How To Reduce Stress and Belly Fat

Learn the exact foods you must eat if you want to finally lose weight permanently. Click here to download your free Weight Loss Food List, the “Eat More, Lose More” Weight Loss Plan, and the “Slim in 6” Cheat Sheet…CLICK HERE FOR FREE “HOW TO” WEIGHT LOSS GUIDES

Real-Life Insights and Takaways

  • Cortisol is a real hormone and if you get too much of it, it can contribute to visceral fat production, also known as belly fat.
  • Belly fat is more of a concern than fat on other parts of your body because it causes problems with your organs.
  • There is no such thing as a bad hormone. You have hormones to do specific things and they exist because they are required for your body to function. It is when we have too much or too little of a hormone that we start to experience problems.
  • There isn’t something you can put into your body that does just onething.
  • If you take a medication to alleve a pain for example, it will affect your body in many ways. Often the effects we don’t like we call side effects.
  • Thea Singer, MIT professor, makes a distinction between real stress and perceived stress. We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change our perception and how we process stress.
  • In The Upside of Stress, author Kelly McGonigal recommends thinking of the story you are telling yourself.
  • Consider the blessings and opportunities in your life and write a “new story” to describe the good in your life. Read your “new story” every morning. It will help your day go better, help you to sleep better, and make you happier.
  • Consider how you communicate your reality to yourself. We can’t always change reality, but we can change our perception.
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Franklis the story of an Austrian psychotherapist who choose to find meaning and purpose while suffering in a concentration camp.
  • The book, Overachievement, explains how your body reacts physiologically to help optimize a perceived stressful experience.
  • You can choose to embrace stress and use it to your advantage.
  • Antifragile changed Jonathan’s perception of problems as the book discusses the difference between living things and mechanical things, and how adversity makes living things stronger.
  • The Obstacle Is the Way recommends using challenges as leverage to become better.
  • We can control our perception, our attitude, and find meaning in stressful situations.
  • The stress you feel in any area of your life just might push you to find long-lasting solutions.
  • Instead of using the term “stress”, use the phrase “This matters.” We get stressed about things that really matter.

—NEXT ACTION—
Determine what it takes to lower your stress set point and do it. Read one of the books mentioned in this episode, or write your current story and then write a “new story” with a positive perspective. Ask yourself, “Was there a time in my life when I wasn’t as stressed as I am right now?” Reflect on what you can change and consider meditation, exercise, spending time with someone you care about, etc.

