Why Stress is Affecting Your Waistline & What to Do About It

Parsley Health
February 21, 2016

Stress happens. In the busy modern world, stress is basically synonymous with life. And the ways in which stress affects our health is well documented almost everywhere you look.

The sneaky thing about stress is that your body doesn’t distinguish between ‘perceived’ or ‘real’ stress. Stress can be caused by an actual threat, i.e. losing your job/experiencing a trauma, but it can also be caused by more subtle triggers like worrying about being stressed!

Some of our efforts to be ‘healthier’ could be stressing us out. Pushing ourselves too hard in exercise; obsessing over food; compromising our sleep for the sake of ‘health practices’ like fitness classes or even yoga, are all such examples.

The biggest culprit causing or perpetuating the detrimental consequences of stress is the hormone cortisol . Fasting, food intake, exercising, waking up, and psychosocial stressors cause the body to release cortisol.

Cortisol does many important things in the body that help us cope with a change in our environment, but the problem with modern life is that we’re running on cortisol nearly 24/7 which starts to create a new set of problems.

One often overlooked problem is abdominal weight gain. Cortisol release in the body causes fat to be made available as fuel or to be moved from places where it is stored (the legs and thighs, for example) to the vital organs in the abdomen as a ‘protective’ mechanism in times of stress.

While that may have been a good thing in the caveman era, it’s not good for our health today. If we are living in a regular state of stress, day in and day out, our belly fat is going to pile up leaving us susceptible to other issues.

Excess fat around the abdomen is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and colon cancers.

Why? Well, this kind of fat has a mind of it’s own. It makes toxins that negatively affect the way the body operates and produces chemicals like cytokines that increase inflammation .

What’s the key to shedding belly fat and preventing inflammation?


Sufficient shut eye gives our bodies the much needed time to rest and repair. If we skimp on this vital form of self-care we not only set ourselves up for poor mental function the next day but we’re also more prone to abnormal fluctuations in cortisol and weight gain.

Eat clean.

Minimizing processed foods, sugar, and other sources of inflammation are key to reducing fat build up. Clean, whole foods keep inflammation low, blood sugar steady and your energy levels high. I have the Parsley Rebuild protein shake  for breakfast each day; it’s a high protein , high nutrient and vegan foundation to my day.


A sedentary, seated lifestyle does not do a body good. Any form of enjoyable physical movement, whether that’s weight training, yoga, dance, or even walking will keep your body working like a well-oiled machine and promote a healthy metabolism.


Living in a constant state of stress/fight or flight mode is negatively impacting your waistline. Even if you hit the gym regularly and eat healthy, stress can still run rampant in your system. Make time to really, actually let it go, often.

Parsley Health

Parsley Health is the doctor that helps you live healthier, longer, by treating the root cause of symptoms and conditions. Our medical teams—staffed by leading clinicians and health coaches—spend more time with you, order the right tests, and prescribe food, sleep and movement alongside medications so you can get better—and feel better.

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