Is stress bad?

Yes, no. Yes, yes, no no. The truth is; stress is good and bad both. Good stress is called Eustress. Bad stress is called Distress.

Eustress helps us to achieve goals in life whereas distress – if not controlled in time can lead to tension, then Anxiety and then depression in some cases in succession. Suppose a person is to write an exam tomorrow and towards preparation, if that person leaves aside everything and concentrate on study, then it is Eustress and he/she will score good marks. If the same person is vomiting vociferously before the exam, then it is distress.

Stress is a silent killer:

Stress is a number one reason for our troubles / sickness. Silently, it keeps on damaging us. That’s’ why it is called a silent killer.

Excess sugar consumption may be the primary driver of excess fat in the liver and belly area. This is particularly true of sugary beverages like soft drinks. Clean tap water or coconut water- in moderationare the only drinks of choice.

Women are also vulnerable to the effects of stress:

Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess belly fat, and have higher levels of the stress hormone Cortisol, as per experts. Study after study have confirmed that lean women with abdominal fat (sometimes known colloquially as “stress belly”) have been due to abnormal response to cortisol. It will not be out of place to mention that women with greater abdominal fat experience more negative moods and higher levels of life stress.

Stress in men, Cortisol and Abdominal Fat:

These relationships likely apply to men as well. However, excess weight on men is almost always stored at the abdomen. On the contrary, in pre-menopausal women, excess weight is more often stored at the upper arm or hips. Therefore, for women, it is possible that stress may influence body shape more than for men, leading to abdominal fat instead of lower body fat accumulation. The body of men become apple shaped and that of women become pear shaped.

Greater exposure to stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may lead to enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat. Hence, we gain weight.

When under stress cortisol is released by our adrenal glands:

Cortisol is a nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation, and fear. It’s best known for helping fuel our body’s “fightor-flight” response in a stress causing crisis. Cortisol also plays an important role in a number of things your body does. For example, it:

• Manages how our body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins

• Keeps inflammation down

• Regulates blood pressure

• Controls your sleep/wake cycle

• Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward

Cortisol affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrallyaround the organs. Cortisol exposure can increase visceral fat, i.e. the fat surrounding the organs-in animals and human beings. People with diseases associated with extreme exposure to cortisol, such as severe recurrent depression and Cushing’s disease also have excessive amounts of visceral fat.

Everyone is exposed to stress?

But, due to distress some people may secrete more cortisol than others, and may secrete cortisol each time they face the same stressor. Experts feel that reacting to the same stressors consistently by secreting cortisol would be related to greater visceral fat. Visceral fat is the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs. Even thin people can have dangerous levels of it. Some levels of visceral fat are normal and even healthy but too much can lead to insulin resistance i.e. diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation.

After the successive exposure to stress, women with greater abdominal fat feel more threatened and perform more poorly and secret more cortisol. By the third exposure to stress, the lean women with abdominal fat still consistently secret more cortisol in response to stressful tasks, compared to women with peripheral fat.

The abdominal region harbors still another a kind of fat, which lies outside the abdominal wall, just under the skin. This subcutaneous, or peripheral, fat tends to be soft and flabby; you can pinch or grab it. It has two compartments, the deeper of which is thought, like visceral fat, to have negative effects on health.

Why stress result in release of more cortisol?

It is possible that greater exposure to stressful conditions and psychological vulnerability to stress has led us to over react to stressors in our daily lives .That is why we have had greater lifetime exposure to cortisol. Cortisol, in turn is causing us to accumulate abdominal fat. Genetics, however, also play a role in shaping reactivity to stress, as well as body shape.”

Lifestyle and age may also influence levels of abdominal fat:

Smoking, alcohol and lack of exercise [living a sedentary life style] all contribute to greater abdominal fat. Post-menopausal women tend to carry fat at their abdomen, due to changes in sex hormones. A healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep [ 7 -8 hours a day, exercise [ 150 minutes per week] and relaxing life style, may reduce cortisol levels.

Simple Ways to Lose Belly Fat, Based on Science:

Belly fat not only looks bad, it is also strongly linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As per medical parlance, anything above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women is known as abdominal obesity.

