Fat and fatigue have more in common than their first three letters. They both have an indirect relationship to stress. Stress is not only exhausting, but it puts your body on alert for an impending disaster, causing it to store fat to protect it from starvation, Sean Talbot, PhD told "Corporate Wellness Magazine." Losing the belly fat, along with the fatigue, requires stress reduction. In other words, chill out and don't sweat the small stuff.
Fat, Fatigue and Stress
Chronic stress can trigger chronic fatigue, along with fat accumulation around your abdominal region. If you're sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and if your quest for a flat belly fails despite your best efforts, it's possible that stress has claimed you as one of its victims. Stress has a secret weapon called cortisol. This hormone boasts an uncanny ability to provoke fat accumulation in the belly, explains Elissa S. Epel, PhD of Yale University.
The results of a study published in 2000 in "Psychosomatic Medicine" indicate that easily stressed-out women secrete greater amounts of cortisol, and have a significant amount of belly fat. The researchers studied 59 women, 30 with high belly fat and 29 with insignificant abdominal fat. They exposed all subjects to challenging laboratory tasks, during which they assessed the subjects' cortisol levels, and compared them to their psychological responses. The research team reported a high correlation between belly fat, cortisol levels and stressful responses to the tasks. Another study, published in the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism," found a link between daytime sleepiness and abdominal fat.
The Cortisol Magnet
Your abdominal region is a cortisol magnet, with a particularly high sensitivity to the fat accumulation, explains nutritionist Mary-Ann MacPherson, author of "Stress Free For Life Now." Being relatively lean doesn't guarantee immunity. In fact, the strict diet and exercise program that often accompanies the quest for low body fat might actually increase your stress level. If you throw a fit when you can't get to the gym, or if you berate yourself for one slice of cake, this might sound familiar. Furthermore, if your diet is so strict, and if your high-intensity workouts leave you exhausted, the resulting fatigue exacerbates your stress level.
The Fatigue Factor
Stress stimulates the fight or flight reaction. Maintaining that state of mind zaps your energy. No wonder you're fatigued. Stress also increases adrenaline, dopamine and noradrenaline stimulation. These neurotransmitters share many of the nutritional building blocks required by your thyroid hormone, writes Jack Challem, author of "No More Fatigue: Why You're So Tired and What You Can Do about It." Anything that interferes with neurotransmitter and thyroid production impedes your stress management capabilities, and possibly causes hypothyroidism, which in turn triggers fatigue, lowers your metabolic rate and causes weight gain.
- University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight
- AARP No More Fatigue: Why You're So Tired and What You Can Do about It; Jack Challem
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism: Sleep Apnea and Daytime Sleepiness and Fatigue: Relation to Visceral Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Hypercytokinemia.
- Corporate Wellness Magazine: Does Stress Hormone Cortisol Cause Weight Gain, Depression and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.