SANE Soundbites

Scroll up to pin and share the sexy infographic versions of these 😉

  • 2:17 – 2:42, “There is no such thing as a bad hormone. You have hormones to do specific things.  If you have too much of any one, that’s bad.  If you have too little of any one, that’s bad.  But there is no such thing as a bad hormone.  It exists because it’s required for something in your body.  Now if it gets out of whack or there’s too much of it or too little of it, that’s when we have problems.”
  • 3:14 – 3:50, “There is not something you can put into your body that does one thing. While it seems like taking Aleve just makes your headache go away, it’s not as if your brain sort of knows you took Aleve and knows that Aleve just does this thing to your headache.  That’s the problem with statins.  Statins do lower your cholesterol, but they also lower the form of cholesterol you don’t want lowered and they also cause neurological issues.  They’re called side effects.  But there really are no such thing as side effects, there are just effects, and the ones we don’t like we call side effects.”
  • 6:12 – 6:40, “There has to be the sort of distinction in your brain about how events are perceived.  That is what we can control and that, I think, is really — rather than taking a pill or trying to be like, “I’m going to quit my job and make all these changes and then everything will be perfect.”  There’s an old saying which is, “No matter where you go, there you are.”  So the one thing that you can change is your perception and the way you process stress and I think that’s the area we need to focus on.”
  • 7:26 – 8:22, “I was telling myself this story of how tired I am and how overwhelming my life is and I looked at that story and I thought, “Well, April, hello.  What are you doing to yourself?  Why are you telling yourself this story?”  So I rewrote the story.  I actually read it to Eric the other day.  I won’t read the whole thing here because it’s pretty personal but the way it starts is, “Every day, I have the privilege of waking up to live a beautiful story.”  And then I went on and explained everything reversed — the blessings I have, these opportunities that I have to help other people, how even when I’m not enough, it’s okay because there’s power coming from heaven and here on Earth to help me make it happen. I rewrote the story and every morning, I’ve been reading my new story.  I can’t even tell you how that has helped me.  I feel like it’s completely changed how I look at my day.”
  • 12:00 – 12:36, “All of us want a transformation. All of us want to grow and develop.  We don’t want to be the same as we were when we were toddlers; when we were in high school.  We want to grow and continue and develop and learn.  I think when you can look at nature, look at the science of why your body is giving you this stress and anxiety, seeing it as fuel, seeing it as a reason to continue to grow and do better and work your purpose, I feel like that’s just helped me so much and not ever even having to think “I need to reduce my stress” anymore.  I’ve used that term my whole life.  “I’m going to reduce my stress.  I’m going to lower my stress.”  Now it’s like, “I’m going to embrace this stress and I’m going to use it to my advantage.”
  • 13:55 – 14:06, “What I have right now, how can I use that or leverage that to either strengthen myself, strengthen the world, or make the world a better place and give some meaning and purpose?”
  • 14:41 – 14:51, “That’s the last thing we can control — our perception and our attitude and our meaning.  It’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses.  It’s as scientific and real as it gets.”
  • 14:54 – 16:09, “I think back to my life and even just thinking back to a couple of years ago, I had a huge stress in my life in that I was tired of counting calories; I was tired of feeling guilty if I couldn’t exercise and break a sweat every day; if I couldn’t run four to six miles a day; I was tired of going to bed hungry or eating to fill myself and then despising myself because I thought I was weak.  I mean, I was struggling and I was listening to all kinds of podcasts. When I think about it, that stress I was feeling because I felt that stress and because I wanted it to end, that’s what helped me to find you, Jonathan.  What’s so neat is, because I found you, I didn’t even know that my then thirteen/fourteen-year-old daughter was experiencing way more stress than I was because she was twenty-five pounds overweight and she didn’t ever want to look in the mirror and she didn’t want to be around her friends at the mall.  I didn’t even know what was going on in her head that because of my stress and because I found the way out of it, I was now able to help my daughter to completely revolutionize her life.”
  • 17:57 – 18:08, “That set point of stress may vary a little bit based on our life circumstances, but we ultimately–the mental processing, the meaning that we attribute to that stress, is what determines that set point. ”
  • 18:51 – 19:10, “When you think about it, the reason you get stressed about something is because you care about it or it matters or it has the impact.  You don’t get stressed about stuff that’s irrelevant and meaningless.  So a stress-free life, in some ways, is a life full of meaningless, irrelevant things.  Well, that’s not good.”
  • 19:18 – 19:32, “Figure out what it takes to lower your stress set point.  What do you need to do — whether it’s reading one of the books we recommended here in the podcast or whether it’s writing down your current story and then rewriting it/making a new story.”
  • 19:39 – 20:20, “Identify the stress set point, maybe do some reflection in your life. “Is there ever a time you haven’t been as stressed as you are right now?” That kind of a thing.  Then there are things like meditation, things like exercise, things like deep loving relationships — these things will objectively — just like we talk about eating vegetables will lower your weight set point; meditation will lower your stress set point.  So do some research into those things.  Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean, “Om, om, om.”  Walking in forests can be a meditative activity but things along those lines, I think, are great to explore.”

Read the Transcript

April: Hello, it’s April Perry and Jonathan Bailor back with another episode of the SANE Show. How are you, Jonathan?

Jonathan: April, I am so stressed out for today’s show. I’m super stressed. Tell them why I’m stressed.

