, they won’t shrink your fat zones.
• You’ll need to go for the cardio — get the heart rate up for at least 30 minutes to start. And work up to 60-90 minutes.
• If you’re a beginner, always go slow and gradually work up to more intense and longer bouts of activity.