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Home arrow Health arrow Mental Health arrow How to Get Rid of Stress Belly: Tried and Tested Methods

How to Get Rid of Stress Belly: Tried and Tested Methods

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
8 min read 1078 Views 0 Comments
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Stress belly is caused by high cortisol levels, leading to weight gain around your stomach. The best way to get rid of this fat is to reduce stress levels. We’ve taken a look at some of the ways you can do this in this article.

how to get rid of stress belly

High levels of stress are bad for your body in several ways, and prolonged stress can lead to a ton of physical symptoms, including headaches, gut problems, and nausea. But did you know that chronic stress can lead to weight gain, particularly around the stomach?

Stress belly refers to excess belly fat that occurs as a result of prolonged stress and is caused by an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can lead to more fat storage, which, in turn, increases the visceral fat stored around your belly.

Stress belly can be an annoying side effect of chronic stress, and it can affect your overall health. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the ways you can get rid of stress belly and the way that stress hormones cause abdominal obesity in the first place. Take a look to find out more.

9 Ways to Get Rid of Stress Belly

  1. Take some time for yourself
  2. Exercise as much as you can
  3. Eat a balanced diet
  4. Consume more fiber
  5. Try to drink less alcohol
  6. Have an established sleep schedule
  7. Have your stress relief tactic
  8. Set boundaries
  9. Consider therapy if nothing helps

How to Get Rid of Stress Belly: 9 Tips to Help You

Abdominal weight gain is a side effect of prolonged stress. It is caused by changes in the levels of stress hormones in your body and can have an impact on your risk of developing chronic conditions.

Below, we have summarized some of the best ways that you can relieve stress and, by extension, get rid of stress belly.

#1 Take some time for yourself

Taking some time away from your day-to-day activities can help reduce stress. This time could be taken in the form of a short walk in nature to boost your mood or simply sitting down and writing in your journal. By removing yourself from the stress of everyday life, you can find the time to collect your thoughts and calm any anxiety surrounding them.

#2 Exercise as much as you can

Exercise has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression repeatedly. It is not only good for your physical health but also contributes to a better mood and feelings of relaxation. Indeed, it is a frequently recommended remedy for many mental health conditions, including chronic stress.

Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain, reduce stress, and support better overall well-being. Increasing your daily physical activity could include a daily run, a walk with friends, or high-intensity resistance training – it is really up to you.

#3 Eat a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet isn’t just good for your physical health. It may actually be good for your mental health, too. Indeed, there is research to suggest diets can have a profound impact on your mental well-being.

Foods high in omega-3 and prebiotic fiber are both thought to help reduce cortisol levels, and drinking more water each day may also be linked to a better overall mood.

It is also important to note that by eating a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and limiting refined carbs, grains, and sugars, you are likely to avoid further weight gain and improve your overall health.

#4 Consume more fiber

Fiber is absolutely essential to good health. It helps to balance the gut microbiome, ensures you have regular bowel movements, and helps to keep you fuller for longer, reducing the risk of weight gain. Research has also linked an increase in fiber intake to better mental well-being.

The gut-brain connection plays a role in mental health, too. A healthy gut can have a positive impact on a healthy mind, and a healthy mind can have a positive impact on a healthy gut.

#5 Try to drink less alcohol

For some people, having a glass of wine in the evening is a good way to relax, but drinking alcohol regularly can actually contribute to elevated stress cortisol levels and an increase in belly fat.

Regular alcohol consumption can lead to more anxiety and stress the next day. This can have an impact on your cortisol levels and the way that fat is stored in the body. To reduce stress belly, try reducing your alcohol consumption.

#6 Have an established sleep schedule

Sleep issues have been associated with a rise in the primary stress hormone, cortisol. This means that getting higher quality sleep can help you reduce stress levels and, therefore, get rid of your stress belly.

To optimize your sleep schedule and get the rest your body needs, try going to bed at the same time each night, limit your exposure to light in the evenings, stop looking at screens a few hours before bedtime, and stop drinking caffeinated drinks around 3 PM.

#7 Have your stress relief tactic

There are many ways to relieve stress, including getting outside, going for a walk, doing some yoga, meditating, or trying a breathing exercise. Try some of these different ways to relieve stress and see which ones work.

Once you have found a good tactic for stress relief, incorporate it into your daily routine. Try waking up and going for a walk to start your day off in the right headspace or meditating before sleep to soothe a busy mind and get rid of any worries from the day.

#8 Set boundaries

Setting boundaries essentially means learning when to say no to things that you know aren’t good for your mental health and setting out the limits of what you will and won’t allow in your life.

