Every time you eat, your body will burn your food as energy, or store it as fat. My clients often complain that fat gets stored round their waist, they are often not too overweight, exercising a lot and eating healthily the majority of the time, yet it’s a mystery why they hold onto this fat, especially around the tummy area.
What are the dangers of middle fat or visceral fat?
If you can imagine this fat as far more metabolically active than fat anywhere else, increasing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and diabetes - it’s vitally important that you take action to reduce this area of fat.
Why does your body hold on to fat around the waist?
Tummy fat is a sign of imbalanced metabolism and it can be addressed by looking at your body’s underlying biochemistry – and thankfully there’s a lot you can do to change this.
What’s the impact of stress on fat storage?
Stress has a major part to play here largely due to the body’s natural reaction to stress, known as the ‘flight or fight’ response. The body naturally reacts quickly to danger, just like a wild animal, the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol. The blood thickens, pupils dilate, the heart beats quicker, the breath becomes shallow and sugar and adrenaline are released into the system for energy. This produces everything you need to get away from danger, however instead of running away, in the modern day, we often ‘sit’ in our stress of deadlines, traffic, spiralling debts or family disputes. The stresses of today are almost continuous so we don’t always get a chance to recover. The adrenaline gets you alert and focused, whilst the cortisol increases levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream, staying high sometimes for a few days at a time, whist raising your appetite. And fat is stored around the liver so it can be released for energy at the next stress attack!
What do we tend to crave when stressed? Usually a cake or biscuit, or something else that's sweet. So stress increases your hunger and makes you want to eat sugary and fatty foods, all of which will increase the tummy fat. So what can you do to help manage stress?
There are two key solutions to help:
Have a look at your food:
Reduce food stressors which also raise adrenaline, such as tea, coffee, diet drinks, alcohol
Avoid eating fast releasing carbohydrates (sweets, biscuits, fizzy drinks) on a regular basis
Eat slow releasing carbohydrates, (brown rice, oats, beans and lentils) which provide an even keel of consistent energy
Ensure you get enough nutrients for the adrenal glands and insulin to work (B vitamins, zinc, chromium, calcium and magnesium)
Make some simple lifestyle changes:
Do exercise that relaxes muscles, helps with tension and headaches, expels stress hormones and releases feel good endorphins. (tai chi, yoga, pilates, resistance exercise, or walking).Too much high impact exercise elevates cortisol and is not recommended if you are stressed out
Practice meditation, visualisation and work on breathing into the abdomen, this all helps to slow things down and relax mind and body and release tension, especially when entering the state of ‘flight or fight’. I love yoga and the Headspace app. Set aside 30 minutes daily for a stretch and 10 of those for headspace.
Identify the cause of stress and come up with an action plan i.e. change what is in your control and check if your perception of the situation is accurate
Manage anger and frustration by taking deep breaths and try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. Be assertive, not aggressive!
It’s useful to write a stress action plan to help you – have a think about what people, activities, things or places help support you in a stressful situation? Make notes and keep them close to hand when the next event strikes! Good luck and let me know how you get on!