There are a number of factors that can contribute to a person becoming overweight and developing any of the associated conditions that come with obesity. We will go into each of these in more depth throughout this article but to start, we’ll take a look at a couple of causes of belly fat that many people overlook or don’t think about.
You could have a great exercise routine and eat the best, most healthy foods, but unless you also target some of these root causes, you could find your progress slowing down, or even coming to a complete halt.
Chronic stress has become an epidemic in our society, and it’s wreaking havoc on your body. In today’s world, faster is better, and we attempt to pack increasingly more obligations into our ever-expanding schedules which puts us all under a lot of pressure.
One meta-analysis involving 300 studies, found that chronic stress could cause damage to your immune system (1) and if that wasn’t enough, a study in the journal
‘Appetite’ found stressed-out women had a significantly higher waist circumference compared to non-stressed women ( 2). That’s right, stress makes you fat – particularly around the belly!
When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that flood your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, and even belly fat storage (3). This is because deep abdominal fat contains four times the cortisol receptors than fat under the skin (6) so high levels of cortisol in the blood not only increases fat accumulation in this area but also has an enlarging effect on the fat cells themselves (7).
Cortisol also signals for more glucose to be released into the bloodstream, and when this isn’t used up by the body, it gets stored as fat (8). Finally, when cortisol is coupled with sugar, your insulin levels increase. This leads to increased inflammation which makes you feel lousy, and the sugary foods many people might turn to as a ‘pick me up’ increase cortisol and adrenalin, starting the vicious cycle all over again!
Dealing With Stress
You should try and tackle the stress head on if you want to start fighting you belly fat and the best way to start is by making sure you eat properly – the right diet can do wonders to reduce the impact of stress on your life. When you eat whole, real foods, you restore balance to insulin, cortisol, and other hormones, as well as the blood’s sugar levels. Helping to reduce stress’ damaging impact.
If you find that you still have the odd stressful day, there are a number of techniques you can use to cope effectively with the stress you’re under and help tackle what could be at the root of your weight issues. Here are some top stress-busting tips:
- Address the underlying biological causes of stress. Mercury toxicity, deficiencies in magnesium and vitamin B12, as well as gluten allergies, could all be changing your brain’s chemistry and leading to issues with stress. If you suspect a nutrient deficiency or imbalance, speak to a doctor or Naturopath about getting tested.
- Actively relax. Engage the powerful forces of the mind on the body, by actively doing something relaxing. Whether that means deep breathing or a simple leisurely walk, find active relaxation that works for you and do it. Sitting in front of the television doesn’t count! You should be actively doing something to relax.
- Move your body. Exercise is a powerful, well-studied way to combat stress and heal the mind. Studies suggest exercise works better than or equal to Prozac for treating depression (4).
- Sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress hormones, in particular cortisol which promotes weight gain. Get your eight hours no matter what!
Numerous hormones contribute to belly fat, but none proves more powerful than insulin – your fat storage hormone. High levels of insulin tell your body to gain weight around the belly, and you become more apple-shaped over time. Should you become insulin resistant, your body not only generates but holds onto that belly fat.
However, high insulin levels don’t just exist in a vacuum. They influence other hormones like leptin, your satiety hormone. When insulin blocks leptin, your body thinks it is still hungry even after a big meal. Ever experienced this after eating a carb- heavy meal like pizza or pasta?
Should you develop a fatty liver, this will generate more inflammation and anything that causes inflammation will worsen insulin resistance. Once more, you can quickly fall into a negative cycle!
More than any other food, sugar is responsible for hijacking your brain chemistry and metabolism to create insulin resistance and all its repercussions. Shockingly, the average American overdoses twenty-two to thirty teaspoons of sugar per day (5).
Shut down the insulin surges and you’ll arrest belly fat storage and cravings.
- Suzanne C. Segerstrom G. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin. 2004;130(4):601. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/. Accessed Au- gust 26, 2016.
- RW M. Sweet craving and ghrelin and leptin levels in women during stress. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnih.gov. 2016. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ pubmed/24879886. Accessed August 26, 2016.
- New Study Finds Secret to a Faster Metabolism – Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr Mark Hy- man. 201 Available at: http://drhyman.com/blog/2012/02/08/new-study-finds-se– cret-to-a-faster-metabolism/. Accessed August 26, 2016.
- Szalavitz M. It’s All in the Nerves: How to Really Treat Depression. TIMEcom. 2016. Available at: http://healthland.time.com/2013/03/20/its-all-in-the-nerves-how-to-re– ally-treat-depression Accessed August 26, 2016.
- By Any Other Name It’s Still Sweetener. Heartorg. 2016. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/By-Any-Other- Name-Its-Still-Sweetener_UCM_437368_Article.jsp. Accessed August 26, 2016.
- Epel ES e. Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistent- ly greater among women with central fat. – PubMed – NCB Ncbinlmnih.gov. 2016. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11020091. Accessed August 31, 2016.
- Stress Cortisol Connection. Unmedu. 2016. Available at: https://www.unm. edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/stresscortisol. Accessed August 31, 2016.
- How Hormones Cause Muffin Top in Women – How to Lose It. Lose Belly Fat Healthier and Faster. 2014. Available at: http://www.losebellyfatberipped.info/hor– mones-muffin-top-women. Accessed August 31, 2016.