A recent University of California San Francisco study revealed stress levels go hand-in-hand with deep abdominal fat. Personally, I think this is a really big deal and important for anyone who often feels “stressed” to think about. The nine-week study included overweight women who participated in weekly stress management and healthy eating meetings. None of them were on any sort of calorie restrictive diet, but did become more mindful of what they ate as a result of the meetings. By the end of the study, the stress management participants showed a significant reduction in deep abdominal fat – which is strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Think about that…people lost belly fat, essentially, but thinking about what they ate and learning how to handle stress better.
What can you do to lose belly fat right now?
As mentioned above, stress is a huge culprit of belly fat. Just about anything can trigger stress. It’s a lot easier to tell someone to control stress than it is to actually do it. All sorts of triggers in our life cause stress. Often times, those triggers push us straight into the kitchen, reaching for something to eat.
I’ll get to the three tips you can implement right now to lose belly fat, but take a moment to answer a few questions:
- Do you eat when you’re not hungry, especially after dinner?
- Do you reach for comfort food when dealing with certain types of stress (after an argument, dealing with finances, etc.)?
- Do you eat shortly after eating breakfast (within 90 minutes)?
- Do you eat shortly after lunch, or feel like you need to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon? (both related)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could be eating foods that either trigger stress, or throw off the hormones that increase stress and make you hungrier. Regardless, belly fat – also known as visceral fat – is a big deal and can have a negative impact in your health. If you need to lose belly fat, but try to eat healthy – understanding how stress might be affecting you could make all the difference.
Believe it or not, so many of the foods we eat can actually increase chronic stress. It’s true. Just because something doesn’t have calories, or because it’s low in fat doesn’t mean it can’t wreak havoc on your body by increasing overall body fat.
You might like this: 7 Foods Apple-Shaped People Should Eat to Lose Belly Fat
Here are three tips to lose stress-related belly fat:
1) Cut out Caffeine:
While you may not notice it, your daily morning Joe shoots up your cortisol level (stress hormone) before you’ve even walked out the door. I’ve had numerous clients cut out caffeine and lose weight. If you think you can’t survive without caffeine, you can. In fact, if you’re a regular to caffeine (no matter how much), your body could very well have adapted to the caffeine kick. Slowly cutting back over the course of a week will reduce the chance of getting a caffeine headache. If you’re serious about losing belly fat, give this tip a shot of six weeks. The one caveat to this tip is green tea. Green tea contains caffeine, but very little in comparison to coffee. The health benefits too good to pass up!
Some people may disagree with me. After all, paleo, keto and even AIP (auto immune protocol) programs give caffeine, coffee in particular, the green light. I’ve worked with clients who have followed all of these diets. Some of them do just fine with caffeine. Several however, do much better without it. Almost immediately, they’re in a calmer place, able to handle stress better. After a couple weeks, they begin to notice a difference in their body.
In my experience, my clients are addicted to coffee, diet soda or iced tea – in that order – when it comes to caffeine. If you’re loving your morning coffee, and can’t get through lunch without a diet soda, consider switching over to matcha tea. Matcha has much less caffeine and if full of l-theanine, an amino acid that’s naturally occurring in green tea, but significantly in matcha green tea. L-theanine is widely touted for promoting a calm sense of alertness. The optimal word is calm! What you eat and drink shouldn’t stress you out.
Bottom line: we all process what we eat and what we drink differently. Each of our body has a specific harmony that’s in tune with us. Just because someone at your gym or in your family can drink a cup (or 3) of coffee with no ill consequence doesn’t mean you can. Listen to your body.
Speaking which, let’s listen to what sugar can do to our body and belly fat.
2) Swap Sugar:
I know it’s hard to cut back on cookies, candies and other great desserts over the holidays, but be conscious of what you’re putting into your mouth. Refined, sugar-laden foods are often the trigger of stress. Despite that fact that sugar is fat free, refined food products often get stored as fat. It’s just the way our body works.
If you’re stressed and want to reach for something to eat, consider swapping your sugary go-to for something healthier, that could actually help relax your body, or even provide you with nutrition you could be lacking. Here are a few ways to swap sugar for something better for your body (and belly):
- Eat this: dark chocolate, 2 squares. Not this: a regular chocolate bar or chocolate candy
- Bake this: Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies Not this: regular chocolate chip (homemade or store bought) cookies
- Eat this: plain full fat yogurt with cinnamon + berries Not this: Low fat or fat free sugar-laden yogurt
- Eat this: Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas Not this: Chips
- Drink this: matcha green tea Not this: Coffee
- Drink this: sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice Not this: regular or diet soda
If you haven’t checked it out, my book, The Belly Burn Plan: Six Weeks to a Lean, Fit & Healthy Body">The Belly Burn Plan can:
- get you off sugar – especially refined sugar
- definitely move off belly fat – especially harmful visceral fat
- quite possibly help you feel better than you’ve ever felt.
All by eating real food – not fake “diet” food. Please check it out if you struggle with belly fat. I make it as simple as possible, but it’s always an education learning how to undo so much of the misinformation we’ve all heard about diets.
Here is something you might like. If you eat gluten free or wonder if it’s worth it – here’s everything you need to know.
3) Stop Eating 3 Hours Before Bed:
If you’re eating too close to bed, you’re leaving food in your gut at a time when your metabolism naturally slows down. What’s more, food digestion requires some level of insulin. In this case, think of insulin as a fat-storage hormone. When we got to sleep, our body’s are supposed to go through five sleep cycles. In each of these sleep cycles, our bodies should release large amounts of something called Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Unfortunately, insulin trumps HGH in the fight for the greater hormone. That means that we don’t get the benefit of HGH, including muscle growth, metabolic repair, rest and recovery.
In other words, when you eat before bedtime, you turn on your body’s fat storage hormone. No one wants this!
If you do need to eat just before bed, make sure what you eat is more of a snack size, richer in protein and lower in sugar.
Thanks for visiting. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to stay up to date on my Belly Burning recipes, workouts, fitness tips and much more. If you want a great plan that’s going to help you reach your goals of eating healthy, losing belly fat and getting fit, check out my book, The Belly Burn Plan.
Jennifer Daubenmier, Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, Nicole Maninger, Margaret Kuwata, Kinnari Jhaveri, Robert H. Lustig, Margaret Kemeny, Lori Karan, Elissa Epel.Mindfulness Intervention for Stress Eating to Reduce Cortisol and Abdominal Fat among Overweight and Obese Women: An Exploratory Randomized Controlled Study. Journal of Obesity, 2011; 2011: 1 DOI:10.1155/2011/651936