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Reducing stress and reducing cortisol, reduced belly fat notes Elissa Epel
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 9:30 am Email this article
A study that helped people reduce stress, reduced belly fat notes Elissa Epel from the Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment, University of California, San Francisco in the 7-part video series called “The Skinny on Obesity” (Episode 6).
The program they followed is described below.
Stress reduction program
Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction program to determine the effect on belly fat
“We been wanting for a long time to know if we reduce somebody psychological stress dramatically, is it going to change the hormonal environment –- lower the stress hormone cortisol -– and reduce their abdominal fat.
“We rely on a program called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction.
“It’s a very common program.
“People can get tapes and books about it.
It involves focusing on the moment
It involves focusing on the moment and noticing worrying thoughts
“They change their mental filter by becoming more mindful and paying attention to the moment, and noticing their thoughts when they start worrying and [worrying about catastrophic events].
“We train people to meditate, and to recognize where they keep tension in their body, and notice when they are hungry, so they are really in tune with their physical state, which is a skill that most of us don’t have.
“It’s easy to develop, but [most of us don’t really listen to what our body is telling us.]
No dieting or exercise
The study did NOT involved dieting or exercise
“So we did a study where we did not ask anyone to cut calories or exercise more, and so we didn’t expect their weight on the scale to change, but if they really reduce their cortisol [the long-term stress hormone], would their fat distribution change.
“Would they reduce the fat in their belly, and [the fat] go more towards their hips…
“So that was our hypothesis for this study.
“We had a group of women who were committed to the idea that we were not asking them to go on a diet, but we were going to ask them to eat differently, and notice the process of eating, and change their relationship to food.
People wrote down hunger and feelings before eating
People wrote down hunger and feelings before eating, and fullness after eating
“So before meals, people checked in, and figured out how hungry they really were and what feelings they were having, and that really sets them up to eat in response to hunger rather than emotions, and to eat as much as they need, and to eat a reasonable meal, and notice the experience, the pleasure and the fullness.
“So, it’s really much more of a conscious experience rather than eating automatically, habitually, and then it’s gone, and you didn’t really notice that you were eating.
“We measured their body fat… to measure how much trunk fat they had before and after the class.
Obese women lost belly fat
Obese women lost belly fat when they reduced stress
“What we found was that for the obese women, the more they improved on their well-being, decreasing their anxiety and chronic stress, the more [abdominal] fat they lost.
“Then we looked at cortisol [levels].
Cortisol goes up upon awakening
Cortisol goes up upon awakening and more so under stress
“Cortisol goes up right after you wake up, especially if you are having a stressful day and thinking about all the things you have to do…
“We looked at this cortisol response to awakening before and after the intervention, and we found that for the obese women, the cortisol morning rise was dramatically reduced…
Lowering cortisol decreased belly fat
The more cortisol was reduced, the more fat they lost
“The more [their cortisol] was reduced, the more belly fat they lost.
“Many Americans are under stress, and we know that this influences eating behavior… and metabolism.
“If we can bring this… [to] people’s awareness, understanding that our bodies are conditioned to overeat highly-palatable foods especially when we are stressed, that’s the first step to changing it.”
Robert Lustig, MD. The The Skinny on Obesity, Episode 6.
UCTV Prime: The Skinny on Obesity
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