When you get stressed your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, and that when you are in a real (i.e. physical) danger, these hormones prompt you either to run away or fight, in which case they don’t make you fat. But when you are not in real danger, you don’t use these fat storing hormones, so they – and all that sugar that is released into the bloodstream – just float around, eventually ending up as a fat around your waist.
They also make you crave more sugar (in the form of chocolate and biscuits) because your body thinks it needs more to keep it going. This is why stressed people often lose a couple of pounds on holiday – even though they may be eating the same amount as usual or sometimes even more, they don’t have fat-storing hormones floating around their system every day, high blood-sugar levels or constant cravings.
The stress hormone cortisol is particularly bad for you. A study found that women who reduced their stress levels lost the most belly fat. As stress levels subside, your adrenaline levels fall, but cortisol (and the resulting blood sugar) stays in the system much longer. Research from Yale University in the US shows that fat cells around the stomach area have the most cortisol receptors meaning they attract cortisol, giving you a layer of toxic fat. So doing regular sit-ups is going to be pointless if you always feel stressed – the only way to ditch this fat is to ditch the stress in your life. And remember – stomach fat is the most dangerous type of fat there because it raises your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers.