The journey towards weight loss so far seems quite straight forward. Get your body fit and prime by getting a good night’s sleep, and manage your eating habits – NOT by extreme dieting, but by eating healthy, nutritious food. These steps alone should make a significant difference to your weight, but more importantly, how you feel about yourself and your body.
But there is one lifestyle factor that can put an immediate halt on your progress towards losing that stubborn belly fat…Stress.
Stress and Weight Loss
Bigger bellies can be found on both thin women and overweight women. This drives home the fact that belly fat is not simply a matter of dieting or losing weight. In fact, research reveals that hormones play a significant role when it comes to where we store fat.
For women, the stress hormone cortisol directs fat to be stored in the belly area. Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone, often referred to as the stress hormone. It is part of your regular hormonal cycle, but your body releases more of this hormone in times of stress. For the most part, it does what it is supposed to do – direct the various body functions to handle the particular stressful event. Once the situation is resolved, the body then enters its rest state, cortisol levels return to normal, and body functions and other hormones also resume as normal.
The problem occurs when the body is not able to enter its relaxed state and cortisol levels remain elevated. Cortisol itself does not make fat, but it does cause your body to behave – or should I say – “misbehave,” by increasing your cravings for high-calorie foods, increasing blood sugar while suppresses insulin, suppressing your immune system, breaking down your muscle tissue instead of fat, and storing visceral fat in your belly. In effect, stress, cortisol, weight gain go hand in hand.
“Why can’t I just take a pill to reduce the cortisol in my body?”
While products such as CortiSlim do exist, we advise against this since the long term effects of some of the ingredients in such products are unknown, and can be quite detrimental to your health. Remember the supposedly naturally “ephedra?”
Instead, most comprehensive fitness programs now emphasize stress management as part of their holistic approach, and this is something that we also strongly recommend here at Trim Down Belly Fat.
Unfortunately, we live in highly-stressful times and the thought of trying to reduce stress can be somewhat intimidating, if not, “stressful.” The key is to accept that stress is going to be a part of your life, and rather than fight it, instead focus on managing your stress.
Ways to reduce cortisol levels and stress less
1) Get enough sleep. This helps your body become more stress resistant. You’ve probably experienced it yourself. When you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you are better able to cope and manage life’s curveballs thrown at you the next day.
2) Practice stress reduction techniques. Yoga (not power yoga), tai chi, meditation, breathing exercises, anger management therapy, massage, sex/physical affection, listening to calming music, writing in your diary, or other similar techniques. These types of approaches can help your body’s physiological response to daily stressors.
3) Go for a walk. A slow walk that makes you feel relaxed, gives you time to take in the scenery, breathe some fresh air, and lower your cortisol at the same time.
4) Get some regular exercise. A word of caution that your primary goal should be to manage stress. So don’t do anything that gets you all worked up which only causes your body to stress even further. And don’t overdo it. Traditional weight training 2 times a week should be sufficient to help with your muscle building and increase your metabolism.
5) Take vitamin and mineral supplements, especially Vitamin C, which naturally lowers cortisol levels. Better yet, eat more food which contain stress-busting nutrients such as spinach, milk, fruits, beef, nuts and fish.
6) Reduce things in your life that cause you stress. This is not always possible or practical. But take note of what causes your blood to boil, or causes you to act in a heightened state, and consider finding alternatives. As women, we are natural multi-taskers and that in itself is highly stressful. Practice time management techniques to help yourself get organized and complete your to-do list in a less stressful way. Or perhaps, say “no” once in a while
7) Go easy on yourself. No matter what. Sometimes, the biggest cause of stress is our high expectations of ourselves. Remember, this is a journey, not a quick fix. If you fail one day, DON’T STRESS. There is always tomorrow to try again. Be good to yourself.