Why You’re Literally ‘Stomaching’ Your Stress


Does it seem like regardless of how many hours you spend on the treadmill or how much broccoli you eat, there’s always that wee bit of stomach flab you can’t seem to dispose of? Maybe this whole time you’ve blamed it on a crappy genetic hand– but the truth is, that fat distribution along your midsection could actually be a product of stress.

One major stress hormone is called cortisol, which is all about the “fight or flight” response. Since both of these responses need tons of energy to work, perhaps it’s no surprise that cortisol is also relied upon for raising our appetite on certain occasions: we need a storage of energy in case we do find ourselves fighting or fleeing, so we often end up craving sugar or fat (especially when we’re stressed), both of which are extremely rich in energy provision.

Unfortunately, those bits of yummy chocolate only help to replenish your fat cells, as cortisol is quite specific in regards to where it places fat on your body. Typically, cortisol deposits more fat deep inside our midsection; this kind of fat is known as visceral fat, which is quite different from the subcutaneous fat that’s layered just beneath our skin and is critical for the proper stress response. Visceral fat sits nearer to the liver, making it more available to be quickly transformed into glucose before being released into the bloodstream, thereby offering plenty of necessary energy during times of fight or flight.

Essentially, when we’re stressed, we want to eat more– especially more high-fat, high-sugar foods, which then get stored along our waistline.

Fortunately, finding ways to achieve quick bursts of exercise similar to the fight or flight response can shed those stubborn pounds of belly fat once and for all, as high-intensity interval workouts can help you fight many of the adverse effects caused by stress.

Cortisol is used to help power us through those short bursts of intense physical exertion, and so engaging in such “fight or flight” mechanisms allows us to burn more body fat than we do during times of long, slow workouts. Study analysts have even come to the conclusion that high-intensity exercises produce a nine-times greater reduction of body fat than endurance training alone.

Furthermore, it also noticeably improves muscle oxidative ability, which has been linked to greater levels of fat-burning within the body. A study even realized that high-intensity interval workouts improve fat use by a whopping 36 percent! In fact, not only does it raise fat burning during exercise– but for many hours, or even days, afterward!

Always remember to consult your physician or chiropractor before taking any health advice.

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