You can set boundaries in all areas of your life, including work and home. This could look like saying no to a trip you know you can’t afford, speaking with your boss about your work/life balance, or removing yourself from toxic situations and relationships.

Setting boundaries is an excellent way to take your mental health into your own hands. It helps you to clearly define what you can take and what you know will add unnecessary stress and worry to your life. It helps to empower you and promotes healthier relationships with those around you.

By setting boundaries, you can remove additional stress and anxiety from your life and reduce your stress belly.

#9 Consider therapy if nothing helps

Unfortunately, sometimes our mental health needs more care. If you’ve tried all of these remedies already and nothing is helping to reduce your stress and get rid of your stress belly, then it may be time to speak with a mental health professional.

Seeking professional medical advice does not mean you have failed – it means that you need a helping hand to get your stress under control again.

There are many forms of therapy, including talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. All of these are designed to help you cope with stress better and empower you to make healthier decisions.

What Is a Stress Belly?

Though not actually a medical term, a stress belly refers to the accumulation of belly fat that occurs when we experience prolonged stress. It is a direct result of the elevated cortisol levels that rise when we are stressed out.

A stress belly looks like extra visceral fat in the midsection or abdominal obesity, and can be bad for your overall health. Indeed, more visceral fat in the stomach region can increase your risk of many chronic conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

What Causes Stress Belly?

Stress belly fat is caused by the increase in cortisol levels that occur when you feel stressed out. Cortisol is part of the fight-or-flight response in the body. It is meant to be a short-term boost to help your body fight or flee in a stressful situation, but prolonged stress can lead to complications as a result of the rise in the levels of this primary stress hormone.

Prolonged elevated stress cortisol levels are known to cause more visceral fat storage in the stomach, leading to abdominal obesity and what is termed a stress belly. In addition, stress causes people to crave energy-dense food, known as comfort food, which is more likely to result in weight gain.

Cortisol also causes an increase in insulin resistance, meaning that the body does not respond as it should to the hormone, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. Reduced insulin sensitivity has been linked to abdominal obesity in many studies and could be a precursor to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

What does a stress belly look like?

A stress belly looks like excess belly fat around the midsection. Unlike other forms of abdominal fat, a stress belly is more widespread across the stomach region. While other health problems can lead to increased weight gain only in the lower belly, abdominal fat caused by increased cortisol levels tends to sit higher up in the stomach region, as well as further down.

Signs of a Stress Belly

There are a few ways you can tell if your increased abdominal fat is caused by cortisol messing with how the body stores fat. To begin with, if you feel constantly overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxious, the likelihood is that your abdominal weight gain is caused by stress.

Along with cortisol, stress has also been linked to the hunger hormone ghrelin. If you constantly feel hungry, no matter what, it could be a sign that your excess abdominal fat is linked to stress and anxiety. A never-ending appetite can cause you to gain abdominal fat.

Lastly, feeling absolutely ravenous after working out could suggest your cortisol levels are too high. While exercise is a good way to get rid of belly fat, it is best to exercise at a low intensity so as not to raise your stress hormones too high.

What to Eat if You Have a Stress Belly?

A balanced diet is key to getting rid of stress belly and getting a handle on your mental health. You should eat from all food groups and get lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats into your diet to ensure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet.

It is also a good idea to eat stress-reducing foods. This includes foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish, as well as foods that contain lots of B vitamins.

To avoid gaining weight or increasing your stress belly, avoid processed foods high in refined carbs and sugars. These foods can be linked to stress, as well as obesity, and other health problems.

A Word From a Psychologist

While the body’s stress response helps us get away from sticky situations, it is only a short-term solution. Prolonged and chronic stress is incredibly harmful to your health and can lead to a ton of health issues, including gastrointestinal issues and abdominal obesity.

Research suggests that an increase in abdominal fat can be linked to several conditions, including diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, and high blood pressure. While the recommendation to lose weight may seem simple, if your excess abdominal fat is caused by cortisol levels rising due to chronic stress, it may be more difficult than just eating better.

To reduce belly fat caused by high cortisol levels, you need to get better control of your stress levels. You can do many things to reduce stress, including partaking in moderate-intensity exercise each day, like going for a bike ride and getting outside more.

You could also try breathing techniques designed to reduce stress, yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices. If you find that these remedies do not work, then it may be time to seek professional medical advice to help you control your stress and reduce belly fat.


High stress levels tremendously impact your overall well-being, and getting them under control is integral to feeling better. Excess abdominal fat can be linked back to stress when cortisol levels rise. As such, getting rid of stress in your life is the best way to lose weight from the stomach.

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: October 10, 2023
8 min read 1078 Views 0 Comments

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