Stop us if you've heard this one before: stress causes belly fat. Or how about this one: stress makes you gain weight. It's not just the stress eating that's the culprit, either. In fact, there's a chemical behind those mystery pounds in your midsection — and it's yet another major reason to get to the root cause of your stress and eliminate it.
"Stress releases a hormone called cortisol," Erica Patel, MD, of the University of Southern California, told POPSUGAR. "[The release of cortisol] causes high blood sugar levels by promoting the breakdown of protein stores into glucose to be used as fuel. Over time, persistently high levels of cortisol seen in stress promote the storage of excess glucose as fat in the abdomen, causing belly fat."
While cortisol is typically the culprit in the creation and retention of stress-induced belly fat, it can also come from a stressed thyroid. "Stress can affect our master gland, the thyroid gland," said Habib Sadeghi, DO, author of The Clarity Cleanse. "Down-regulation [or suppression] of thyroid function can contribute to accumulation of adipose tissue [or fat] around the body, including the abdominal area."
So now that you know stress spikes your cortisol and suppresses your thyroid function — both potentially leading to fat gain and retention — let's practice a little self-care, shall we?