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Men's Health

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Ask Dr. Oz: Why Am I Fatter When I'm Stressed?

WebMD Feature from "Esquire" Magazine

By Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

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Because your body thinks you're about to starve. Thousands of years ago, hunger was a caveman's primary source of anxiety. When food became scarce, his body coped with the resultant stress by releasing steroids, which were absorbed by his omentum — a fat reservoir that hangs like an apron over the stomach — and promoting fat storage. And since your body doesn't know the difference between a demanding boss and a depleted herd of mastodons, your omentum will do the same thing when it senses stress. Having some omental fat isn't a big deal. But having too much is. Measure your waist at your belly button. If that number is less than half of your height, you're in good shape. If it's more, you could be in serious trouble.

Carrying too much omental fat stresses your liver, which can cause inflammation throughout your body and lead to high cholesterol. Also, an enlarged omentum presses on the kidneys, causing high blood pressure, and blocks the activity of insulin, which leads to diabetes. The good news is that omental fat responds quickly to dieting and exercise. So be sure to replace bad fats (trans and saturated) with good ones (omega-3's).

Telling them apart is easy: Good fats, like fish oil and olive oil, are liquid at room temperature. Bad fats, like those found in lamb and Tastykakes, are solid. And instead of hitting the treadmill, try walking briskly. Your heart rate won't get as high, but you can stay active for longer, which will help you burn more calories, which means your gut may be gone in weeks.

Mehmet Oz is a heart surgeon and the coauthor of You: On a Diet (Free Press, $25).


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