So far we've focused on diet and exercise, but getting your stress under control is key for shedding body fat, especially in your belly. "Stress releases a hormone called cortisol," Erica Patel, MD, internist at the University of Southern California, told POPSUGAR. "[The release of cortisol] causes high blood sugar levels by promoting the breakdown of protein stores into glucose to be used as fuel. Over time, persistently high levels of cortisol seen in stress promote the storage of excess glucose as fat in the abdomen, causing belly fat." Not to mention that stress can trigger unhealthy eating habits: how often do you reach for a bag of chips or into the cookie jar after a bad day at work?
Reducing stress in your life is easier said than done, but when you're feeling stressed, implement other coping mechanisms that don't involve food or alcohol: read, go for a walk, take a bath, light a candle, practice meditation, or journal. If you're feeling extra stressed at work, see if you can get up from your desk for a few minutes and take a walk around the office. Plus, getting enough sleep at night — aim for seven hours — will keep your stress levels down and help you feel well-rested to take on the day.