Does your expanded waistline refuse to shrink even an inch despite following the best recommended set of exercises? Is it getting worse with time with you piling on extra pounds unnecessarily? Perhaps your low metabolism, diet choices, exercise routine or other lifestyle habits have something to do with it. Or perhaps not. Calm down! Perhaps the only thing you need to do right now is to relax. There could be various reasons for your protruding belly, some of which are not often cited, for example stress. Yes, you heard us. While increased levels of stress can result in reduced appetite initially, long-term and chronic stress may eventually make you binge on fatty foods. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as stress induced weight gain.
Stress and anxiety are becoming synonymous to today’s time. Stress does not only affect one’s peace of mind but could also play a role in promoting weight gain, especially around your mid-riff. A certain hormone called cortisol can be labelled as the culprit here.
What Does Cortisol Do?
Cortisol is also called as the stress hormone
. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands. It is important for the maintenance of blood pressure as well as in boosting energy in the body. The hormone also stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for greater energy and regulates insulin release for maintaining blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions could lead to an increase in appetite.
Shilpa Arora, Macrobiotic Nutritionist and Health Practitioner, explains, “When you are tensed, the body releases cortisol as a result of which there is a rise in insulin level in the body. This results in a drop of blood sugar level and that’s why you rave high carbohydrate and sugary food.” The body releases chemicals in response to the food you eat, which might have a direct calming effect, and this is how you may end up gaining those few extra and unwanted pounds around your belly in an attempt to beat stress.
Shilpa adds, “High cortisol production can confuse the entire endocrine system and increase your appetite. Stress also leads to the over production of ghrelin – your hunger hormone.”
Why is This Belly Fat a Reason for Worry?
It has been found that stress and increased cortisol levels tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than around the hips or other parts of the body. Consultant Nutritionist Dr. Rupali Datta shares, “There is a strong co-relation between belly fat and cardiovascular diseases. We have heard of apple and pear-shaped bodies. Those who are apple shaped have a considerable body weight around the abdominal area and are at a higher risk of developing cardio-vascular diseases.”
Dr. Datta also explains the reason behind fat deposition around the belly. “Cortisol is known as the survival hormone. The concentration of the hormone is controlled by an enzyme found mostly in the abdominal region. Hence, there is a greater storage of fat in the tissues of abdomen when you are stressed. ”
Here are a host of remedies you can try to beat stress-induced weight:
Shilpa suggests meditation and making a window for some recreational activities. ”In our stressful lives surrounded by compulsive eating disorders, one should include daily meditation and relaxation techniques like music, reading, dancing or engage in some sports.”
Dr. Rupali Datta lists some suggestions which can come in handy to cut down on the bulge due to stress –
1. Eight hours of good quality sleep is needed daily. People might argue that it is not essential, but sleep deprivation may aggravate stress and anxiety.
2. Learn to delegate your work. You cannot take care of everything alone. Therefore, fretting about it is only going to add to your stress. So stop, breathe, relax, and plan.
3. You have to monitor your eating habits and keep eating at regular intervals of time. As the sugar levels go down, the levels of cortisol go up. You must include high fibre foods, leafy vegetables and whole grains in your diet. Whole grains have a very positive impact in maintaining satiety. Also, remember to have enough proteins. Most of our Indian meals are high on carbohydrates, which may make you lose out on the adequate protein intake.
4. Make sure to load up on vitamin C. It is known to boost the adrenal gland, which regulates the secretion of cortisol.
5. It is essential to be hydrated at all times. Have nimbu paani, chaas, nariyal paani, or just plain water, but make sure you keep yourself hydrated to prevent overeating because your body can confuse thirst with hunger.
6. Try and take out at least 30 minutes to engage in anything that de-stresses you, such as dancing, listening to music or reading. Yoga or regular exercise also helps in releasing stress.