And why your body stores fat on the waist…..

The main reason that some people store more fat around their middle than others is very specifically because of the stress hormone cortisol and its actions.

Our bodies were designed to react quickly to danger, to be on constant alert to fight or run if threatened.  This ‘fight or flight’ response is crucial for survival for both animals and humans.  At this moment when your brain thinks that your life is under threat it releases a substance called corticotrophin-releasing-hormone, this stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

And the fight or flight response provides the body with everything it needs to cope with dangerous situation, very clever and very efficient.  And then once the threat has gone the glands stop producing the hormones and the body returns to normal.

The problem is that in modern times many of us live under chronic (constant) stress which comes from traffic jams, debt, family disputes, deadlines or children having tantrums rather than the spear wielding attackers or sabre toothed tigers.  Unfortunately the body can’t distinguish between these missed appointments, late trains, family disputes and managing money and the true life-threatening stress (attackers and tigers) it was originally designed to challenge.  It reacts in exactly the same way as it has always done in ‘fight or flight’.

Stress today is almost continuous but has no natural release that either fighting or fleeing may provide and reactions that used to last for 5 – 10 minutes  now continue for hours on end.

The two hormones adrenaline and cortisol work in this way.  Adrenaline helps to get you alert and focused and the cortisol increases levels of fat and sugar in the bloodstream for energy.  BUT unless you do something physical (as your body expects) all that extra energy (the fat and sugar in the bloodstream) isn’t used and has nowhere to go and so must be re-deposited as fat.

After the stress has disappeared the adrenaline levels quickly return to normal and the body is restored to a state of calm.  The problem lies because the cortisol level remains higher for a while, this can be a few days, and it increases your appetite thinking that the body needs to refuel after the ‘fight or flight’ response.  This increased appetite is great if you have been fighting or running for your life as you will definitely need to refuel BUT if your stressful situation has been at a desk fielding phone calls the constant refuelling is inappropriate.  This is why people under constant stress quite often feel hungry all the time and even worse the body thinks that carbohydrates and fats are the best sources of fuel and when you give in to this it will result in weight gain.

The body is so efficient and takes on the new fuel and stores it close to where it will be needed for the next stressful situation, around the middle where it can be quickly converted back to energy if needed.

So if you are stressing about your belly, your belly maybe stressing you………….

If you really really want to make a change then you will have to take some course of action;

  1. Change your diet so that you always chose good healthy foods
  2. Learn to manage stress better and remove some stress from your life
  3. Take up some regular exercise that challenges the body in new ways
  4. Or even better a combination of all three above