Does the rest of your body seems to be shaping up, but nothing seems to work to shift that pesky fat around your middle? Then your stressful lifestyle maybe to blame.
That’s according to health expert Jackie Wicks, co-author of new book Cheats & Eats: Lifestyle Programme.
When cortisol – the so-called stress hormone – is too high for too long, it can increase the amount of fat that’s stored on your stomach, she explained.
Also called visceral fat, this is a form of gel-like fat that’s wrapped around major organs, including the liver, pancreas and kidneys. This type is particularly nasty, being linked to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Health expert Jackie Wicks points out that a stressful lifestyle maybe to blame for excess stomach fat (stock image)
Colorado-based Ms Wicks spoke to Healthista about the signs that you’re suffering from ‘stress belly’, as she calls it.
Dieting alone is not enough to tackle the problem, she says – you have to combine healthy eating with stress management techniques.
What cortisol does when you’re stressed
Cortisol, created in the body’s adrenal gland, is essential to give us the get-up-and-go we need to get motivated and focused, which is why it’s usually elevated in the morning.It’s also released during exercise and periods of acute stress.
It regulates energy by selecting the right amount of carbohydrate, fat, or protein the body needs to meet the physiological demands placed on it
You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response that occurs when you’re faced with a stressful event.
During this, cortisol is released from the body’s adrenal glands and floods the body with glucose – the simplest form of carbohydrate and preferred energy source – to give muscles an immediate supply of energy.
Insulin – the hormone that reduces blood sugar – is also released to prevent the glucose being stored as fat and make it freely available to give you the immediate energy to deal with an event.
Once the stress is addressed, hormone balance returns to normal.