Do you find yourself suffering with excess fat around the belly? Well, you’re definitely not alone. In the United States alone, it’s estimated that about 54% of Americans live with excess abdominal fat.
While there are many reasons one might retain excess abdominal fat, stress is a probably factor.
In fact, experts around the world are coining the term “stress belly” to describe abdominal fat caused by stress.
So, if you’re suffering from stress belly, read on to find out what it is and what you can do about it.
What is Stress Belly?
Actually, stress belly isn’t a medical diagnosis.
Stress belly is just a term used to describe how stress and the hormones caused by stress can affect your midsection.
While it isn’t technically a medical diagnosis, it is recognized by the medical world as a symptom of stress hormones.
To understand how stress can cause stress belly, it’s first important to understand what stress is.
Stress is the body’s way of responding to any type of change that requires adjustment.
When stressed, the body reacts with physical, mental and emotional responses.
It’s important to remember that stress is a normal and helpful response to circumstances.
However, chronic and prolonged stress is what leads to health issues.
Stress causes a hormone release as well. Specifically, the hormone cortisol is released at high levels.
At normal levels, cortisol is helpful. It builds lean tissue and helps an individual respond to stressful situations.
But chronic, prolonged cortisol release can cause a myriad of health problems – stress belly included.
How does stress increase belly fat?
Okay, so now you know what stress is, but how can it cause fat? Well, the most likely cause of increased abdominal fat is cortisol.
As we discussed earlier, cortisol is a hormone released by the body during a stressful event.
Excess and prolonged stress leads to chronically high cortisol levels.
And, when cortisol levels are high, they cause excess fat to be stored around the organs.
This fat continues to build and build until an individual obtains a “stress belly.”
One study showed that the higher the cortisol levels, the more likely someone is to have abdominal fat.
So, logically, high stress equals high cortisol, which leads to abdominal fat or a “stress belly.”
Another way that stress may increase belly fat is through habits that result from high stress.
Our body’s natural response to stress is to eat high fat, high sugar and high carb density foods.
This increase in the consumption of unhealthy foods can also lead to stress belly.
Lifestyle and other behaviors can also lead to stress belly. Smoking and alcohol consumption greatly increases our risk of developing stress belly.
Additionally, people with a sedentary lifestyle are also at an increased risk of excess abdominal fat.
And, with work, stress and other responsibilities, it can be difficult for many people to make time to exercise.
Lastly, age may be an additional factor in the development of stress belly.
Postmenopausal women are more likely to store weight in the hips and belly.
Contrastingly, men almost always store additional weight in the abdomen.
Aging can cause a decline in mobility and lead to weight gain.
All of these factors put an individual at an increased risk of excess abdominal weight.
What are the different types of belly fat?
Stress belly is not the only thing that can cause excess abdominal fat.
In fact, there are five different types of bellies with five different causes.
While these are common types, there are other causes of excess abdominal fat as well.
This type of belly is not caused by excess fat, but rather, by excess gas and fluid.
People with this type of belly often notice that their belly is relatively flat at the beginning of the day, but becomes distended over time.
It’s usually caused by inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy, but it can have other causes as well.
If you suffer from constant bloat, be sure to see your physician.
This type of fat is caused by consistently high consumption of alcohol, and it is a very firm type of fat.
It’s usually stored high up in the abdomen and feels rigid when palpated.
Usually caused by hormonal imbalances, this belly fat tends to collect in the lower abdomen.
Women with PCOS or insulin resistance are particularly prone to getting this type of belly.
Another cause of this type of belly is a sedentary lifestyle, which also affects the hormone levels.
During pregnancy, a woman’s belly must stretch to accommodate a fetus. After birth, fat stores and loose skin may still be present.
This type of fat is generally subcutaneous and is not harmful. It may even just be the leftover excess skin causing the belly.
Either way, high-intensity workouts under a doctor’s supervision should help with this type of belly.
This is the type of belly we’ve been discussing thus far.
This belly is caused by an increase in cortisol levels, which results in visceral fat being stored around the abdomen.
Stress belly can be dangerous due to the increased stress on internal organs and should not be taken lightly.
Belly Fat Health Risks
So, now you know the types of bellies and what causes them. But what are the health risks?
Unfortunately, there are a lot. Excess fat around the abdomen can cause many potentially deadly health problems.
Any excess belly fat requires immediate intervention for the benefit of the individual.
But what qualifies as too much abdominal fat? Generally speaking, numbers can say it all.
If you are a woman, a waistline above 35 inches puts you at risk. As a man, a waistline of above 40 inches puts you at risk.
