A common misconception about increased abdominal fat is that it results from an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. Stress can be a huge factor, too. The road to weight loss or abdominal fat reduction is challenging and can be stressful as it is. What is the role of stress belly fat in that case? How does it develop? Is it possible to get rid of it? Find the answers to these questions below.

What is a Stress Belly?

Stress belly is a term that refers to how stress and stress-related hormones affect the abdominal area. More precisely, it is the excess abdominal fat that builds up due to prolonged or chronic stress. Excessive abdominal fat caused by stress is quite common, but it’s not a medical diagnosis. Healthcare professionals may use other terms for this problem such as stress-induced weight gain and stress-related abdominal fat. When left unmanaged, stress-induced weight gain can cause or contribute to health problems[1] like metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Why does Stress Cause Belly Fat?

To learn how to get rid of stress belly, it’s crucial to understand the mechanisms of action through which stress increases belly fat in the first place. Stress increases abdominal fat in several ways, with elevated cortisol being the integral factor. The role of cortisol will be discussed below in this post.

Other ways through which stress increases belly fat include increased appetite and poor food choices. This may lead to emotional eating and overeating. A person may feel hungry shortly after eating so they end up consuming more food than their body needs. Stress can increase cravings for food, especially high-calorie, sugar-laden foods or foods with high sodium levels and Trans fats. Evidence confirms[2] that stress disrupts eating behavior, especially by increasing the intake of foods with high levels of fat and sugar.

Stress increases abdominal fat through metabolic changes and lack of physical activity. Unmanaged stress may disrupt metabolic processes and contribute to insulin resistance, which further leads to abdominal fat deposition and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Chronic stress may deplete energy levels by interrupting healthy sleep, thus reducing motivation to exercise or stay active. As a result, it contributes to a sedentary lifestyle[3], which also increases abdominal fat.

Relation Between Cortisol and Belly Fat

The stress hormone cortisol increases abdominal fat through several mechanisms of action. During times of stress, the sympathetic nervous system instructs adrenal glands to make adrenaline and cortisol. In people with chronic stress, levels of cortisol are always increased, which leads to consequences such as weight gain. Cortisol exhibits a potent impact on adipose (fat) tissue and increases fat storage[4], thus making you more susceptible to weight gain. High cortisol is also associated with a lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet, both of which are factors in the increased abdominal fat. Further in this post, you’re going to learn how to lower cortisol levels and lose weight.

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Signs You Might Have Stress Belly

Several signs indicate you have a stressed belly. They are:

  • You’re always hungry: stress is connected to the hunger hormone ghrelin which increases appetite and makes you eat more.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: high cortisol levels deplete energy levels and make you feel tired and overwhelmed.
  • You’re overtraining: in people with high levels of stress, over-exercising can cause cravings for high-calorie foods. This is particularly the case for those who spend long hours training, as it could add to their stress and high cortisol levels.
  • Unsuccessful weight loss attempts: if you change your lifestyle and still can’t lose weight, it could be a sign of stress belly fat.

Lifestyle Factors that Increase Abdominal Fat

Stress isn’t the only factor that increases belly fat. Certain lifestyle habits do the same. A combination of different factors plays a major role in the increase of abdominal fat, which is why it’s important to address other causes too. Before you learn how to get rid of stress belly, here is a list of lifestyle habits that increase abdominal fat:

  • Eating too fast: may increase abdominal fat because it doesn’t allow time for the body to signal fullness. This habit leads to overeating and excessive calorie intake. Eating too fast can make stress belly fat worse because it makes people constantly eat more than necessary. Moreover, eating too quickly decreases the enjoyment of food. On the other hand, eating slowly[5] reduces calorie intake, helps you eat less, and increases the feeling of fullness.

  • Poor sleep: lack of sleep increased total abdominal fat area by 9% and abdominal visceral fat by 11% in a study by Mayo Clinic[6]. While fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously (under the skin), lack of sleep redirects it to the visceral compartment. It’s also worthwhile to mention that sleep deprivation disrupts hormonal balance and contributes to higher calorie intake and unhealthy food choices, all of which lead to weight gain. Poor sleep is also associated with higher cortisol levels and thereby contributes to stress belly fat.

  • Not moving enough: it increases abdominal fat by reducing calorie expenditure and muscle mass. The metabolism slows down thus causing the body to store excess calories as abdominal fat. Lack of physical activity also contributes to insulin resistance and promotes fat accumulation in the abdominal area.

  • Smoking/alcohol consumption: these unhealthy habits increase abdominal fat through several mechanisms. For example, smoking alters metabolic processes and promotes fat storage in the abdominal area[7]. Alcohol is high in calories and may increase abdominal fat and weight gain. Both smoking and alcohol consumption can disrupt hormonal balance and lead to metabolic changes that increase fat deposition in the stomach.

  • Eating while distracted: this habit leads to overeating. Overeating means you consume excess calories and put yourself at risk of increasing fat percentage and weight. That happens because you don’t pay attention to how much you eat and may also eat your food too quickly.

  • Midnight snacking: late-night eating often involves eating excess calories, particularly high-sugar and high-fat foods. The body doesn’t have enough time to process that food properly, which means those extra calories are more likely to be stored as fat.

