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Did you know that chronic stress causes belly fat? I know, it’s such a pain, right?
Like you’re already stressed out. And all you need is a belly fat to make things even more stressful.
How does this happen?
Well, it’s actually not that complicated to understand. You see, we are designed to be very well equipped to deal with bursts of stress; we’re stressed and then we come down.
But the way our lives are set up right now is that we are under chronic stress. And we’re physiologically not really designed that well to cope with chronic stress.
So imagine, you know, back in the day, when you’re being chased by a tiger, this is always the example that we use, but it’s, it’s very easy to understand, your brain would sense danger.
And that stress creates a stress response in the body and your body produces hormones and neurotransmitters that help you to be able to run away and protect yourself or fight if you need to. And so these hormones are kind of designed to react that way.
But when we have chronic stress, then those hormones start to turn from something that is very positive and helpful to something that can be damaging to our health over the long term. And one of the biggest ones is cortisol.
Cortisol is a major stress hormone that is released. And what it does is it tells your body, we need fuel, which is good, right? Okay, we’re gonna burn some fat here, right.
But in the process, the body starts to burn fuel, and the blood sugar rises, which is awesome if you’re trying to run or fight. But if your blood sugar is chronically rising throughout the day, when you have multiple stressful situations, then you have high blood sugar.
So what happens then is that your insulin rises chronically. And over time, you can develop something called insulin resistance. And that is where the cells are saying, okay, insulin, glucose sugar, we don’t need you anymore, we’re shut down for business. And now the sugar just circulates in the blood, raising insulin, and blood sugar even more.
Over time, this results in the accumulation of visceral fat. Pretty much visceral fat means organ fat that collects on your organs, so it becomes this belly fat effect.
And so that’s one way that stress will cause belly fat.
Another way is that when we’re stressed, our bodies also make us want to eat due in large part because of that insulin rise, blood sugar drop, and the brain says, Oh, you need to eat now.
So we have we’re getting hit from both sides, more cravings to eat, and also just more blood sugar causing belly fat.
So what can you do about it? Right? That’s the big question.
Well, it’s called stress management.
Now, there are many ways to deal with stress. But I would start with looking at your life and figuring out where you can take some stuff off of your plate, literally and figuratively, but really off your plate in terms of your commitments and your “busyness” level.
So many times we’re taking on extra things that we don’t even want to do that just cause stress and overwhelm. But somehow we get roped in, or we feel guilty for not helping out.
Well, that’s kind of stress management 101; to reduce your load of things that you have to do, and create boundaries, learning how to say no to things.
And yet, even when we do that, we still have stressful situations, right? So what do we do about that?
Well, there are three things that I really think are important.
One is and this sort of the underlying one for all of them is addressing those emotions you’re having; those feelings of overwhelm, upset, fear, or worry.
Don’t squash them down deep inside of yourself.
Let them out, cry, scream, yell, stomp around, and rage. Okay, you don’t have to do it when there are other people there. You can go into your bedroom and shut the door or into the basement where no one is or you can do it in your car.
Ah, let those emotions flow out of you. That will help you. You really feel so much better after a good cry, right?
So let the emotions flow, express them.
And also breathwork is amazing for stress management. It is a mechanical, physiological way to shift your nervous system from stress, right, that’s the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic, that’s the rest and digest.
That’s where we want to be. That’s where we want to be most of the day.
And your breath is a fantastic way to do that shift.
And you want to breathe through your nose.
And you can do the yes breath.
But you can easily just however you want to do it, whatever works for you.
But get in that, just 10 breaths here and there.
And that’s going to help your nervous system shift.
And another thing is just moving. Put on your favorite song and dance, have fun, let loose.
And there’s another post that I did, where there are some specific movements that you can do. They’re called fear melters. I didn’t make them up. Gay and Katy Hendricks of the Hendricks Institute made them up.
The fear melters are four specific movements that you can do to reduce fear and get those emotions out and ultimately reduce your stress.
And when you start doing that, maybe you’ll see a little bit less belly fat over time.
But I have seen this in action working with clients where I know they’re eating well, they’re exercising, they’re sleeping, but they have very high stress. And it’s difficult to lose that belly fat or just difficult to lose weight.
So it’s real, it’s not imaginary. And there’s a physiological explanation for it, we understand it well. So it’s happening. It’s not your fault.
Oh, and I wanted to mention, there was a study done. This was a couple of years ago, but there was a study done that showed that shaming people for being overweight or having obesity actually caused a stress response in the people who watched it.
They had these videos, whether the person watching was overweight or not. It’s stressful.
So this is another whole other angle, right?
Oh, my belly fat. So ugly, whoo. And feeling bad about that. You’re actually raising your cortisol.
So when we witness fat-shaming, essentially, right, that’s the more more colloquial way of putting it, or body shaming, we, our cortisol will rise in response to that.
So protect yourself from all of that stuff.
And remember that you are absolutely beautiful, exactly as you are right now.
You don’t have to change anything, to be beautiful, to be worthy of love, to be worthy. To be good enough. You don’t have to change anything.
And I think that’s the most important lesson.
And at the same time, I think we all do want to be improving our health and feeling good. When we do look in the mirror we can say, hey, I did these things. And I can see a difference. That feels good.
So if you’re on that health journey, that’s fantastic.
But I want you to go at it from a place of self-love and self-acceptance.
I am beautiful and perfect exactly as I am right now.
And I see room for improvement, I see things that I want to get to do better.
And that’s a beautiful way to look at it.
So don’t beat yourself up about it because that actually causes stress.
And do the breathwork, do let your emotions flow out of you, let your body move and, and set those boundaries as well.
So those are my thoughts about stress management and belly fat and how you can really use all of these tools, the most important of which is self-love, to enhance your health in a way that’s sustainable and pleasurable.