measuring belly fat

 Lack of Sleep Can Cause Belly Fat

If you are not getting enough sleep, at least 8 hours per night, you might notice you are gaining weight- especially in the area of your belly. Belly fat is especially difficult to lose. There are even many people who are not significantly overweight, but have a big belly. You can do spot exercises to lose weight, and tighten your stomach area, but the belly fat is stuck. Don’t believe the ads that tell you there are special foods to eat that will make your belly fat go away. It’s just a bunch of lies intended to separate you from your money!

Stress and Belly Fat

Belly fat, when you have a bigger stomach than the measurement of your hips (your stomach to hips ratio) is not so much a result of what you are eating, but what’s eating you! You can diet, but that’s trying to get rid of the symptom of the problem without getting rid of the reason for the belly fat. Belly fat can be the result of stress in your life. Having significant stress that leaks into the night and prevents you from getting enough sleep is thought to be one of the major contributing factors to weight gain, especially in the area of your belly! It works in a few ways. 

Lack of Sleep affects your stress level

falling asleep at the computer Your belly fat can be the result of not  enough hours of sleep. Stress can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, and/or have a good quality sleep for at least 8 hours. Lack of sleep affects two hormones: Ghrelin and Leptin that involved in the regulation of your appetite and metabolism. Leptin signals you when you are full, and affects the proper responses of your thyroid gland to managing the food you do eat. When you don’t have enough sleep, you end up with too little leptin in your body.

Leptin Resistance

There’s even a condition called “leptin resistance” which becomes the main driver of fat gain in humans! In fact, new research is disproving the belief that weight gain is about calories and willpower. That’s right, all those fat shaming people are WRONG!!  Scientists are learning that gaining fat is related to leptin resistance…and that is affected by lack of sleep!

Ghrelin Makes You Hungry

Ghrelin is the opposite of leptin and is just as important. Ghrelin is produced in the gut and is known as the “hunger hormone”. It tells your brain that you’re hungry and it’s time to get some food in your belly. It almost forces you to consume more food. The higher the levels, the hungrier you get. If you’re already overweight, it doesn’t mean that you have higher levels, but you might just be more sensitive to its effects than lean people.

WITHIN A DAY of starting a diet, your gherlin levels will go up and continues to grow

as long as you are on a diet

– it forces your brain to focus you on getting food into your body!

Lack of Sleep can lead to Diabetes

Not having enough sleep has also be found to increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone and contributes to insulin resistance. In fact, just three consecutive nights of inadequate sleep can elevate a person’s risk to a degree roughly equivalent to gaining 20 to 30 pounds, according to a 2007 study at the University of Chicago. And insulin resistance can also lead to type 2 diabetes!

“Sleep may be as important as exercise or diet when it comes to developing diabetes,” says Eve Van Cauter, MD, a professor of medicine.

Yet another article talks about the importance of sleep, but not the association of sleep and stress. It would have been interesting if lack of sleep was tested against stressed people, or people who claim they are not stressed and just sleep less. It’s as if researchers are ignoring the elephant in the room – but just seeing it as a fat elephant.

walking in nature for stress relief

How To Lose Belly Fat

So, how can you lose your belly fat? If you want an honest answer, there is no one way that is guaranteed to help you lose that belly fat, or weight for that matter. Over-exercising just causes more of a stress reaction in your body! Eating less also can also create a stress reaction in your body. It seems like relaxation and sleep may be the “best medicine”.  Walking in nature and deep breathing can definitely improve your stress levels and mood. And if you follow these practices below, you will increase the chance that you can manage your weight and not gain any additional pounds- especially around your middle.


  •  Deal with the stress! Don’t wait for stress- practice methods of stress relief DAILY
  •  Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full – don’t eat when you are stressed!
  • Eat Slowly and mindfully- focus on your food, not the TV, phone or anything that will distract you from your feelings of hunger and satiation. Enjoy your food! 
  • Eat more- dieting slows your metabolism
  • Eat more often! If your hands are cold, you probably  need to eat! Check your body temperature- if it’s low, you DEFINITELY need food in your system.
  •  Get plenty of good sleep (at least 8 hours)

The bottom line is: there is a lot more to weight management that eating less and exercising more. In fact, that strategy the Diet Industry and Dr. Oz is pushing  for weight loss may be the thing that is making you gain weight and making your life miserable as well! Don’t  diet!

Lianda Ludwig, Stress and Weight Management coach


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