From stress to your hormones… what your belly fat is trying to tell you and how to blast it – The Sun

MANY people find themselves struggling to budge their belly bulge – even after months of eating the right foods and exercising regularly.

This is because it's not only weight gain that can increase the size of your tummy.

Our guts are where we store stress, hormones, insulin resistance – meaning these are all things that can cause your stomach to look chubbier than you might like.

Here, we take you through the different things your belly fat might be trying to tell you – and how to blast it…

You're stressed…

Brits are more stressed than ever – with three in four of us feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.

And we often forget that stress can seriously impact our bodies, especially our gut.

Stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol — known as the stress hormone — which contributes to the storage of fat, particularly abdominal fat that is often the hardest to get rid of.

Stress can also lead to a decrease in fat oxidation, the process that allows fat to be burnt as energy.

This means that you don’t necessarily have to be consuming more food to put weight on.

How to treat it

Take steps to manage your stress such as deep breathing, going for a short walk or building time into your day to relax.

Herbal supplements such as ashwagandha and rhodiola have been shown to help lower cortisol levels, However, if you are taking medication, you should always check with your doctor before taking supplements.

Nutritionists also suggest snacking on nuts if you notice your belly getting bigger from stress – as they're packed with magnesium which seems to help keep cortisol levels low.

Broccoli is also a great thing to add to your diet as it's high in folic acid, which aids stress reduction.

Your hormones are fluctuating…

One common side effect of the menopause is weight gain due to fluctuations in hormones.

New evidence suggests that plummeting oestrogen levels may encourage us to eat more and exercise less, lowers the metabolic rate and increases insulin resistance, making it more difficult for our bodies to deal with sugars and starches.

Our hormones also influence fat distribution.

Perimenopause weight gain is often associated with the laying down of fat around the abdomen and internal organs, as opposed to the hips and thighs.

How to treat it

Opt for a low calorie diet as during and after menopause, the number of calories a woman burns during rest, declines.

Eat plenty of protein which keeps you full and satisfied, increases metabolic rate and reduces muscle loss.

High-quality sleep is also key in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

You're bloated…

Bloating is the feeling of pressure or swelling in the tummy – and over 70 per cent of people regularly suffer from it.

It can be caused by a variety of things including irritable bowel syndrome, flatulence, Coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and endometriosis.

Ways to beat bloating in a week

Nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb, who works with Bio-Kult, has outlined a seven day plan in order to help with bloating. Here are the seven steps:

  1. Start taking a multi-strain probiotic.
  2. Use apple cider vinegar before each meal to support digestive function.
  3. Reduce simple sugars and refined carbohydrates.
  4. Start eating more fibre.
  5. Drink cups of homemade bone stock or including it in soups and stews.
  6. Leave legumes to soak well overnight. It will ease their digestion if they cause you bloating.
  7. Relax more. Stress is known to reduce the levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

The sensation of bloating can cause abdominal distention, which is a visible swelling or extension of your belly.

In rare cases, bloating can also be a sign of something more serious, including ovarian cancer so it if persists, it is important to speak to your GP.

How to treat it

Nutritional therapist Natalie Lamb, who works with Bio-Kult, says there are several steps you can take to help with bloating.

In particular, she recommends using cider vinegar before each meal to support digestive function, reducing simple sugars and refined carbohydrates and eating more fibre.

She also suggests drinking cups of homemade bone stock or including it in soups and stews and leaving legumes to soak well overnight.

You've gained weight…

Weight gain is usually the result of consuming more calories than you burn through regular bodily functions and physical activity.

Many people see their bellies balloon after losing control of their eating plan and gorging on fatty foods and sweet treats.

How to treat it

Increasing your activity level is one of the main ways you can lose overall weight.

You don't have to spend hours at the gym or running to get fit, but if you aim to spend 15 minutes a day being active this will slowly make a difference.

On top of this, cutting down on the calories you consume is key when it comes to cutting down belly fat.

Opt for more filling foods rich in fibre and protein – both of which can help you feel fuller for longer.

In particular, whole grains have the added benefit of stopping fat from being stored around the stomach, by lowering the insulin and cortisol (the stress hormone) within your body.

They're also a great low-fat source of slow-release energy, which keeps you going throughout the day.

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