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Stress = Belly Fat: Dr. Peeke Says Calm Down to Slim Down
Stress can have a significant impact on the accumulation of fat in your belly, says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of the best-selling book Fight Fat After Forty: The Stress-Fat Connection.
“If it’s out-of-control stress, cortisol stays up chronically. That’s not good,” adds Peeke. “What ends up happening is it affects every single tissue system and organ system in the human body.”
It’s this “toxic stress” that leads to what she calls “toxic weight,” extra fat beneath the abdominal muscle wall that has been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“When there is too much cortisol on board, it increases your appetite for fat and carbohydrates, which are the stress fuels,” she explains. “When that happens, not even an act of Congress is going to stop you from overeating. And when you do overeat, [the fat] will preferentially go deep inside the belly.”
Mind-body techniques to reduce stress can help eliminate toxic weight, Peeke advises. In fact, exercise may be the most effective strategy — in addition to burning fat, exercise has been shown to decrease cortisol levels.