Stress affects your mood, your enjoyment of life and your time with loved ones. Sounds obvious, right? But stress doesn’t just make you feel irritable; it may cause you to hold body fat as well.
It’s relatively uncommon to walk into a grumpy 9-5 office and find a bunch of healthy fit people (sans Michael Scott, obviously). The overwhelming majority of the population is overworked, undernourished and tired. All of these contribute to higher stress levels.
There may be a reason you rarely see yoga instructors either carrying around a lot of extra weight in their midsection or complaining all day. It’s not simply about diet and exercise, your yogi is likely dealing with less stress (by design, of course).
Despite what you’ve been told, it’s not just what you eat that leads to the monster health issues. From the Mayo Clinic:
Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
For better or worse, our society is fixated on aesthetics. You should know that your six-pack (or lack thereof) is on the line when you stay up late to cram for that test or that deadline for a presentation pops on your radar. As stress increases, so does cortisol, a steroid hormone released in response to stress. Cortisol contributes to your spare tire. From Len Kravitz, Ph.D., professor of Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico:
Deep abdominal fat has greater blood flow and four times more cortisol receptors compared to subcutaneous fat. This may also increase cortisol’s fat accumulating and fat cell size enlarging effect.
This abdominal fat is undesirable for more than just visual reasons. It is associated with the most severe health problems. From Harvard Health Publications:
Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery…Substances released by visceral fat, including free fatty acids, enter the portal vein and travel to the liver, where they can influence the production of blood lipids. Visceral fat is directly linked with higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that stress is easier to manage and control than diet.
Here are some suggestions to fight the “silent killer”:
- Sleep more
- Breathe deeply
- Manage your time more efficiently
- Choose your attitude
Take a nap, go for a walk, breathe a little deeper while you’re walking (and put away your cell phone), use a calendar, choose to feel good and watch Daniel Tosh. Bam, you just got healthier. Was that so hard?