Fat, especially belly fat (known as visceral fat) not only seems impossible to get rid of but it increases your risk of major chronic diseases and reduces quality of life.
But what if the only reason it was so hard to get rid only because you were given the wrong advice to target the type of fat you had? That’s right, not all fats are created equally.
With a few simple changes that focus on a specific exercise and nutrition plan that targets the belly fat you have, you’ll notice a quick drop in inches and a surge of healthy energy.
How You Know You’ve Got Stress Belly:
You’ve tried everything, from low calorie diets to fast paced fitness plans. You get sweaty, you’re out of breath but no matter how hard you try the pounds won’t budge… Worse off, you may have gained more weight than when you first started. That extra weight gain snuck up on you suddenly too.
You really believe you’re doing everything right. After all, you followed the fitness or nutrition plan to the letter. You may have felt tired but you pushed through the workout. You felt hungry but you forced yourself to stick to the plan.
It’s fair to say you may be viewed as a bit of a type A personality…
You thought you were being pretty healthy but you’ve recently been diagnosed with type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome or high blood pressure.
Even more agonizing is the fact you feel exhausted after one of those fast paced workouts. The runner’s high your friend tells you about has never happened to you. You feel like you need a nap after fitness and your body may ache for days without relief.
You wake up feeling exhausted and sometimes you stay that way all day.
Often when you stand up you feel light headed. you feel your blood pressure drop.
Other days you start off tired, but by evening you feel as though you’ve got your second wind.. The problem is it’s bed time soon…
You toss and turn at night and chalk up your drowsy morning as nothing more than lack of sleep.
If this sounds like a day in your life, then it’s likely your belly fat is caused by stress!
Stress belly symptoms:
- Sudden weight gain or difficulty losing weight especially around the belly
- More often found in type A personalities
- Feel Exhausted after a workout instead of energized
- You wake up tired
- You can’t sleep at night
- You’ve been recently diagnosed with Type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome
- Blood pressure rises with extreme stress
- Low blood pressure and feeling light headed when you stand.
Why Does Stress Make You Feel This Way?
Cortisol is a stress hormone known as a glucocorticoid. When we perceive stress, cortisol is released into the body and sends messages to eat more, to release more carbohydrates fats and proteins (proteins which it get’s from breaking down your muscles) and turn them into the sugar that our body uses as energy, known Glucose. This increases our blood sugar.
You become more insulin resistant (so the fuel our body needs during stress stays in our blood for easy access and you store more fat around our organs (known as visceral belly fat) for quick energy too.
In the wild, when your body perceived stress, it was usually because there was a real threat, such as a wild animal trying to eat you. You needed to run away fast and you needed quick energy to do that.
Back in the wild, you would have used all of that released energy quickly to escape. Then your body’s cortisol would return to normal.
The problem is, today’s stressors don’t include animals you need to run away from. They include bosses who pressure you with deadlines, family’s who demand your attention and sensations of not enough time to finish the to do list. Most of these stressors don’t require you to use blood sugar the body has released and blood sugar remains high and creates and increased risk for type II diabetes.
We also aren’t exposed to a quick predator and then return back to normal. In today’s society our stress stays.
Much like a constant flow of insulin in the body soon exhausts the pancreas so we no longer produce insulin adequately, so too does a constant flow of cortisol reduce your efficacy to produce cortisol. This occurs when there’s a breakdown in somewhere within the cortisol producing system known as the H-P-A axis.
Cortisol is not a villain. In small quantities it boosts your energy and makes you feel alive!
It may spike blood pressure momentarily during a quick stressor, but it’s also needed to spike blood pressure to supply blood to your brain as you stand. As cortisol depletes the spikes in blood pressure needed to bring blood flow to the brain when you stand isn’t supplied and you may feel light headed.
Cortisol usually begins high in the mornings to give you energy and then slowly depletes throughout the day.
When your constantly stressed cortisol cycles go haywire. You wake up and cortisol stays low (so you feel sleepy) and by night time you may see feel rises in cortisol which inhibits melatonin release and you can’t sleep.
You Can Melt Away Stress Belly With Exercise:
Once you start treating the type of belly fat you have, it’s exciting to see how quickly your body begins to transform.
If exercise has been making you feel exhausted, then it may seam counterintuitive to workout. It may also seam strange that exercise, which is known to increase cortisol levels during activity, can help regulate cortisol over time.
Movement is important, but the type of movement you do is drastically different than any exercise program you may have done in the past.
