Why your body stores fat when stress is at its peak..
When your brain detects the presence of a threat, no matter if it is a snake in the grass, a grumpy boss, or a big credit card bill, it triggers the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH, and cortisol. Your brain and body prepare to handle the threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury. In the short-term, adrenaline helps you feel less hungry as your blood flows away from the internal organs and to your large muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” However, once the effects of adrenaline wear off, cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” hangs around and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Fighting off wild animals, like our ancestors did, used up a lot of energy, so their bodies needed more stores of fat and glucose.
In the days when our ancestors were fighting off tigers and famine, their bodies adapted by learning to store fat supplies for the long haul. The unfortunate result for you and me is that when we are chronically stressed by life crises and work-life demands, we are prone to getting an extra layer of “visceral fat” deep in our bellies. Your belly has an ample supply of blood vessels and cortisol receptors to make the whole process flow more efficiently. The downside is that excess belly fat is unhealthy and difficult to get rid of. The fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, which increases the likelihood that we will develop heart disease or diabetes. And it can make it more difficult to fit into those lovely jeans you splurged on, leading to more stress about money wasted! Unfortunately, excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism, because your body wants to maintain an adequate supply of glucose for all that hard mental and physical work dealing with the threat.