Fat around the middle – the surprising cause and the simple cures

How stress causes fat around the middle

HAVE you got fat around the middle that’s been there for years and just won’t shift?

Maybe you’ve been on countless diets and lost weight in various other parts of the body but the tummy fat won’t go. Here’s what you need to know: Getting rid of the fat around your middle is not simply about your diet or lack of exercise. It’s much more to do with the stress hormones in your body, especially cortisol.

I thought I’d explain why this is. Because once you understand the cause of fat around the middle, it’s much easier to do something about it.

When your brain thinks your life’s under threat it becomes stressed and releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This fight or flight survival mechanism dates back to caveman days.

The hormones released instantly create a number of physical changes. Your heart beats faster, you breathe faster, and your entire body becomes tense and ready to take action. Fight or flight is clever and very, very efficient and it provides everything your body needs to react to the stress of dangerous situations.

Once the danger’s out of the way the adrenal glands stop pumping out hormones and your body returns to normal. The problem with modern life is that many of us live under constant stress – it comes from deadlines, traffic jams, managing homes, children and elderly parents.

The effects of stress on the body

The body can’t distinguish between day-to-day stress and exceptional life-threatening stress so it reacts in exactly the same way it’s always done, which is fight or flight.

Let’s look at what happens when you’re stressed. The adrenaline helps you to be alert and focused while cortisol increases the levels of fat and sugar in the blood stream to form glucose, which provides instant energy.

However unless you do something physical, which is what your body is programmed to expect, then all that extra glucose has nowhere to go. It simply becomes fat which is stored round your middle so it’s close to your vital organs, such as the liver, for the next time it’s needed.

Fat around the middle – the refuelling problem

After a stressful event adrenaline levels return to normal and the body becomes calm. But the level of cortisol often remains higher, maybe for a few days, because your brain thinks you should refuel your body. So cortisol increases your appetite.

Now you can see why people who are under constant stress often feel hungry all the time. The body is getting them to stock up on the fuel it thinks could be needed again.

What’s most useful to it is carbohydrate and fat.  And those are the last things you need to consume if you’re trying to lose weight. In the modern world, when we spend so much time sitting at desks, in cars or in front of the TV, refuelling just isn’t necessary.

Now you know what’s going on, the question is: what can you do about it?

Find time each day to relax. Just 10 minutes of “me time” can make a big difference. If you’re on my Slimpod Gold programme, make full use of the Chillpod download which has undergone clinical trials and is unlike any other relaxation download.

The other thing you can do is exercise. This is proven to release feelgood hormones that counter stress.

Get moving to manage stress

Leave a comment below and tell me how stress affects you and what you’re going to do to relax more.

53 thoughts on “Fat around the middle – the surprising cause and the simple cures”

  1. Maureen Robertson

    Thank you. I will definitely try the relaxation. I am doing a bit of exercise now too. Used to sit around far too much.

  2. Hi Sandra, I’m learning to meditate and doing reiki to help stress and anxiety. I’ve had fat round my middle since childhood

    1. I wouldn’t do reiki dear friend – there’s a lot of negative effects down the road. It involves the negative spiritual & it won’t do you any favours. Read the book -The miracleship by BRIAN OHARE. U can get it on amazon. It explains everything in there

  3. Sallie Redmond

    Hi Sandra

    This is a great article. Stress and lack of me time to relax and exercise is definitely a problem with losing weight. Kind regards. Sallie

  4. This is an eye opener! I’ll have to work on unfinished business, i.e. the two books I’m writing. I’ll have to fight off seclusion. I’m becoming all the more asocial. I need to relax and enjoy more.

  5. Catherine Hamilton

    Thank you Sandra. I’ve been trying to lose this fat for years without success. Till I retired I was stuck at a desk all day and my hobbies like reading, knitting etc didn’t help. I will now try to make more me time and be even more active than I have been.

  6. I didn’t know this. My current stress buster is relaxing and watching tv (probably involving comfort eating). I need to rethink this clearly.

  7. I’ve started doing hot yoga (bikram) classes. I’m the heaviest in the class but find it very relaxing & I feel so good after it! Apparently it cleanses toxins from ur body by sweating them out!

  8. Caroline saunders

    I have mental health,so i eat alot of comfort food.my medication has also made me put 2 stone on so i carnt win.

    1. Sandra Roycroft-Davis

      Baby steps Caroline. Start by looking at your day and changing a few things with your food. Reducing sugar is the best place to start!

  9. Thank you for sharing interesting article and definitely try not to rush around unnecessary and will attempt to have more me time and relaxation

  10. I totally agree, in today’s hectic life trying to balance home and work is often extremely stressful. I have read that meditation can also help to clear the mind of stress and along with the chillpod this is something i am also considering

  11. Paulette Randall

    Hi Sandra,
    Oh boy do I know this one! Thank you for making me understand my body more. I have slipped off the wagon, but intend to somehow get back on course. My freelance work means that my routines change , so for example , I have been away from home for 10weeks, and the job was very stressful. Not all, but enough to affect my sleep, and therefore my eating. I’m very good at chilling, but it does include a large amount of wine. I guess I’ll have to get on the gold programme. I tried last year, but as I am a Luddite, I failed, but I will try again!
    Thank you,

    1. Sandra Roycroft-Davis

      Definitely! Would love to have you back Paulette – The Gold programme is great now – all revamped! And we won’t let you fail!!

