This is part 4 in a 4-part series on chronic stress and belly fat. If you missed parts 1, 2, and 3, you can find them here, here and here.
In parts 1 through 3 of this series, I’ve examined the high correlation between chronic stress and increased belly fat, the hidden dangers of excess belly fat, and how stress causes an increase in appetite which further compounds the dangers.
In this post, I’ll give you a strategy that can help you conquer the problem of chronic stress and belly fat.
Caution: You’re Entering A Battle Zone
Overcoming stress induced weight gain is a battle. There’s no question about it.
It’s a battle I’m very familiar with.
It took me decades to overcome chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Researchers today acknowledge that stress is an important factor in the cause of CFS and perhaps the reason why some people take longer to heal than others. Also see here.
In order to finally heal from CFS, I had to develop a multi-faceted strategy to deal with stress and the effects it had on my body.
This strategy can help you in your battle with chronic stress and weight gain regardless of where that stress is coming from.
Let’s take a look at it.
1. Reduce Stressors
As we’ve seen in my previous posts, the accumulation of excess fat around your midsection is not just unsightly.
It can also be an indicator of serious metabolic disturbances within your body. See part 2 here.
Obviously, in order to correct this problem, the first order of business is to deal with chronic stress.
If you continue to be stressed, your body will continually pump out cortisol which may result in weight gain and eventually insulin resistance.
So the key to reducing excess cortisol is by reducing chronic stress.
I realize that eliminating stress is a lot easier said than done.
However, there are ways of dealing with it.
Here’s how to begin.
Reduce Physical Stressors
Physical stress adds to the damage done by chronic emotional or psychological stress.
You should be aware of these stressors and eliminate them if possible.
Physical stressors include some of the following:
- Toxic stress (Food additives and preservatives, electrosmog, pesticides, industrial pollution, heavy metals, mercury amalgams, air fresheners, solvents, and agriculture)
- Oxidative stress (sleep apnea, an impaired detoxification system, circulation disorders, difficulty breathing or conditions of the lungs)
- Structural stress (misalignment of the jaw or spine, postural conditions, craniosacral misalignment, TMJ, uneven legs, physical trauma)
- Immune stress (food sensitivities or allergies, inflammation and autoimmune disorders)
- Endocrine and neurotransmitter stress (low cortisol, too much estrogen, not enough progesterone, adrenal fatigue, type 2 diabetes, hyper or hypo thyroid, neurotransmitter imbalances, menopause or andropause, excessive norepinephrine, hyperinsulinism)
- Infectious stress (Lyme disease, parasites, H. pylori, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, SIBO)
- Sensory stress (chronic pain, loud noise, bright lights, no solitude time)
I know that’s a pretty big list. But anything that causes stress on your body will raise cortisol levels.
Some of these stressors are serious medical conditions. If you think you have any, please see your physician.
In my case, I had to eliminate gluten from my diet, address autonomic nervous system problems, and sleep apnea. I’m also in the process of removing the mercury amalgam fillings from by teeth. I’ll write a post on that in the future.
Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation are time-tested methods of reducing stress. They are also personal practices. I can’t tell you how to do them only that you should do them often.
Deep breathing is something I can tell you about.
Stress often disrupts the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of your autonomic nervous system.
An excellent way to bring them back in balance is through the practice of deep breathing.
Here is the deep breathing technique I use during the day and before I fall asleep.
Massage therapy is excellent for reducing stress. I suspect I didn’t have to remind you of that. After all, who doesn’t feel better after a good back massage?
I have a particular problem with neck and shoulder pain when I’m stressed. Here is a myofascial release technique I use that really works well.
Mindful Practices That Help Reduce Stress
We often forget that we have so much more that we need or deserve. Giving thanks to our Creator for these gifts will remind us of how fortunate we are.
Also, remember to thank others with a smile when they’re kind to you. Gratitude often cancels out toxic feelings like envy and jealousy.
Practice Random Acts Of Kindness
Practicing random acts of kindness may sound trite, but it really works to reduce stress. See here.
Unforgiveness breeds vengeance and victimhood. Both of these invoke stress. Forgiveness, on the other hand, breeds reconciliation which leads to peace.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Comparing yourself to others often leads to jealousy, envy, and eventually anger. Anger, of course, will stimulate your stress response.
As is often the case, we never really know what’s actually happening in another person’s life.
