The human body is an amazing machine. Way back in the age of the dinosaurs, humans encountered life-threatening situations daily. Those threats triggered a release of chemicals within the body (namely adrenaline and cortisol), and those chemicals are associated with the “fight-or-flight” response we all know now. Wrestling a sabertooth tiger would take an enormous amount of energy, and the human body is so smart that it knows it needs more stores of fat and glucose when those “fight-or-flight” scenarios arise.
Today, the “threats” we encounter daily are in the form of bills, job losses, deaths, and heartbreak. While we might not be spearing tigers anymore (well, not much), our bodies still respond the same way to stress. That means you’re more likely to reach for a tub of ice cream when those stressors inevitably hit.
Visceral fat (fat around the midsection of the body) is far more dangerous to your health than fat around the buttocks or thighs. That’s because visceral fat crowds your vital organs. The real kicker here is the fact that fat cells in the belly have four times more cortisol receptors than any other place on the body, making the whole process of storing fat there that much easier. Even more frustrating news: Researchers at the University of Florida found that the body fat you currently have can impair the body’s ability to send signals to the brain to shut off the stress response. According to that evidence, the less body fat you have will result in less anxiety overall.
That being said, there are some easy, logical and healthy ways to eliminate stress-induced fat in your life: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, and of course, manage your stress in a positive manner. Start by engaging in relaxing activities like yoga or meditation to have some control over stressful situations even before they happen. Give yourself time and space for peaceful reflection every day or every other day. Take walks in nature often and connect with the vibrant thrum of life outdoors.
Continue to sustain your body with whole fruits and vegetables, because this will ultimately reduce belly fat and strengthen the brain’s ability to shut off the stress response. Try to minimize your consumption of fried foods and red meats because they can cause inflammation, which could lead to elevated cortisol levels.
Then, get out there and get moving! Aerobic exercise will reduce cortisol levels and speed up your metabolism for fat burning.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that you are only human and will undoubtedly feel stressed out sometimes. Life is all about balance, and denying yourself worldly pleasures can also make your life more anxious. And although our modern society doesn’t require that we defend ourselves against tigers, that hardly means our lives are any less stressful.