Stress and How It's Affecting Your Weight

Aug 27, 2013

Written by: Norrison Morgan, Personal Trainer, O2 Fitness Wake Forest


It's a commonly overlooked factor when trying to lose weight.  As a personal trainer, I've seen it happen countless times.  A client can be on a perfect exercise and diet program, follow it flawlessly and still not make much progress. I’m sure that all trainers will agree that this is something that will have you pulling your hair out.Businessman stressed out at work in casual office

Stress is the culprit!

Well, a majority of the time.

Here's why:

When a person is stressed, it causes the body to release the hormone cortisol (the fight or flight hormone). Cortisol negatively effects fat loss by increasing inflammation throughout the body.

Your body has different types of fat that reacts differently. For example, the fat that you can grab below your skin is called subcutaneous fat.  There is also another type of fat lying deeper within your body that surrounds your organs that’s called visceral fat. If you’ve ever seen someone with a beer belly then you’ve seen someone with a lot of visceral fat. Your body will preferentially store more visceral fat when under stress.

Visceral fat is considered more dangerous than subcutaneous fat for two reasons:

  1. Visceral fat releases the same inflammatory signals cortisol does.
  2. Since it surrounds your organs, you increase your chances of organ damage.

Therefore, stress signals increase your likelihood of storing more visceral fat (unhealthy belly fat), while having more visceral fat increases the release of inflammatory signals. This causes a cycle of inflammation and increased visceral fat storage.

Stress is outside pressures and problems that can invade our lives, such as deadlines, excessive workloads, traffic, and problems at home.

Stress is more inside our minds, in how we react to situations in our life and not just the situation itself.

What I recommend to my clients:

  • Transcendental meditation
  • Zen and yoga
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Hypnosis with suggested deep relaxation

Most of my clients that apply these techniques, along with exercise and a good diet, have had major breakthroughs in losing that stubborn belly fat.

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