If you don’t know what your waistline measurement is, it’s easy to work out; simply grab a measuring tape and wrap it around your midsection.
The correct placement is a couple of inches above the hip bones.
If you have excess fat, here are some of the associated risks.
Increased risk of coronary heart disease
One study of overweight nurses showed a significant increase in the risk of heart disease.
In fact, every additional two inches on the waist showed an increase of 10% in the likelihood of heart disease.
Type 2 diabetes
Excess abdominal fat leads to insulin resistance and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes comes with its own health risks such as kidney disease and neuropathy.
Studies have found links between abdominal fat and dementia.
Excess abdominal fat is now known to increase the risk of colorectal, breast and other cancers.
Having a large waist can almost double a person’s chances of dying prematurely.
These are just a few things that can happen de to excess abdominal fat.
Other symptoms include depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
To understand the full scope of problems with abdominal fat, reaching out to your doctor can help you understand the cause of your belly fat and what you can do to start making changes.
What foods cause belly fat?
Whether you are suffering from a stress belly or another form of belly fat, food is probably contributing to this.
This will obviously not be a complete list of all the foods that cause belly fat.
These are some common contributors of belly fat:
Soda and other sugary drinks
Never drink your calories. Soda, juices and sports drinks are chock full of sugar and calories!
They are easy to consume in large amounts and are a huge risk factor for developing excess abdominal fat.
Fast food and fried foods
Everyone loves fried foods, but unfortunately, they aren’t good for you.
These foods are typically high in sodium and trans fats, which rests in your abdominal area.
Whole milk, 2% milk and cheese
Let me just reiterate, you should never drink your calories.
While it’s true that whole milk and 2% milk are full of nutrients, they are also full of calories.
So, try to choose skimmed, almond or other non-dairy milks to decrease your caloric intake.
Cheese is also easy to overuse. Use minimal amounts or none at all.
Most chips contain massive amounts of trans fat which can lead to obesity.
Additionally, chips are easy to eat mindlessly which can lead to overindulgence.
Flour, rice and pasta can be easy avenues for simple carbohydrates in your diet.
Simply switching to whole grain versions of these foods can decrease your waistline.
One more time, now: don’t drink your calories! And of all of the different drinks, alcohol is perhaps the worst.
It is full of sugar and calories. As such, high consumption is a massive factor in excess abdominal fat.
While salt on its own doesn’t add belly fat, it does cause water retention.
This water retention can make you feel bloated and swollen.
So, avoiding foods with large amounts of salt will go a long way towards your weight loss goals.
What foods decrease belly fat?
Clearly, then, there are lots of things that cause belly fat. So, what about the things that make it go away?
The good news is, there are lots of foods that can help you on your weight loss journey.
One of the best things you can do to aid your stress belly loss, or any belly loss, is increase your protein intake.Protein reduces cravings and helps build lean muscle. Eggs, legumes and meats are good sources of protein.
High fiber foods
Fiber helps you feel full longer and increases your metabolism. Eating foods that are high in fiber will increase your health and decrease your weight, while lowering your cravings.
The best foods to get fiber from include vegetables and fruits. Other good sources of fiber are legumes and some forms of oats.
Drinking water is like a shower for your body. It can help improve your metabolism and also helps you feel full.
Staying hydrated will benefit your exercise routine as well. Hydration helps you work harder and longer during workouts.
Other Ways to Treat Stress Belly?
Sometimes, it’s just too difficult to treat stress belly on your own.
You may need a little guidance. Luckily, there are a couple of options out there to help you change your habits and crush your goals.
Never feel discouraged from seeking help through a third party.
After all, most people are unable to figure out all the things they need to know about weight loss by themselves.
If you don’t want to go to the gym, but still want that level of professionalism, then online books from personal trainers are a great option. Oftentimes, they can give you information that you didn’t know before.
Some also have hacks that can help you lose weight more easily. Either way, this is a great option for that additional push of help.
If you are trying your best, but keep failing over and over, you may need help from a mental health professional as well.
Sometimes, the root of weight gain problems are psychological and not physical. When this is the case, getting down to the cause can literally change your life.
A good place to start to evaluate yourself is with online therapy.
Online therapy for stress help can decrease your stress levels and help you understand the reasons behind your weight gain.
Give it a try and see if it helps. Best of all, you can do this without leaving the comfort of your own home.
Whether it’s stress belly, alcohol belly or any other type of belly, these conditions can be detrimental to your health.
Excess abdominal weight can lead to many health problems, so it must be addressed immediately.
A good place to start is with diet and exercise, but this is understandably difficult for many people.
>>Take control of your health today and revel in the person you can become.<<