Causes Of Stress Belly! A Comprehensive Overview

People sometimes struggle to deal with the stubborn fat around their belly region! While most believe it to be an after-effect of diet, research suggests that prolonged stress can also be the reason. Stress affects your physical and mental health. This leads to gaining a little extra weight around the abdominal area, also called stress belly or belly fat.

A Detailed Look Into Stress Belly

78% of people in America are exposed to stress once a week. And 15% report they are stressed daily. Thus leading to that unwanted gain in the tummy area, i.e., stress belly. Even if you are abiding by the rules and following a strict diet besides maintaining a thorough exercise routine, chronic stress can still prevent you from getting rid of the weight around your belly region.

stress belly

Remember, a ‘stress belly’ is not a medical diagnosis! It’s a general term that describes how stress hormones affect your body’s mid-section, adding more fat to the belly region. People realize they are dealing with a stress belly after struggling hard to lose weight. Despite following the most efficient weight loss guide, people won’t notice much difference in their belly region. That is because they are not doing enough to treat hormonal imbalances that their body is undergoing due to stress.

The Fight Or Flight Response

Cortisol is an efficient hormone produced by the adrenal glands in your body. This helps monitor one’s metabolism and blood sugar levels.

Moreover, cortisol is also a part of the body’s “fight or flight” response, alongside another hormone, adrenaline. When facing a crisis, the body under stress responds by slowing down unnecessary functions and instead focuses on essential activities. You will automatically feel less hungry, shutting down other processes – tissue repair and reproduction – that are not essential for survival. Once the threat period is over, the body starts functioning normally. That is a good thing, right?

stress belly

However, a prolonged period of stress can keep the stress hormone levels elevated, besides your blood pressure, which is not good. As per a study, high long-term cortisol levels in your body are directly related to abdominal obesity! On occasions when stress levels are high for a prolonged time period – producing cortisol above the required levels, your body starts to undergo dangerous and unhealthy changes.

The belly fat now acts like an endocrine organ – directly sending hormones into the circulatory system. These hormones, in return, increase the inflammatory compounds within the body, compromising your health, damaging cells, and increasing the risk of diabetes or heart disease.

5 Ways How Stress Causes Belly Fat?

You can monitor stubborn belly fat. But for positive results, it is important to understand the loopholes in the system. Here are 5 ways how stress leads to an increase in belly fat:

Non Stop Eating

People under stress tend to consume more food! An excess cortisol level in the body makes one feel more hungry than usual. Thus, one ends up eating more. On a low-stress day, the cortisol levels are at regular flow. However, life tends to change in a highly stressful situation. Under constant stress, cortisol levels are always at their peak, increasing the urge to consume more.

Unable To Choose Nutrient Rich Diet

When the cortisol levels are high in one’s body, the cravings for pleasurable foods tend to increase. That is because the part of your brain that helps you focus on the goals is compromised. Even if you are trying to eat high-quality vegetables and proteins, but instead you will always find the ultimate peace in baked items or highly processed foods. The body understands that high-carb foods can reduce cortisol levels by releasing insulin. In the long run, high-carb foods break into blood sugars, releasing insulin. Insulin reduces stress by counteracting the cortisol levels. With the release of excess cortisol and insulin, the body creates (LPL) lipoprotein lipase – a fat-storing enzyme. The more the enzyme, the more belly fat will get stored.

Insulin Resistance Or Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is one of the most dangerous side effects of belly fat. This is a complicated situation and hard to detect, as the inflammation occurs inside the body. Lipoprotein (VLDL) is released at very low density when cortisol and insulin levels are high. This is a fatty acid released by the fat cells. VLDL gets stored in the abdominal area as fat. However, it damages other tissues within the person’s body while traveling. The belly fat continues to be metabolically active and releases adipokines, while the VLDL travels through the body and causes damage. This increases the risk of stroke and heart disease in the long run.

stress belly


Another problematic cycle people tend to enter when stressed is – the inability to fall asleep! The Cortisol levels in your body directly affect the sleep percentage. If you cannot sleep, the body faces issues releasing growth hormones! After multiple occasions of insufficient sleep, the body loses its insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance the next day. The lack of sleep affects the mind, making a person make wrong choices in terms of food and thus gaining weight.

Lowered Metabolic Rate

Your hormones undergo a lot of alterations when you are stressed! Mostly, high cortisol levels end up affecting the body’s estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormones. Thus altering the metabolic rate and decreasing the calories your body burns daily. Belly fats are hard to lose as these are different from the subcutaneous fat. You need to follow interval training and high-intensity activities to eliminate the same.

So that is all about the causes of stress belly! If you seem to suffer from the same or know someone else, address the underlying issues and mitigate the situation thoroughly. Remember, a healthy mind and body are the key ingredients of a good life.

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