How Stress Makes You

One of the great side benefits of the Abs Diet is that it helps you take control of your life, which means taking control of your stress level. I can't emphasize strongly enough how important stress management is for your weight, for your health, and for the quality of life you'll lead.

That's because our bodies simply aren't designed to handle the stress of modern life. See, when stress hits, one of the first things your body does is jack up its production of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes fat cells all over your body to squirt their stores of fatty acids into your bloodstream to be used as energy. This was great back when stress meant a charging saber-toothed tiger or an attacking horde of barbarians and your fight-or-flight mechanism switched on. But it's not so great in today's society, where the only tigers and barbarians you have to handle are the ones who sign your paycheck. You don't flee or fight; you just bear down to get that report finished and munch your way through a midnight deadline. Meanwhile, your adrenal glands are producing yet another hormone to handle all that freshly released fat. It's called cortisol, but I want you to call it by its nickname: the belly-fat hormone.

In one Yale study, researchers asked 42 overweight people to perform an hour of stressful tasks—math problems, puzzles, and speech making. All the while, their cortisol levels were measured. The subjects who carried their extra weight in their bellies were discovered to be secreting more cortisol while under pressure. The theory runs like this: Stress hits, adrenaline mobilizes fat from all over the body, and cortisol takes the unused portion and stashes it with extreme prejudice toward the abdominal region. In a study of 438 male firefighters, the ones who said they worried about their financial security gained 11.2 pounds over 7 years, compared with an average of 7.4 pounds gained by nonworriers. The key to managing your midsection, then, is managing your stress. Here are a few proven ways to keep your head—and your abs—when all around you are losing theirs.

Skip Letterman. A University of Chicago study published in the journal Sleep showed that men who slept only 4 hours had cortisol levels 37 percent higher than men who got a full 8 hours of shut-eye; the men who stayed awake the whole night had levels 45 percent higher. Sleep specialists suggest that you strive for 8 hours per night.

Stop tossing and turning. How well you sleep matters, too. Another University of Chicago study showed that men who got plenty of deep sleep—the quality stuff without all the dreaming and rapid eye movement—secreted almost 65 percent more human growth hormone (HGH) than men who were short on good slumber. You want more HGH to help prevent the loss of muscle mass caused by cortisol.

Remember C, as in "crisis." If you're in a stressful time of life—wondering why the jury has been out so long, perhaps—load up on vitamin C. For managing stress, you probably top out the benefit with a daily intake of 1,000 milligrams, divided into small doses throughout the day.

4 Steps To Permanent Weight Loss

4 Steps To Permanent Weight Loss

I can't believe I'm actually writing the book that is going to help you achieve the level of health and fitness that you always dreamed of. Me, little scrawny sickly Darlene that was always last picked in gym class. There's power in a good story here so get this book now.

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