If you knew more about their lives, you may find that you really don’t want to trade places with them.
Worry is a crippling emotion. But it doesn’t have to be.
A Cornell University study followed people over an extended time and found that 85% of the things they worried about never happened. Further, 15% of the things that did happen, 79% of the people handled the situation better than they thought they could.
This meant that 97% of the time there was nothing to worry about.
So being anxious about the future is unprofitable. Just let today take care of today.
Avoid Toxic Relationships And Situations
You probably already know this. There are people or situations (work) that cause you to stress way too much. Do your best to remedy these.
2. Cultivate better sleep habits
Stress often results in poor sleep. However, good sleep is crucial for stress recovery. See here.
Also, sleep deprivation can raise cortisol levels as well as increase the risk of insulin resistance.
See my posts on how to get a better night’s sleep here and here.
Again, lowering cortisol is the name of the game. A supplement that appears to lower the production cortisol is phosphatidylserine.
Cortisol levels follow a diurnal pattern and are supposed to be reduced at night. Mine were found to be high at night. See my post on adrenal fatigue here.
My doctor recommended phosphatidylserine to me, and I’ve had good success with it.
This is the one I take. It’s soy free. Remember to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
There is also some evidence that optimizing your omega 3/omega 6 fatty acid ratio is also effective in reducing excess cortisol from stress.
Practically that means eating more salmon and eliminating PUFA oils from your diet.
4. Get Some Exercise
Exercise is a known stress reliever.
It’s also a good way to burn off some of that extra blood glucose induced by cortisol.
However, be careful. Over training can increase stress and cortisol levels.
5. Eat A Low Carb – Healthy Fat – Gluten-Free Diet
As we’ve seen in previous posts in this series, chronically high cortisol can produce insulin resistance which produces weight gain.
One way to treat insulin resistance is through a low carbohydrate, healthy fat diet.
This diet should be gluten free, processed food free, and include real, whole, anti-inflammatory foods.
Make sure it’s gluten-free. Anti-nutrients can put stress on your body.
Remember that a poor diet can increase insulin resistance.
6. Make Sure You Have Adequate Fiber Intake
Another way to help lower insulin resistance is to make sure your daily intake of dietary fiber is adequate.
I like to get my fiber from leafy green veggies and low glycemic index fruit. Check out my healthy smoothie here.
I usually have it at lunchtime.
7. Consume Some Vinegar Daily
Vinegar also seems to help with insulin resistance.
In fact, the huge nurse’s study showed that an oil and vinegar dressing used more than five or more times a week had a huge cardio-protective impact.
Of course, you want to make sure your oil is a high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
I use Braggs apple cider vinegar mixed with Kasandrinos extra virgin olive oil as a salad dressing. Apple cider vinegar also gives you some extra fiber because of it’s apple pectins.
8. Intermittent fasting
If insulin resistance is a problem for you, fasting is one of the best ways of reducing it. See Dr. Jason Fung’s series on fasting here. Be careful with fasting though because fasting can act as a stressor for some people.
That’s all I have, folks. As I said this is the strategy I’ve used to deal with chronic stress. Overcoming chronic stress is a difficult battle. But it’s one that you can win!
What do you have to say?
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Why doesn’t this blog post have any comments? Wow!
Great content. So much value in this piece.
Keep growing! You got this.
Mamma's Cooking says
Thank you for posting. It is a great reminder of some of the little things we can do to relieve stress.
Great post! I always find stress and stress eating to be my biggest things working against me. I have to stop using food as my stress release
These are wonderful tips, stress causes so much in our lives.
Joanna | Spices and Greens says
Thanks for this great list of practical, actionable steps to reduce stress! I’m bookmarking this for the future!
This is so me. I actually have diabetes type 2 for the past 8 years, and they only recently discovered I had high cortisol levels. Still no therapy on their part for me for it, but I am dealing with it in a way that I can, with exercise, yoga, gratitude and trying to reduce. But being a working mom with a toddler is hard to reduce stress hehe. I will I will 😀
I love all the attention to the things that really help and don’t require a lot of money or gimmicky products. Exercise, sleep, meditate, think positively. Those things have such a positive impact on my entire life! (a former sufferer of chronic fatigue)
Rhonda Swan says
Unstoppable info here. Cheers to a great post and helpful ways to win.
Working on changing up my sleep habits now. Thank you for the reminder!