  12. I’m not too stressed as a whole, but this describes my sister to a T. Passed on this link, so hopefully it may help her.

    Very interesting to read!
    Many thanks Sandra

  13. Hi Sandra
    What a great article, really struggling to lose the fat around the middle!!
    Been stressed all week with the school holidays and teenagers!!!
    I will be making sure I listen to my Chillpod regularly.

  14. Stress has definitely been present in most of my adult life and my weight has always been a problem too. Just acknowledging the damage it is doing to me will help me to understand the importance of not worrying so much and taking time out for me.

  15. Hi Sandra This is really interesting and certainly strikes a chord with me. I have been under a great deal of stress over the past year, my husband died in June, I sold our home and moved in with my elder sister (not a good idea) and then went through the stress of buying another home. I haven’t been able to download the Gold programme (I took up your kind offer to upgrade from silver) but have been following your emails. I am finally moving into my new home next week and once I settle in will certainly listen to Trevor again and hope that my stress level will lessen considerably by following your advice. Best wishes Sheila

    1. Sandra Roycroft-Davis

      So sorry for your loss Sheila. It really does sound like a terribly stressful time you’re having. Hope things settle very soon.x

  16. Have really noticed a difference in sleep and relaxation and motivation after returning to Slimpod after a short break… this makes perfect sense.thank you.

  17. brenda chandler

    Hi Sandra, still finding difficulty in losing weight. I gave up smoking last September which, though my breathing has benefited greatly, my waistline has not. When I began Slim gold four months later in mid January, I weighed 170 lbs. I now weigh 176 lbs. I know I have not consistently followed the programme, I know I’m not a ‘stayer’, I am a comfort eater too. I have tried and succeeded in cutting my granulated sugar intake by about half however, so some success there but the weight is definitely accumulating around my middle. I’m finding it all a bit hard going and feel despondent. I know it’s my own fault for lack of effort. Perhaps I was hoping for too much. What do you suggest , should I just start again? Have I just added to my stress levels by thinking I could do this ?

  18. I will definitely try harder to get in my 10 minutes of “me” time.
    My middle is my key problem area.

  19. I have CFS/ME so can’t do much exercise apart from a little walking but I find that mindfulness is a great help for reducing stress. The Chillpod is also excellent and I try to listen every day.

  20. Interesting article which makes sense to me as I was, for a number of years, a carer for my husband who had a progressive disease. The plan has meant that I no longer forage for ‘nice’ food in the kitchen at night! Still working on the fat tummy though with little success at the moment.

  21. I’m constantly stressed so I will be listening to the chill out pod more an and going for walks with my son and his dog.

  22. Sounds believable. I am slim but recently, say the last year, I have put on weight around my stomach which is now shaped as though I am pregnant. I have not gained weight anywhere else but It does upset me me as my stomach is out of proportion. I mainly eat a nutritious & healthy diet with very little sugar, and thankfully now mostly have controlled my bingeing, although I think about food all the time, limit my food intake and avoid social events so not to eat. I am 71 years old so it is just old age spread. Help needed. Thanks

  23. Hi we have lots of illness in our family at present and although I don’t think I feel stressed I obviously am as not sleeping. During the day I keep wanting to find something to eat. Some people when stressed don’t want to eat I am the reverse. Trevor and Sandra really help and now the evenings are getting lighter will try to exercise more. My huge problem is doing long car journeys to visit sick family members and eating out in hotels. I find menus hard to chose something healthy as you don’t always know what food has been cooked in.

    I had forgotten about the chil pod but will endeavour to use it.

    Thank you for all the support we are given and thank you for setting up the buddy scheme it is really good makes me think about positives and negatives every day.

  24. Carol Sturgess

    Thank you at least it’s given me an insite of why that is happening and I’m trying not to sit around as much, although I try to exercise medical problems prevent me doing it every day, hoping to do a little more walking.

  25. Hi Sandra Thanks for the information I have been doing ‘added sugar’ free for a couple of years now and lost 3 stone but at Xmas took ill, and was taking sugar-full medicine and sweets which I had managed to avoid. I’m now trying to battle against putting weight on again (already 10lb on). And also reduce my stomach inflammation from sugar and gluten. Looking forward to the help on this site

  26. I had lost my mojo!!!
    I work in a very stressful NHS job. Since finding Slimpod I’ve started back at exercise classes at 6am every morning Mon-Fri before work. Hoping this helps but definitely a feeling of a better wellbeing that sets me up for the day. Love it. I feel revitalised after each session – long may it continue

  27. This has made me think that I do feel stressed most of the time. And now I know this can cause fat round my middle is not good. I do try to relax and I do 2 exercises classes a week! Sometimes I eat the wrong things as well, I have been trying check my sugar intake. But not having much luck with this… great article and something to think about.

    Thank you

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About Sandra
Founder of Thinking Slimmer
Food addiction expert
Member of All-Party Parliamentary Obesity Group
Huffington Post contributor
DipCHyp HPD NLP MasterPrac
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