Ask Dr. Oz: Why Am I Fatter When I'm Stressed?
By Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.
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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