Need to know how to get rid of a stress belly? Here you’ll discover what causes a stress belly and what really works for getting rid of it. Most people wrongly assume that just losing more weight is going to lose their stress belly fat but it doesn’t work like this.
Constant stress can wreak havoc on your body and fat-burning metabolism. So much so it can make it nearly impossible to lose your stomach fat. It’s no secret getting rid of stubborn belly fat can be one of the most troublesome spots on the body. And one of the major reasons for this is stress.
Many people with a stressed-out belly might not have ever stored fat there before. Women with a natural pear-shaped body can find stomach fat building up there after having high-stress levels. This can make it confusing how to approach getting rid of the stress belly. You’d think just more to lose weight would be the answer but it rarely is.
If you’re worried and self-conscious that your gut sticks out like you’re pregnant then this is for you. Once you start doing the best ways to get rid of your abdominal fat then you can quickly start to get that flat stomach even if you’ve never had one before.
A potbelly from stress can be frustratingly hard to lose. But once you’re able to correct your out-of-whack hormones and stress levels then you can start getting her results you want.
What Causes a Stressed-Out Belly?
Even though stress plays a major role in the buildup of stubborn belly fat that doesn’t mean it’s everything. Your diet and exercise (or lack thereof) usually have the biggest impact on the size of your lower stomach fat. Then genetics is also a factor as many people have a natural pear-shaped body. Those with an apple-shaped body tend to have worse heart health (1).
As you age your muscle mass decreases causing your body fat to increase (2). Having a higher body fat will cause you to quickly store excess fat in places your genetics predisposed to (3). Since many people tend to gain weight as they age this will also contribute to increases in abdominal fat (4).
Is belly fat caused by stress?
But with that said your stress also can have a hidden role in the build-up of stomach fat. Constant stress releases the fight or flight response hormone called cortisol (5). Cortisol is a well-known stress hormone that your body releases when you feel threatened (6).
With this cortisol pumping through your body you’ll be better adapted to escape an emergency or fight off a threat. Now it’s fine if cortisol is going through your body once in a while but when it’s constant then it becomes a problem. Cortisol can signal for your body to start storing fat in your abdominal area even if you’re skinny (7).
Quite a few studies are finding those who are chronically stressed out have higher amounts of visceral stomach fat (8,9). Those with the highest amount of cortisol in their body have the most stomach fat. 3 million people are affected by Cushing’s Syndrome every year. This is a disorder where your body makes too much cortisol over long periods (9). People with Cushing’s Syndrome tend to gain weight around their midsection (10). But once this cortisol was removed their stomach fat went down (11).
Another problem that arises from having stomach fat is it causes an increase in cortisol (12). Having visceral fat creates an unhealthy cycle of constant cortisol that especially affects women.
Reducing Stressed Belly Fat
It’s clear that it’s a bad thing to have chronically elevated cortisol. Even professional athletes and fitness models can develop a stress belly if they have elevated cortisol all the time. Those who suffer from anxiety and depression generally have higher amounts of cortisol (13). If you suffer from either of these mental health disorders it may be a good idea to seek professional help.
But there are some simple proven strategies you can use to lower your stress, anxiety, and depression. Eating healthier foods plays a big role in the health of your brain (14). Constantly eating bad foods wreaks havoc on your mental biochemistry promoting anxiety and depression (15). Cut out the junk like processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, refined carbs, excess alcohol, and bad vegetable oils.
Working out and exercising has been proven again and again to improve mood (16). Exercise and other physical activity done daily is a smart way to lower your stress, anxiety and depression. It might be a better idea to stay away from intense exercise since it can temporarily boost cortisol (17). Also, be sure you’re not overtraining as this can lead to more cortisol in your body (18).
Having excess cortisol in your body can promote belly-bloating too (19). This water weight will make your stress belly appear bigger than it really is. And it can hide the results you’re getting which can lead to frustration from lack of progress. Those who drastically cut their calories and restrict eating tend to have higher cortisol as well (20).
I know it’s easier said than done but staying away from stressful situations is key. It’s not always practical but it can go a long way to lowering your stress and stubborn stomach fat.
Hormones That Cause Belly Fat
Having a stressed out hormonal belly can seem super complicated. It’s not going to be as simple as counting your calories and exercising more. Your hormones play a vital role in your metabolism and how much weight you’re able to lose (21). If your hormones are out of control then you could be doing everything else right but not getting the results you want.
I’ve seen bodybuilders and professional athletes who were unable to get rid of the last of their stomach fat because of hormonal issues. They worked out for hours every day and ate super healthy but their stubborn stress belly refused to go away.
