Muffin tops roll on stress
QUEENSLAND superwomen trying to ‘‘have it all’’ are so stressed their brains are releasing cortisol levels equivalent to a life-and-death situation.
Gold Coast neuroscience researcher Delia McCabe has revealed the shocking impact of sustained stress on women.
“When these cortisol levels are always sky high, the brain automatically thinks it is in a dangerous position,’’ she said.
This extreme stress is manifesting itself in fat stores around the waistline. When the body believes it is in constant danger, it stores fat for energy to escape.
“Cortisol is a fat-promoting hormone because it triggers specific enzymes to store fat, in case of an emergency,’’ the clinical psychologist said.
“The reason people accumulate tummy fat, or muffin top, is because deep abdominal fat contains four times the amount of cortisol receptors than other fat sites. Cortisol is therefore drawn to the tummy like a magnet, leading to weight gain in this area.’’
The researcher believes we are seeing the dark side of neuroplasticity – where the brain becomes so stressed over time it is unable to find emotional equilibrium, sparking anxiety and depression.
“The body is designed to cope with stress for no longer than 60 seconds and it cannot tell the difference between living through a very stressful ex- perience and worrying about it happening,” Ms McCabe said.
Two-thirds of women admit they feel on edge almost every day, the latest Women’s Health Survey 2018 shows.
“The weight dilemma is compounded when stressedout women struggle to sleep,’’ she said. “This leads to an increase in another hormone called ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone, as it tells your brain you need to eat.’’
Being tired also causes people to gravitate towards fastrelease energy foods, she said.
“So blood glucose ups and downs continue and, in time , metabolism is impacted, which leads to it becoming harder and harder to lose weight,’’ she said. “Bad habits stick around like excess weight.’’