Simple Ways to Get Rid of Your Stress Belly
Are you tired of the extra fat around your abdomen that you can’t seem to shift no matter how much you diet and exercise? You might be suffering from what’s known as ‘stress belly.’ This is a condition characterized by extra weight around your middle that is resistant to a normal healthy diet and exercise. It’s caused by prolonged stress.
Having a stressed belly can be frustrating, especially if you’re within normal weight!
So, let’s understand why this happens, how menopausal women are more susceptible to developing viscerall fat, and how to get rid of that annoying belly fat.
How Does Chronic Stress Cause a Stress Belly?
When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, the most important stress hormone. (1)
While cortisol is necessary to ensure you respond appropriately when faced with a stressful situation, having high cortisol levels for a long time can increase insulin resistance and slow your metabolism. The extra fat you retain due to stress has been proven to collect around your organs, so this is where that stubborn belly fat comes from. (2)
High cortisol levels can also prompt the body to store more fat and use muscle for energy. The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you will burn over time, which makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
What’s more, there’s a connection between high cortisol levels and increased cravings for high-calorie foods. (3)
Stress eating is real!
Why Are Menopausal Women More Susceptible to Having a Stress Belly
Before perimenopause, progesterone helps to control the levels of cortisol in your body. However, as your progesterone decreases during menopause, there is more cortisol to overwhelm your body.
Also, middle-aged women tend to have a lot of stressors in their lives. For example, they often care for their children as well as aging parents while managing their professional careers.
Furthermore, chronic stress becomes routine, and women accept stress as part of life.
Frankly, it’s quite a lot. So, give yourself a break!
What are the Health Effects of Having Excess Abdominal Fat?
Larger waist circumference is associated with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and the metabolic disorder dyslipidemia. (5)
Of course, excess weight contributes to the risk of disease in general, but it’s particularly problematic if the extra weight is in the abdomen.
How to Get Rid of Stress Belly
Make Sleep a Priority!
If you sleep six hours or fewer each night, changing your habits to sleep seven to nine hours can decrease your visceral body fat. (6) There are several reasons why this happens:
Poor sleep is associated with higher levels of cortisol.
Sleep deprivation can increase food cravings, especially the urge for fatty foods and high-sugar treats. (7)
Sleep regulates the hunger and appetite hormones leptin and ghrelin. Lack of sleep increases the hunger hormone ghrelin and reduces leptin, the satiety hormone.
So, it’s easy to see why poor sleeping habits can have a significant adverse effect on the amount of fat you carry. When you don’t sleep enough, you feel hungrier, need more food to satisfy your hunger, and crave foods high in sugar and fat. After a night of insufficient sleep, t’s much easier to eat junk food.
A good night’s sleep might be the key to reducing belly fat and losing weight.
Keep Calm and De-Stress !
As mentioned previously, a certain amount of stress is necessary so that we respond appropriately to specific situations to keep us safe. But prolonged stress is not good for your physical or mental health. So, stress management is vital to get rid of extra belly fat and is essential for overall health too.
Change Your Mindset
Life will always throw challenges your way. However, how you perceive and respond to difficult situations makes all the difference to your stress levels.
Accept life, be grateful for what you have, and enjoy every day.
There are many tools that can help you change your perception of life and the natural ups and downs it brings.
Some suggestions for creating a more positive outlook include writing a gratitude journal, daily positive affirmations, and therapy. These might sound like insignificant activities, but you would be surprised how big an impact they can make. Start by making one change a week, and you will soon see the difference.
Meditation relieves anxiety. There are different types of meditation that you can do, and there are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to meditate effectively. Just find the one that works well for you and start.
While meditating, you can try essential oils on your hands or in an infuser. Smelling them heightens the spiritual experience.
Try Deep-Breathing Techniques
Regular practice of deep breathing can have significant effects on your sense of relaxation. For example, a powerful way to deal with stress is to take two or three deep breaths any time you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Find Time for Yourself
Take some time for yourself and do something that makes you happy.
Go for a walk, a run, do arts and crafts, take a hot bath, or enjoy a cup of tea in a quiet place. Whatever you choose, make sure to leave all electronic distractions behind.
It doesn’t have to be a long time; even taking 10-15 minutes for yourself can be very beneficial for your mental health.
Additionally, spending some time outside, preferably in the morning, can help improve your mood. Exposure to sunlight increases your body’s amount of the hormone seratonin, which is responsible for your feelings of calm, happiness and contentment.
Move More and Get Rid of Your Stress Belly
Any form of exercise decreases stress, thereby helping to reduce visceral fat. Physical activity also pumps up your endorphins, the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain.
What’s more, a fitness routine can improve your insulin sensitivity, helping to reduce excess belly fat and weight.
From aerobics to yoga, regular exercise can improve your mood and your self-confidence. It also improves your ability to relax by lowering anxiety and mild depression. (8)
Having a consistent workout routine with an average intensity level can ease the pressure you feel and very significantly help you get rid of your stress belly.
Stop Exercising At High Intensity
High-intensity workouts can increase your body’s cortisol, which will worsen feelings of anxiety. Instead, try an exercise program that includes aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching.
Do note that although weight training does not burn as many calories while exercising as running, for example, having more muscle burns more calories throughout the day.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats (such as olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds), and lean proteins can reduce your body’s reaction to pressure as well as belly fat.
Specifically, foods high in vitamin B have a beneficial role in managing stress. (9) Foods high in vitamin B include green leafy vegetables, eggs, milk, salmon, chicken, turkey, seafood, yogurt, milk, and nutritional yeast.
Sugary foods, caffeine, and alcoholic drinks can have a negative impact on how you respond to a stressful event, contributing to unwelcome abdominal obesity.
Also, regular intake of extra unnecessary calories causes weight gain and accumulation of belly fat.
Studies have shown that smoking is connected to extra abdominal fat, independently of body weight. Also, a higher number of cigarettes smoked per day also correlates to women having larger waist measurements. (10)
The Bottom Line
A stressed belly can be very frustrating. But you don’t have to be stuck with it. It’s good to know that following the lifestyle changes suggested in this blog will help you get rid of that stress-related abdominal fat and live a calmer, more content, happier life.
Eat a well-balanced diet, move more, sleep well, and relax. Take one day at a time, set goals and take it step by step to achieve them.
If you make your mental and physical health your priority, you can manage your stress and, the stress-related belly fat will disappear!
“Simple Ways to Get Rid of Your Stress Belly” was written by Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, in collaboration with Registered Dietitians Seha Altinalan and Patricia Echeverria.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.