Here are the hormones you should be aware of that can cause abdominal fat…
Leptin is known as the “anti-starvation hormone” and it’s probably the hormone that plays the biggest role in fat loss (22). It’s released from your fat cells that signal for your brain to start burning or store more fat. In general, the more leptin you have then the faster you’re going to lose fat (23). And since leptin is produced in your fat cells those who are overweight tend to have more of it.
But another problem with having high cortisol levels is it produces leptin resistance (24,25). This keeps leptin from doing its job at signaling for your body to burn more fat. And if you’re severely cutting calories then your body will release less leptin (26). This is a survival mechanism that keeps you from losing more weight to keep you alive until you can eat food again.
So I wouldn’t severely cut your calories if you’re suffering from elevated cortisol and stress. It could very well only make things worse. This is one of the reasons why some don’t end up losing weight despite only eating a few hundred calories a day. Modest calorie restriction is a smarter approach that won’t cause your leptin levels to dip too low.
When you’re stressed out all the time your body releases the hormone ghrelin in response (27). Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” and it’s what signals for your brain to want to eat when you’re hungry (28). So whenever you feel hungry you can thank your stomach for sending ghrelin up to your brain.
The problem with constant stress is that it can signal ghrelin to be released more than you want (29). There’s such a big correlation between ghrelin and stress that you can use it as a biomarker to determine how stressed out you are (30). So you can see that if you’re stressed you’re going to want to eat more.
Lowering your stress can rebalance your ghrelin levels so you’re not hungry all the time (31). This will clearly impact how much weight you’re able to lose.
With chronic stress and high cortisol levels, your body will have higher blood sugar levels (32). When your blood sugar is high you’ll release insulin from your pancreas. Then your blood glucose dips triggering even more appetite and cravings (33). Chronic stress puts your body through this roller coaster of hormonal responses. These high insulin levels can eventually lead to insulin resistance long term (34).
You’ll start to crave high carbohydrate and sugary foods when you’re going through these constant releases of blood sugar and insulin all day. This can cause you to make poor food choices resulting in additional belly fat and weight gain.
Insulin essentially signals for your body to increase weight and fat (35). The better you’re able to prevent this insulin resistance the better you’re going to be and getting rid of the stress belly. Cutting out bad carbs and sugars from your diet will make a big improvement towards getting rid of your stress belly (36). Going on a low carb diet is the best way to lower your insulin levels long term. Check out my Keto Elevate review for high quality ketones to enhance the weight loss process.
Sleep, Meditation & CBD
If you have trouble feeling stressed out all the time then there are a few methods you can use to alleviate it. Lowering your stress is easier said than done but just trying will go a long way towards helping.
Meditation can sound woo-woo to a lot of people but I like to think of it as working out for your brain. Meditation has been proven to combat stress levels and the metabolic syndrome associated with it (37). One study found those who are the most mindful had significantly less stomach fat (38). Breathing techniques can also lower your stress hormones levels (39). When you start practicing mindful meditation your cortisol levels will also go down along with your stomach fat.
Improving your sleep quality is another big factor in lowering your stress (40). We all know what it’s like to not get a good night’s sleep. You’re cranky, tired, and irritable the next day. This leads to higher cortisol levels and less self-control (41). Getting a good night’s sleep should be just as important as eating healthy and working out.
If you have trouble sleeping or de-stressing then try taking some high-quality CBD oil like the one in my TrustBo review. CBD has been found to significantly lower cortisol levels (42,43). Researchers believe CBD can reduce the amount of cortisol released by your body due to stress. Studies have also found CBD oil to be effective in improving how fast you’re able to fall asleep (44).
How do I get rid of my stress belly?
Getting rid of your stress belly is as simple as lowering your stress levels. Once you start getting your stress levels right then you’ll be able to better rebalance your hormones. Out of whack hormones are the result of chronic stress. Hormones play a vital role in your metabolism and directly impact your amount of abdominal flab. Eating healthy foods, working out, sleeping better and mindfulness are all proven strategies to lower stress to lose the stress belly.
The Last Word
Lowering the amount of stress in your life is hardly easy. Sometimes it’s as simple as avoiding people and situations that stress you out. Work stress can affect your autonomic nervous system more than you think. Your stress response can lead to high blood pressure, increased respiratory rate, and even stomach cramps.
More and more people are affected by mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. These mental health disorders directly impact your stress and can contribute to belly fat. If you’re having a hard time with your mental health then reach out to a professional. Seeking professional help when in need can be the answer you’re looking for in reducing your overall stress.
The problem with a stress belly is you can never get rid of it despite how much exercise and dieting you do. This can lead to even more frustration and stress from the lack of seeing any results. Your hormones have a bigger impact on your weight loss, metabolism, and abdominal fat than people think. But once you’re able to lower your stress you’ll be on your way to rebalancing your hormones and finally getting rid of that stress belly.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.