Fortunately, there are a few scientifically proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body with detail as follows:

Don’t eat added sugar and avoid sugar-sweetened drinks

Table sugar is a man-made poison as per Dr. Robert Lustig’s book, “Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity and Disease.” Robert H. Lustig is an American pediatric endocrinologist. So, we need to avoid added sugar as it is very unhealthy. Sugar is half glucose, half fructose, and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in significant amounts. When you eat a lot of added sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and is forced to turn it into fat. This fat can lead to increased accumulation of it in the belly and liver. Hence weight gain Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more calories. Studies show that sugarsweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children. Try to completely eliminate sugary drinks This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary sodas, fruit juices and various highsugar sports drinks.

Always keep in mind that we can gainfully consume whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose. The amount of fructose you get from fruit is negligible compared to what you get from a diet high in table [refined] sugar or added sugar.

Eating more protein is a great long-term strategy to reduce belly fat:

Protein is the most important macro-nutrient when it comes to maintaining weight.

It reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 80–100 calories per day and help you eat up to 440 fewer calories per day.

Eating plenty of protein can boost your metabolism and reduce hunger levels, making it a very effective way to lose weight. Several studies suggest that protein is particularly effective against belly fat accumulation. A recent study showed that refined carbs and oils were linked to increased amounts of belly fat, but fruits and vegetables linked to reduced amounts.

For weight loss we need to cut Carbs from our diet:

Carb restriction is a very effective way to lose fat. When people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and they lose weight. Studies have shown that cutting carbs is particularly effective at getting rid of the fat in the belly area, around the organs and in the liver.

We need to be on low carb diet. Low-carb diets also lead to quick reductions in water weight, which gives people near instant results. By avoiding the refined carbs (sugar, candy, white bread, et al) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein intake high.

To lose weight fast, consider dropping your carbs down to 50 grams per day. This will put your body into ketosis mode, killing your appetite and making your body start burning primarily fats for fuel instead of carbs. With low-carb diet one can avoid type 2 diabetes also.

Eat foods high in Fiber, especially viscous fiber:

There is some evidence that soluble dietary fiber can lead to reduced amounts of belly fat. This should cause major improvements in metabolic health and reduced risk of several diseases. Dietary fiber is mostly indigestible plant matter.

It is important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal. It seems to be mostly the soluble and viscous fibers[ plant based fiber] that have a better effect on our weight. These are fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut area.

Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. It is also found in psyllium, a common fiber supplement. Some types of soluble fiber may help lower risk of heart disease. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.

This gel can dramatically slow the movement of food through your digestive system, and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients. The end result is a feeling of fullness for longer time and reduced appetite.

Are Fiber Supplements Effective for Weight Loss?

A very large review study found that psyllium and guar gum — both soluble, viscous fibers — are ineffective as weight loss supplements. One notable exception is glucomannan, a fiber extracted from the konjac root. Shirataki noodles available at Walmart are an excellent choice.

The best way to get more fiber is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruits. Legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like whole oats. Exercise is effective at reducing belly fat:

Exercise can be very effective if you are trying to lose belly fat.

Exercise also has a number of other health benefits and can help you live a healthy longer life sans disease.

Aerobic exercise (like walking, running, swimming, etc.) has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies. Another study found that exercise completely prevented people from re-gaining abdominal fat after weight loss, implying that exercise is particularly important during weight maintenance.

Exercise also leads to reduced inflammation, maintaining normal blood sugar levels and improvements in all the other metabolic abnormalities that are associated with excess abdominal fat.

Keep a track of your foods you eat:

What you eat is very important. We, the people, think that we are eating “high protein,” “low-carb” or something else, but tend to radically over- or under estimate ourselves. Anyone who truly wants to optimize their diet, tracking things for a while is absolutely quintessential.

We need not to weigh and measure everything for the rest of our lives, but doing it- in patches- for a few days in a row can help to realize where we need to make changes. I personally do this every few months to see what my current diet looks like. That helps me to keep my weight under check by making adjustments, wherever warranted.

Time is ripe to make a start or restart, dear friends. Jet set go!!!

Prof. Surinder Kochhar (Shaun)
LPN, FCN, M.Com, CAIIB, DIM A freelance writer with 36 Years Exp. A Health Coach of University of Victoria