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To lose fat, it’s essential that you minimize stress to lower your cortisol levels. Chronically high cortisol is associated with higher body fat, particularly around the abdominal region. This means that no matter how much you exercise or eat healthy, you're unlikely to lose fat if your cortisol is elevated because of how cortisol makes it harder for the body to metabolise insulin.

One recent study looked at the relationship between cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity, and visceral belly fat (fat around the organs) in men. Men with more belly fat produced far more cortisol throughout the day and had decreased insulin sensitivity than those with less belly fat.

Interestingly, subcutaneous fat (the jiggly kind that’s right below the skin) was not related to insulin or cortisol levels. Researchers suggest both external stress and internal physiological stress (in the form of chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract otherwise known as your GUT) are the cause of the elevated cortisol.

If you have any experience with fat loss, you know that the body is most agreeable about giving up its fat stores when it is calm and not stressed or overly stimulated.

Proven ways to reduce stress include the following:

1. eating anti-inflammatory foods and getting plenty of probiotics for a healthy gut.

2. mind-body activities that bring you into the moment and help you connect with what really matters--yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can all be protective.

3. strength training and martial arts will fight stress and promote ideal body composition.

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