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Tuesday, 12 January 2016 05:05

The Cortisol and Belly Fat Connection

The Cortisol and Belly Fat Connection

If you feel like your waistline is a little bigger after this holiday season it might not be from the goodies that accompany the yearly festivities. It might be from the other sidekick of the holidays - stress. When a body is under stress, especially chronic stress, more adrenaline and cortisol are secreted from the adrenal glands. This is the primal “fight-or-flight” response that can explain unfathomable feats of strength by individuals in life-threatening situations. The response is helpful in those temporary situations but when triggered again and again, throughout the day, week, month, year, there are many negative health implications, including an increase in fat specifically in the belly region.

Here’s what happens: Abdominal fat has a very rich blood supply and has four times more cortisol receptors than any other body fat. The amount of cortisol released varies throughout the day in response to what you are faced with and how you deal with it. More stress equals more cortisol released. When the stress occurs the adrenaline that is released signals your body fat to release its fatty acids. It is these fatty acids that are used for the energy to run faster, lift heavier things, jump higher, act in an emergency situation, etc. Then the cortisol stores any of the fatty acids (fat) that was released but not used.

Since that higher concentration of cortisol receptors is in the belly area, weight is increased and maintained in that region as more/continuous stress is experienced, especially if it is consistent. The belly is a common area to accumulate disproportionate fat with age and after having children (for both women and men) and for individuals under a lot of stress for any reason. Obviously there are other factors including rate of metabolism, diet, exercise etc. but the cortisol connection is another lesser-known factor.

If you are one of these people know two things: The first is that it is important to remedy this situation because the deposit of extra belly fat is not the worst repercussion of this stress response. The second is that it is remediable.

The other possible negative health repercussions from carrying extra belly fat include: Diabetes, asthma, osteoarthritis, heart disease, gall bladder disease, and certain cancers, not to mention emotional difficulties.

The way to break the adrenaline/cortisol response cycle is with a plan. First, it is important to become aware of how often your body is under stress and what the triggers are.

Usually one becomes so used to stress that awareness of how much of a problem it is becomes lost. Every time you feel your diaphragm tighten (feel like there is a knot in your stomach) in response to stress in your environment it is likely that the cycle is occurring. When you feel that tightness, pay attention. You will probably notice you are holding your breath. The breath is the key to breaking the cycle. Regular deep breathing, especially during the times of stress can help change the response and reverse the cycle and the negative effects.

So once you are aware of your daily stress make a plan to reduce stress and add daily deep breathing. You don’t have to join a yoga class to remember to breath but it is one option to help healthy breathing become a part of your life.

Here are some other ideas to help put together your plan:

~ Add daily meditation of any kind to your routine
~ Take breaks during the day to breath and stretch
~ Get enough sleep (nothing fuels a stress cycle like not getting enough sleep- notice this connection between less sleep and women who have given birth and can’t lose “the last five pounds” or new fathers getting the parenthood pooch)
~ Make attempts to avoid unnecessary stress
~ Leave early so you’re not stressed driving
~ Do writing exercises to release stressful thoughts or any other stress relieving activities ~ Love an animal - pets are great for helping relieve stress - if you don’t have one the Humane Society and other rescue organizations are always grateful to have volunteers walk dogs and play with cats :)

Copyright Annie Botticelli 2009, 2016

Annie Botticelli is a Self-Development Coach, Inspirational Speaker, Astrologer, Author, Writer, passionately assisting willing souls in conscious evolution :)

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