Are your pants getting tight? It might be Stress Belly.
Everybody knows that too much stress is not a good thing…but did you know that stress can make you fat?
Whenever you face a stressful situation, your brain automatically triggers the Stress Response which is also known as the Fight or Flight response. During this intense physiological process, the hormone Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands. It’s purpose is to provide you with energy in the event that you need to fight an attacker or flee from danger and to do this, Cortisol floods the body with glucose which immediately provides energy to our large muscles. At the same time, Cortisol depresses your immune system and also decreases insulin production so that the energy providing glucose is available to you rather than being stored in your body. Once the stressful situation has been resolved, the Fight or Flight response ends and your system returns to normal.
Multiple and Ongoing Stressors mean Cortisol is constantly flooding your system.
However, because we face multiple and ongoing stressors in our busy lives (work overload, family responsibilities, financial worries, feeling rushed & overwhelmed, etc.) often we find ourselves in a continuous state of Fight or Flight which means Cortisol is constantly flooding our system and this can cause serious health issues.
Cortisol can be responsible for a suppressed immune system making us vulnerable to inflammation which can make us susceptible to colds & illnesses. This also increases the risk of cancer, food allergies and gastrointestinal issues.
In addition, it contributes to weight gain and obesity. When blood sugar levels increase, the body tries to regulate the situation by sending hunger signals to the brain. Cortisol has an effect on our appetite and also increases cravings for high calorie food which cause us to eat or overeat when we are not really hungry.
While weight gain and obesity are definitely a concern, Cortisol affects where our body stores the extra fat. It causes a build up of abdominal fat (also know as Stress Belly). According to a Yale study, ongoing high levels of Cortisol causes fat to be stored centrally in our bodies around our organs. This abdominal fat is the worst kind of fat and is related to a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, insomnia, depression, fertility issues, chronic fatigue, thyroid disorders and dementia may all be linked to chronic stress and the resulting high levels of cortisol.
The next time you notice yourself under pressure and feeling stressed…be proactive with a stress management technique as soon as possible. This will enable your system to turn off the Fight and Flight response and stop Cortisol from overloading your system.
Cheers to less stress and no more Stress Belly,