Simple Tips to Burn Stress Belly Fat

You’re probably wondering how to lower cortisol levels and lose weight or get rid of excess fat in the abdominal area. These tips will help you out:

  • Manage stress: when it comes to the subject of how to get rid of stress belly, it’s crucial to manage stress instead of ignoring it. Stress can increase abdominal fat and worsen the habits that lead to weight gain. Evidence shows[8] that reduced levels of perceived stress are linked to lower cortisol secretion, which contributes to the reduction of abdominal fat. Adopt relaxing habits such as meditation, yoga, going for a walk, painting, reading, and writing - the options are endless, and your body and mind will thank you.

  • Achieve calorie deficit: This means your calorie intake should be lower than calorie expenditure. To make that happen, you should limit calorie intake, avoid overeating, and increase physical activity levels. Products like Nuu3 Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies can help you curb your appetite so you can achieve a calorie deficit.

  • Control portion size: large portions contribute to overeating[9], which is why it is a logical step to control how much you eat. Use a smaller plate to eat your meals, and avoid refills once you’re done.

  • Exercise regularly: physical activity is important for the reduction of abdominal fat. Ideally, you should go for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week and do strength training twice a week (on nonconsecutive days). Exercise can help you lose fat[10] and tone your body by increasing muscle mass. Power up your exercise with an energy boost from Nuu3 Nature’s Superfuel for better athletic performance.

  • Eat more protein: a useful ‘how to get rid of stress belly’ strategy is to increase protein intake. Protein promotes a feeling of fullness, thereby reducing overall calorie intake. Additionally, it supports muscle mass and speeds up metabolism thus providing more effective calorie burning.

  • Reduce or avoid alcohol intake: since alcohol adds to calorie intake and may increase abdominal fat, you should strive to reduce your consumption or avoid it entirely. Just keep in mind that avoiding alcohol alone won’t help you get rid of stress belly, you need to combine these lifestyle modifications with other strategies.

  • Eat stress-lowering foods: enrich your diet with foods and vegetables that help relieve stress. These include matcha powder, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, kimchi, artichokes, organ meats, shellfish, eggs, fatty fish, parsley, broccoli, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, blueberries, and chamomile tea. These foods support a healthy diet and also contain nutrients and compounds that relieve stress. In addition to foods, you should also consider natural products like Nuu3 Keep Calm Gummies that aid in stress management.

  • Eat more fiber: it suppresses your appetite and helps control calorie intake thus helping you slim down and lose belly fat.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to reduce stress with self-care?

Self-care is a vital component of effective stress management. You can reduce stress with self-care by prioritizing relaxation through techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. Everything you do that benefits your physical and mental health is a form of self-care. That’s why regular exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet are important too. A regular skincare routine and taking some me-time are also forms of self-care that can help you relax and eliminate stress belly.

How long does it take to work off stress belly?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule when it comes to the timeframe for getting rid of abdominal weight gain caused by stress. Various factors play a role including age, genetics, lifestyle, diet, workout routine, and metabolism. That said, with a commitment to lifestyle modifications, you will be able to notice progress every week. Gradual, steady weight loss of one to two pounds a week[11] is an achievable goal. That’s the kind of weight loss you can maintain for a long time without getting stressed about it and thereby risking gaining stress belly fat again.

How to lower cortisol levels?

To lower cortisol levels, you need to be proactive about stress management. Don’t ignore it, thinking stress will go away on its own. Instead, you need to find the best stress relief strategy that helps you relax. Good examples are meditation, yoga, exercise, reading or writing, taking a walk, getting enough sleep, and socializing with friends. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your family and friends. Everyone needs a strong support system. Therapy is also a good option for people who don’t know how to manage their stress. You may also want to consult a doctor who will inform you how to lower cortisol levels and lose weight.

Why is belly fat more difficult to lose?

Belly fat is more challenging to lose because it consists of visceral fat, a type of fat that is metabolically active and surrounds your vital organs. Belly fat contains a larger amount of fat cells that don’t respond so easily to lipolysis (fat-breakdown process). That’s why stress belly fat is so stubborn and tricky to get rid of. Losing weight in the abdominal area is influenced by various factors including genetics, hormones, age, stress levels, and physical activity levels. Although tricky, you can get rid of it with a commitment to lifestyle changes described in this post.

Bottom line

Stress is one of the biggest factors behind increased abdominal fat. This is particularly evident in people who modify their lifestyle and still can’t lose weight or fat around the abdominal area. They may not see much progress because stress belly fat calls for a different strategy. In addition to changing your diet and physical activity levels, you also need to work proactively on stress management.

This article showed you how to lower cortisol levels and lose weight through simple lifestyle modifications. Working on stress management helps you control other aspects of life, including your diet and physical activity, which is important for losing belly fat.


1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8740746
2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214609/
3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6767465
4] https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-cortisol-weight-loss-controversy-3233036
5] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-slowly-and-weight-loss#eating-slowly
6] https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/lack-of-sleep-increases-unhealthy-abdominal-fat/
7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3454366/
8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6296480/
9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105579/
10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8497689/
11] https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/index.html

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Ahmed Zayed

Dr. Zayed, has years of experience in the field and has been contributing to public health awareness. Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. Egypt. Dr. Zayed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. His articles were featured on many websites like HuffingtonPost, Chicagotribune . Other than his passion for writing, Dr. Zayed spends his time outside the hospital, either reading or at the gym.

Written by Dr. Ahmed Zayed

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