Belly fat is undesirable and unwanted. It does not only make you look fat but it also lends a negative and poor self-image to one. And not to forget, it is also an indicator of an unhealthy body fuelled by chronic stress leading to rise in cortisol levels. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and is a major reason for weight gain and accumulation of fat on the belly.
When stress levels remain high, they produce cortisol for long periods of time leading to unhealthy and dangerous changes to occur within your body. “Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands located above both kidneys. High stress and anxiety, a lack of sleep, poor dietary habits, and an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to elevated cortisol levels in the body. This causes the underutilization of glucose, which takes the form of belly fat,” says Aman Puri, Founder and Nutritionist, Steadfast Nutrition.
However, you can control unwanted belly fat by taking steps to reduce stress. Here are some ways in which you can manage your stress
Use the -ing formula
The -ing formula refers to finding some me-time and unwinding and doing things that make you feel peaceful and content, even if it is only for a few minutes.
While most of us have forgotten the delightful feeling of pausing and breathing in this fast-paced world, breathing exercises remain the most effective and efficient way to manage stress. “It helps in reversing your stress response by lowering the detrimental consequences of stress on your physical, physiological and emotional health,” says Lavleen Kaur, Head Dietitian & Founder, Diet Insight, nutrition and wellness clinic.
Daily exercise helps you reduce visceral fat. It is fine to skip a day every now and then but try to move more throughout the day. Workouts of 45-60 minutes are ideal, try moderate-intensity exercise and strength training Once you have mastered stress management, you may use interval training and extensive form of workouts each week to help you lose belly fat. “In addition to planned workouts, it is critical that you maintain an active lifestyle. Do not sit for long stretches without getting up. Standing up every hour to stretch and exercise your body may simply enhance your metabolism. You may also raise your regular activity level by taking a 10-minute walk after each meal every day,” adds Kaur.
Reading may be a fantastic and healthy way to unwind from the stresses of daily life. Dive into a literary universe simply by opening a book that will divert you from your everyday stressors. Reading works towards solving the root cause of unwanted belly fat by reducing your heart rate and calming your body and relieving muscle tension.
Laughter is the best medicine. It increases your immune system, enhances your mood, reduces pain, and protects you from the negative effects of stress. “A hearty laugh works to ease excess tension on your muscles for up to 45 minutes by lowering the levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone,” notes Kaur.
A wholesome diet
An elevated level of cortisol can lead to over-eating. “The best way to prevent this situation is by taking a nutritionally-balanced diet and planning meals to avoid munching on unhealthy junk foods. Try to have small and healthy meals every three to four hours to prevent your cortisol levels from shooting up because of a lack of food,” notes Puri. Include proteins with a high biological value in your diet like chicken, fish, eggs, seasonal green vegetables, local and seasonal fruits, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish. Have a minimum of 3-4 liters of water every day and complex carbohydrates from whole grains, millets, legumes, and oats to manage your appetite.
A lack of adequate sleep at night can also increase the body’s cortisol levels, which can lower insulin sensitivity resulting in uncontrolled food cravings the next day. Hence one must fix their sleeping pattern. Put aside gadgets like mobiles, tablets, and laptops at least an hour before bedtime as they emit blue light, which suppresses the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. For a night of improved sleep, cut down on your caffeine intake throughout the day (not more than 2 cups a day) and avoid taking caffeinated beverages at least 3 hours before bedtime for a sound sleep.
Goodness of herbs
Herbs and spices can also help lower cortisol and the resulting weight gain. Cinnamon improves metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Ashwagandha is an excellent herb for reducing anxiety and stress, which helps keep cortisol in check. Vitamin C is a crucial micronutrient that helps tackle stress by regulating cortisol levels. Include vitamin C- rich foods in your diet like amla, lemon, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, and others to keep inflammation and cortisol at bay.
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