Stressful Fat

Stressed out? Even when everything is moving right along just fine, I find a way to embody pressure, urgency and worry. Some days, I power on like a freight train about to blow its engine, and forget to slow down enough to release the percolating tension. I forget to stretch and breathe.

When we’re stressed, we create a surge of adrenaline that forces our bodies to revert back to our primate instincts of fight or flight, like flee from a tiger kind of fright. Regardless of whether the stress is actually physical or psychological, our bodies expect us to literally get up and fight the stressor head on or run quickly the other way. Stress signals the body that we’re going to need more energy to survive. As the adrenaline surges through our blood, cortisol—the stress hormone—is also release by the adrenal glands. Cortisol signals the body that it’s time to replenish the utilized energy. But unless we actually did something physical to avoid the stressor, we didn’t burn any extra calories. Regardless, cortisol tells us we’re hungry—really, really hungry. So we eat more. As long as we remain stressed, the cortisol swims around in the body, continues to make us think we need to replenish this energy we never used. Cortisol also makes us retain body fat. According to Fat Flush for Life, by Ann Louise Gittleman, “Deep abdominal fat contains four times more cortisol receptors than do other fat sites, cortisol is drawn to it.”

Psychological stress is important and is often our indicator that we’re either on the right or wrong path. Sometimes stress takes a strong hold when we’re too excited about something—we’re working too hard, too fast, juggling too many demands, and trying to accomplish too much at one time. Sometimes stress is present to alert us of how unhappy we are given our current circumstances—maybe we really do need to flee. We’re all going to experience stress. There’s no avoiding it. The solution is to figure out ways to keep stress to a minimum and when stress rears its tense head, incorporate ways to decrease its negative effects. By middle-age our cortisol levels naturally increase and make it more difficult for us to keep off the belly fat. Even more reason to incorporate the following stress reducers.  

Exercise is necessary because if our bodies are expecting to fight or run, exercising regularly burns off the calories created from cortisol. Feeling stressed out at work? Hit the floor and do ten push-ups, fifteen squats, or twenty lunges. Walk at lunch, swinging your arms side-to-side. To ward off fat and remain healthy, stress needs to be burned out of the body.      

Sleep is underrated. Studies show that we need an average of 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep every night to keep stress levels down. Cortisol levels increase, as the number of hours of sleep decrease. “According to a landmark sleep study in the Journal of American Medical Association, if you sleep between 7.5 and 8.5 hours per night, you will secrete half the cortisol than those who get 6.5 hours or less.” Also, with too little sleep, the body is also unable to metabolize carbohydrates effectively.

Eat healthy foods and limit foods that spike cortisol levels, like caffeine. The Community Cleanse eliminates all cortisol forming foods to help our bodies better relax. See post – Coffee Break. Research also shows that dieting can raise cortisol by about 18%. If we’re interested in losing weight (fat) than it’s best to stick with the solid three-meals-a-day-plan and incorporate healthy snacks when needed. Our bodies are stressed if we’re not getting what we need in the way of nutrients. Take a multi-vitamin with at least 50mg of the B-vitamins.

Meditation helps us slow down and has been proven to decrease stress. I know, who has time to meditate? Before an appointment, with five to ten minutes to spare, try sitting in your car or somewhere else, without distractions–like music. Close your eyes and think of nothing. Given this task, most of us will think about everything. Breathe and relax—relax for five minutes. It’s pretty amazing what five minutes of deep breathing and simply sitting can do for stress levels. Once you get the hang of this, feel the tension melting away from the fat cells in your stomach. Of course longer meditations on a more regular basis will carry even stronger benefits.  

Yoga states its goal as wanting to “attain a state of perfect tranquility and spiritual insight”. Now I’m sure I’ll never use the word perfect and me together in a sentence, but yoga certainly has a way of releasing stress and helping us feel more peaceful. Breathing, stretching, meditation and mindfulness make up a yoga practice. Mindfulness helps us to breathe and stretch (figuratively) through stressful situations. It lends us perspective, keeps our blood pressure from rising and signaling it’s time to fight or flee.

 Journaling is a great way to get the psychological stress out of the mind and onto paper. Write it down. Let any feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration become your journal’s problem. Our journals can handle it better than our bodies.

 Happy Cleansing everyone!


Fat Flush for Life, The Year-Round Super Detox Plan to Boost your Metabolism and Keep the Weight Off Permanently, by Ann Louise Gittleman, Da Capo Press, 2010.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Laura, it’s been a long time!
    I have checked out your blog once in a while, and am impressed by it — as I am by your personal story of healing, and by this particular post.

    You write so well!

    Best wishes from North of 60…

  2. Posted by Nikki Caswell on May 18, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for writing this article. I learned a lot from it. It’s so interesting that cortisol/stress levels are linked to weight gain. As well, thanks for all the great techniques on reducing and handling stress. It’s really good confirmation for me.
    By the way, you got me hooked on green smoothies. I love adding tons of kale and parsley to them. Super delicious and filling. As well, I’ve been taking folic acid ever since you recommended it to me. I think it has helped me. Thanks for helping me on my quest to optimal health.


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