Stress can be a real hindrance to any weight loss plan or when you are trying to lose stomach fat but stress is very common – especially with mums!
Do you often find yourself reaching for a tub of ice cream after a long, stressful day? Find yourself finishing off the children’s leftovers when cleaning up after their dinner?
Many of us reach for our favourite foods when we are feeling stressed (me included) but why is it always the fatty, high-calorie foods that we reach for? This reliance on fatty foods when we are stressed is caused by cortisol, a hormone that affects your body every single day.
The cortisol hormone is released when your body is put under mental, emotional or physical stress. Although the presence of cortisol in the body is often thought of as being negative, cortisol is actually a completely natural hormone and can be very beneficial in terms of stress-busting.
Cortisol becomes a negative problem when there is too much cortisol in the body. If you are highly stressed throughout the day or if you have repeated stressful encounters during the day, cortisol will be released repeatedly, causing a build-up of it in your body.
Having too much cortisol in your body can cause issues with weight gain, stomach fat and a reliance on carbohydrates and other fatty foods. Excess stress, and therefore excess cortisol, can increase carbohydrate cravings due to two neurotransmitters in the brain, serotonin and neuropeptite Y (NPY).
NPY not only increases your cravings of carbohydrates, but it can also increase the proportion of energy stored as fat and block signals within the brain, effectively causing your brain to continuously crave the wrong types of foods.
However, with reduced stress levels and therefore reduced cortisol levels, your cravings for the wrong sorts of foods will lessen, meaning that you’ll reach for the tub of ice cream less and less.
High levels of cortisol within the body can also effect where and how you store fat – in particular, it can cause your body to direct fat storage to your abdominal area and lead to stomach fat. That’s why a person who is lean, but who is regularly stressed out, may have a ‘tyre’ around their stomach caused by high levels of cortisol that they just cannot shift.
Therefore, decreasing your stress levels will not only reduce cravings for bad foods, but will also help you to shift that stubborn belly fat and if you need some extra help try our Healthy Mummy Smoothies or 28 Day Diet & Exercise Plan.
Try to reduce your stress levels by learning some meditation or breathing techniques. These techniques will enable you to think more clearly during stressful encounters, enabling you to deal with your stress more easily. If you are unable to deal with your stress, speak to your doctor for help. Also try our yoga exercises which are perfect to combat stress and can be done with your baby.
There are many things that can be done to reduce stress levels, but the first step is to recognise when stress is becoming a problem. This will vary from person to person, but all of us can benefit from taking time out to do some stress-busting in a healthy way. Although people often say drinking alcohol, smoking or overeating is the way to deal with stress, there are many better methods.
- Exercise. There is a link between physical activity and a reduction in stress. The type of exercise is unimportant, as long as it involves exertion. Swimming, walking and running are all great forms of exercise for people who are stressed.
- Reading. Taking time out from the daily grind to relax with a novel has been shown to reduce stress levels by two thirds. Try to choose a time to read where you are unlikely to be interrupted.
- Bath. Although not to everyone’s taste, a long soak in the bathtub with some pampering products can help the brain switch off and relax completely. The key to a successful bath is ensuring uninterrupted use of the bathroom.
- Deep breathing. A quick-fix stress busting technique which can be done at the office desk is to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in and out, focusing only on the breathing. This technique is used to treat anxiety and can help calm you instantly.
- Laughter. Watching a comedy movie or a DVD featuring your favourite comedian which makes you laugh is one of the best ways to reduce stress levels. Laughter is truly the best medicine and the ideal way to unwind with friends.
- Massage. Treating yourself to a massage using aromatherapy oils will give time to relax as well as to switch off totally from the pressures of everyday life. Oils such as lavender have been proven to relax someone who is stressed, and other good oils to use include cedarwood, lemongrass and sandalwood.
Anything else you can do?
Tummy fat could be caused by imbalanced gut bacteria, so to banish a wobbly tummy, look after your gut by including daily probiotics in your diet. You might also want to cut out refined sugar, as this can cause bloating and feed the bacteria in your gut. Generally, junk food, sweets, alcohol, salt and caffeine can also cause bloating as they place stress on your digestive system, so they are best avoided or saved for special occasions.
Luckily, certain foods can improve the levels of cortisol in your body – which in turn can help to flatten your stomach. Include plenty of lean protein such as chicken, game or fish in your diet, along with green vegetables, olives, beets, root vegetables, avocadoes and sweet potatoes. Taking a Healthy Mummy fish oil supplement in order to slow the absorption of sugar through your gut – which can prevent bloating is also a great idea – which is why we include fish oils on our weight loss plans.
And to see more on stomach fat and how you can beat it click here
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