Is stress making you fat? What you eat
is still a major factor in your weight. But new research
is showing that stress can have an effect on how your body
stores extra calories.
Think you arent that stressed? Just
because you have a deadline at work, your car is in the
shop, you have kids to transport to multiple sporting events,
a teenager who seems to have turned into an alien overnight
that doesnt mean youre too stressed,
does it? You might admit to feeling a little bit over-booked
or a touch cranky, but can that really be the reason you
cant fit into your favorite pair of jeans?
A recent study conducted at Yale University
resulted in some surprising findings. The study found that
non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of
stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat and
have higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
The study also found that women with greater
abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels
of life stress. Researchers determined that greater exposure
to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress
may explain the enhanced reactivity to cortisol.
Research suggests that cortisol affects
fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally,
laced throughout the organs. Even though everyone is exposed
to stress, some people may secrete more cortisol than others
and they may secrete cortisol each time they are exposed
to the same stressor.
According to the study, it is possible
that higher exposure to stress has led those with increased
abdominal fat to overreact to stresses of any kind, so they
have a greater exposure to cortisol throughout their lifetimes.
In turn, cortisol may have caused them to acquire more abdominal
Keep in mind that if youre overweight,
youre probably going to store body fat all over, including
around your middle. If youre fairly lean, though,
and have a lot of abdominal fat, it would be a good idea
to explore other factors. You might be genetically predisposed
to accumulate belly fat. If youre post-menopausal,
you might see your middle expanding even though you havent
changed your dietary habits. Smoking, alcohol and lack of
exercise are also culprits. Even if you have some or all
of the above factors, your stress level could be contributing
to excess belly fat as well.
How can you keep cortisol from affecting
your waistline without dropping out of your current lifestyle?
The experts recommend exercising regularly to combat stress.
Make small changes when adding a fitness routine so you
dont create just one more thing to stress about. Choose
to take time for yourself every day, even if it only amounts
to taking a few mini-breaks. Yoga and meditation are two
time-tested ways to reduce the stress of everyday living.
Something as simple as a hot bath at the end of the day
can help you calm those cortisol prompting moments.
The way you schedule your time can amp
up stress levels. If you make a long list of things you
feel you must do each day, try asking yourself if there
are any items on the list that really could wait till another
If you decide you need to diet, remember
that severely restricting your calories only adds to the
stress youre under. If youre going through a
rough time, it may not be the best time to lose that last
10 pounds. It goes both directions your cant
undereat or your body will be more stressed, and you cant
overeat or your body will be more stressed. The trick is
in finding the balance so that youre eating enough
but not too much. The bottom line? Develop effective
ways of managing your diet and your stress and youll