How does belly fat feel?
If you said squishy, spongy or the less-elegant gross, you may be right. But fat has other feelings, too: anxious, lonely, even happy sometimes. Because your belly doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It influences, and is influenced by, a complex series of hormones that course through your brain and body constantly.
And those hormones both drive, and are driven by, emotions. Our bodies reflect our emotional state--our hearts pound when we’re afraid, our blood pressure soars when we’re angry, our stomachs churn when we’re feeling guilty.
And our belly fat responds, too. Sometimes our emotion-driven hormones act directly on our fat cells, causing us to gain or lose fatty tissue. Other times they drive behaviors that lead to greater weight gain. Either way, being more in touch with your feelings can help you get more in touch with your abs. Here are the emotions that put your belly fat in motion. And while you’re thinking about new ways to fight fat, consider these 8 Best Fats for Weight Loss!
Fat Feeling #1: Loneliness
Because It: Messes Up Your Hunger Hormones
Any bad mood can lead us to try to comfort ourselves with food, and loneliness is about as bad a feeling as you can have. But the link between loneliness and weight gain is more substantial than that. A new study in the journal Hormones and Behavior found that those who feel lonely experience greater circulating levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin after they eat, causing them to feel hungrier sooner. Over time, folks who are perennially lonely simply take in more calories than those with stronger social support networks.
Break the Mood: Get off the computer. Use of social networks and high internet use exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Then go find people who share your interests, whether it be hiking, knitting, biking, reading, shopping, even eating.
Fat Feeling #2: Wedded Bliss
Because It: Makes Us Copy Our Partner’s Bad Habits
A review of more than 600 studies found that being married, and transitioning into marriage, are both associated with weight gain. Transitioning out of a marriage, however, is associated with weight loss. (Maybe that’s how the quintuply divorced Billy Bob Thornton stays so slim.) The researchers found that weight gain occurs because of increased opportunities for eating due to shared, regular meals and larger portion sizes, as well as “decreased physical activity and a decline in weight maintenance for the purpose of attracting an intimate partner.” That’s science speak for, You let yourself go!
Break the Mood: Assuming bliss isn’t an emotion you want to give up on, the next best approach is to identify the shared habits that are harming your health. The best way to stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine is to do it with someone else. So, partner up: consider taking cooking classes and fitness classes together, and make weight loss a fun goal for the two of you. To make major lifestyle changes in just 21 days, learn How This Female Firefighter Got Abs.
Fat Feeling #3: Deprivation
Because It: Manifests Itself as Hunger
Food. Sex. Adventure. Validation. If you feel like you, or someone else, is depriving yourself of something, then you are more likely to overeat, regardless of how “good” you want to be. And if it’s food you’re trying to resist, you’ll also experience more cravings for whatever it is you aren’t getting, according to a study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. Our brains actually become wired to view forbidden foods as rewards, setting us up for cravings that are hard to satisfy. And this, my friends, is why most diets fail. You can only resist chocolate cake for so long before you find yourself at the diner, wolfing down three slices.
Break the Mood: If you’re feeling deprived by your diet, build in a cheat meal at least once a week in which you can indulge guilt-free. Doing this will help you avoid viewing certain foods as “off limits,” which will help you crave them less.
Fat Feeling #4: Stress
Because It: Triggers Fat Storage
When stress hits, the first thing your body does is to up its production of adrenaline. Adrenaline causes fat cells all over your body to squirt their stores of fatty acids into your bloodstream, where they can be used as energy. This was great back when stress meant a charging saber-toothed tiger or an attacking horde of barbarians, and you could turn and head for the hills. But you can’t really run away from a deadline or take up arms against a traffic jam. All you can do is bear down and, to help soothe your nerves, maybe have a snack. And another. Meanwhile, a second hormone called cortisol grabs all those unused fatty acids from your bloodstream and stores them in your belly region. With that fat stored, not burned, your body goes looking for more calories to replace the fatty acids it released earlier (back when it thought the hordes were invading).
Break the Mood: Laughter is the best stress reliever. It lowers your heart rate, improves your mood, makes you friendlier, and decreases anxiety. So, go to Youtube and plug in one of these search terms: “A Bad Lip Reading of The NFL” “Dogs Just Don't Want To Bathe,” or the ever-popular “Grandma’s Smoking Weed For The First Time.” And try out these 9 Ways to Lose Belly Fat When You’re Crazy Busy!
Fat Feeling #5: Boredom
Because It: Confuses Your Brain
When you’re bored you actually lose your ability to make smart food choices; you become an “emotional eater,” according to a new study in the Journal of Health Psychology. And boredom turns you into the worse kind of emotional eater, because you not only make the wrong food choices, you eat much more of those fattening foods than you normally would. Unfortunately for us, “Because I’m Bored” is one of the top reasons people give when they’re asked about their emotions before they eat.
Break the Mood: You feel bored when you are dissatisfied, restless, and unchallenged, according to a study in Frontiers in Psychology. The best way to beat boredom is to find something to do that is purposeful and challenging. Instead of trying to entertain yourself, look for opportunities to help others.
Fat Feeling #6: Anxiety
Because It: Leads to Disordered Eating
When you’re anxious, your body feels like it’s under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. A recent study in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders placed anxiety as “one of the most important factors significantly associated with weight gain.” In fact, two-thirds of people with eating disorders also suffer from anxiety, and the anxiety usually existed first.
Break the Mood: Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness.
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