1. Swap out Cardio for Belly Breathe
You may notice the more cardio you do, the more weight you gain. Especially around the midsection. When you’re under a lot of stress, the generic fitness advice that cardio will help you lose weight will actually hold on to your pounds.
During cardio cortisol levels rise, but if that system isn’t working properly, you’re only taxing yourself more. This burns the body out and sends it into a deeper state of fatigue. In some cases you’ll gain even more weight as the more cortisol you have, the more belly fat you’ll create.
Solution: Swap out cardio for 10 Minutes of deep belly breathes each day.
This may seam easy for a non stress belly sufferer, but if you’re a constant thinker or have a go-g0-g0 personality you’ll find this a good challenge to conquer.
The main objective with stress belly is to reduce cortisol levels and begin to regulate them properly again. As stress decreases, your body can reduce insulin sensitivity, and begin to release belly fat stored for emergency use.
Lie still for 10 whole minutes in a dark room and focus on deep inhales and exhales. For a more in depth breathing strategy and a list of apps to help you relax, download the Complete plan that slims stress belly below:
2. Do A Stretch/Resistance Program 2 Times Per Week:
Resistance training replenishes lean muscle that may have been broken down by cortisol. It also balances your internal system by raising and regulating hormones that are usually suppressed by cortisol.
You need to get in enough exercise to blast belly fat but feel confident you won’t overdo it and tax your adrenals (the system that produces cortisol) again.
Solution: Do a resistance program that includes a relaxing stretch in between each exercise. This ensures your body gets the workout it craves without overdoing it.
3. Keep Your Heart Rate Low During Resistance Sessions:
The higher your rate rate the more you call on cortisol. So it’s important to keep the hear rate low and take it slow.
Solution: By making sure your heart rate stays low (between 65%- 70% of your max or being able to hold a full conversation while exercising) you’ll be sure to let your cortisol levels rest while still benefiting from a great workout.
4. Keep your workouts under 45 minutes:
Cortisol levels rise drastically after 45 minute of exercise so it’ important to keep your workouts under the 45 minute mark. This is a fabulous benefit considering we’re always looking for ways to keep our workouts quick and effective.
Solution: If it taking you longer than usual to finish your resistance/stretch workout (see above) try breaking up the fitness routine into a few smaller 10 minute workouts throughout the day.
How to Burn Stress Belly with Nutrition:
1. Reduce Sugars and Refined Carbs:
Sugars and carbs are our main energy source most easily turned into the Glucose but because cortisol is high, our system keeps glucose in the bloodstream. The more sugars and carbs you eat, the more circulating blood sugar you’ll have and the more weight and chance of chronic disease.
Solution: Depending on the length of time you’ve had stress belly, this will determine how strict your no sugar and carbs will be. When I work with clients suffering severe stress belly, we begin by taking out all sugars including fruit for the first week and monitor how their body responds. Keep complex, low glycemic carbohydrates in two of your main meals. This includes whole grains, sweet potatoes, squash, brown rice and quinoa.
2. Eat Frequently:
Going long periods of time without food raises your cortisol levels and that’s the last thing you want to do. The more consistent you can keep your eating, the more you’ll regulate cortisol and the quicker you’ll flatten away belly fat.
Solution: Eat three main meals and two snacks spread out throughout your day.
3. Cut Out Caffeine:
Women’s cortisol levels rise exceptionally high after caffeine. Add extra stress, exercise or snacks with your coffee and it rises even higher. So it’s important to cut out all caffeine. At least at first.
Solution: Swap coffee for hot lemon water. This helps the liver regulate the breakdown of glucose that high levels of cortisol elicits.
4. Eat 10 servings of vegetables:
The more vegetables the better when your’e under a lot of stress. Vegetables are packed with an abundance of vitamins C, magnesium and fibre which help relax the body, reduce tension and regulate blood sugar. Not to mention it boosts immune function which cortisol may suppress.
Solution: Eat at least 10 servings of non-root vegetables. Choose dark leafy green and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower , kale, spinach, and cabbage.
5. Choose Lean Proteins in Most Meals
Lean proteins regulate blood sugar, help replenish muscle loss caused by cortisol and help you feel full longer. All benefits which help reduce stress belly after fifty.
Solutions: Choose lean turkey, chicken and sometimes fish. Choose seeds and nuts (either whole or spreads) that are high in protein and healthy fats for snacks.
For your FREE 5 day stress belly busting meal plan here:
If you think you have stress belly but you want to know for sure, you can ask a Naturopathic doctor to give you a saliva test. You can also purchase the test yourself at amazon.