We’re used to the thought that fat accumulation in our bodies is a result of bad dieting habits. This is true, in part, but a bad diet isn’t the only reason for extra inches on our waists. Cortisol is a steroid hormone belonging to the glucocorticoid group.
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The peak production of this hormone happens in stress situations and is caused by the need to maintain homeostasis by determining the energy needs of the body. And it is cortisol that determines which sources the body will draw energy from - fats, carbohydrates or proteins, and also the amount specifically required to evade the stressor. At the same time, cortisol leads to the appearance of so-called stress fat.
What is “cortisol tummy,” and where does the stress fat come from?
When hormonal cascade is started in stress conditions, and cortisol is actively produced, the body does not allow glucose to be stored but throws it to fight stress. Cortisol also leads to narrowing of the blood vessels and increase in heart rate. Over time, the stress goes away, the level of the hormone normalizes. However, frequent stress leads to weight gain, obesity, diabetes, blood sugar imbalance, immune system suppression, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid dysfunction, depression, reproductive problems, and cardiovascular diseases.
A constantly high level of cortisol leads to the movement of stored triglycerides in visceral fat cells, especially in the abdominal region. Hence the name - “stress fat,” “cortisol stomach”. This leads to maturation of fat cells and increased production of cortisol at the tissue level.
Insulin resistance also interferes with maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight without hindrance. If the cells do not receive the necessary fuel (glucose), because the action of insulin is blocked, the brain makes a logical decision to eat more high-calorie foods, which leads to weight gain. Also, cortisol affects cravings for certain foods (in particular, sweets) and appetite, affecting other hormones and processes in the body triggered by stress.
Are there ways to get rid of stress fat? Take your weight under control and get rid of stress fat with this 5-step plan.
#1. Involve your muscles
Active exercising, which involve lots of muscle groups (push-ups, squats, specially designed training plans) allow the body to “escape” stress. During the work-outs, the blood circulates rapidly, which facilitates neutrialization of the negative effects of cortisol. Just 18 minutes of walking 3 times a week help reduce the level of the stress hormone by 15%.
#2. Do not be so quick to have a snack
In a state of stress, we tend to swallow food quickly, practically without chewing. Such behavior inevitably leads to an increase in portions and cortisol tummy. Do not rush, savor each piece, pay attention to the feeling of fullness, so that cortisol fat is not deposited in the abdominal area and other problem areas.
#3. Smart approach to dieting
Constant dieting increases the level of cortisol by 18%. In addition, harsher diets have long been recognized as not the best way to get rid of excess weight, which does usually return. Also, if you crave for some sweets or junk food, allow yourself to have a bite. And don’t forget about having breakfasts!
#4. Don’t drink coffee in stressful situations
It is better not to consume caffeine when under stress, since it further increases the level of cortisol. A single cup of coffee you had that one time will not be harmful, however, if coffee-drinking becomes a habit, you’ll have difficulty driving away stress fat.
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#5. Sleep quality
One of the most effective methods of fighting stress is sleep. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to lie down and get enough sleep in a stressful situation, however, it is necessary to ensure that you get decent hours of sleep at night, so that your ability to withstand the stressors will increase.
The BetterMe Team wants you and those close to you to live a healthy, happy life! Your health is a valuable thing; look after your body and your mind so that you can live your life to the fullest – Remember you only get one!
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