April: You’re so stressed because we’re talking about stress today. Just the word — does it just make your shoulders tense? No, just kidding. Jonathan’s doing great. We’re doing great. We’re talking about what stress has to do with weight loss and how we can actually get good at stress — yes, you heard me right. We’re talking about getting good at stress and how that can help us to be more SANE. Are you super excited for this show, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I am super excited about this show because stress is very real and it does have a huge amount to do with weight loss and it also has this fun dynamic where it’s like, “Wait, stress causes me to gain weight? That makes me stressed. Now I’m gaining weight which makes me more stressed. Oh, downward spiral.”

April: Exactly. I even watched a whole documentary about stress, explaining how bad it was for you. By the end of the show, I was — I couldn’t even tell you. Watching that show was worse for my stress level than not watching the show. But things have revolutionized so let’s talk about how we’re going to get good at stress. Before we start, I need to tell you I see advertisements all the time for these pills or supplements that help you to reduce cortisol because cortisol is caused by your stressed-out life, and then if you take this pill, then it reduces the cortisol and then you won’t get belly fat and you’re going to be super slender. What do you have to say about all that?

Jonathan: There are elements of truth and elements of horrible falsehoods in it.

April: Okay, clarify.

Jonathan: Cortisol is real. It is a hormone. If you have too much of it, it will contribute to visceral fat production, which is the type of fat which is on your belly, which is different. That’s the one that is correlated with health problems and so on and so forth versus, for example, if you just had fat on your hips or buttocks. That’s different than fat that’s on your belly, which is more damaging because it causes problems with your organs. Cortisol, just like any other — this is worth writing down — there is no such thing as a bad hormone.

April: Okay.

Jonathan: You have hormones to do specific things. If you have too much of any one, that’s bad. If you have too little of any one, that’s bad. But there is no such thing as a bad hormone. It exists because it’s required for something in your body. Now if it gets out of whack or there’s too much of it or too little of it, that’s when we have problems.

April: When I see commercials that talk about taking some sort of a pill to reduce my stress, I think what can happen is some people think, “Okay, I can just keep eating the way I’m eating; I can keep living the way I’m living; I can just take this supplement, I’m going to reduce my stress and I’m going to be slender.” What’s wrong with that logic?

Jonathan: Well, there’s many things that are wrong with that logic but I think one of the most important things that are sort of less obviously wrong is that there is no such — there is not something you can put into your body that does one thing. That’s really important.

April: Okay.

Jonathan: While it seems like taking Aleve just makes your headache go away, it’s not as if your brain sort of knows you took Aleve and knows that Aleve just does this thing to your headache. That’s the problem with statins. Statins do lower your cholesterol but they also lower the form of cholesterol you don’t want lowered and they also cause neurological issues. They’re called side effects. But there really are no such thing as side effects, there are just effects, and the ones we don’t like we call side effects.

April: I never thought of that.

Jonathan: For example, you can de-stress right now by taking all forms of illegal drugs. Like, marijuana is incredibly effective at reducing stress levels. But is its overall net effect on your health good? That’s the thing. Can these things reduce your stress? Possibly. But is that going to cause a net positive effect on your life? Questionable.

April: All right. So let’s say, somebody’s been going SANE for a while. Let’s say they love your book; they’re eating tons of vegetables or blending green smoothies; doing really, really well. But their life is super stressful. Super stressful. Maybe they’re going through a divorce; maybe they’re filing bankruptcy — there’s just a lot of reasons why people get stressed out — emotionally, losing a loved one. What advice would you give someone who’s kind of in that spot where they’re doing everything right but they’re just stressed out?

Jonathan: One of the most important books, I think, on this topic is actually by an MIT professor by the name of Thea Singer. I interviewed her a long time ago. The biggest distinction she makes is the distinction between “real stress” and “perceived stress.” One of the things that’s really important is while we don’t have always control — like, if our spouse is coming down with Alzheimer’s, we can’t change that and that is objectively happening.

The one thing we can change is how we interpret that and the meaning we give to it — things like meditation, things like cognitive behavioral therapy. I mean, for example, personally, I have not yet been able to wrap my head around how the President of the United States is not crazy — like, how you can have that much power and that much responsibility and you make one decision and a thousand people die — and not just lose their mind.

April: That’s true, yes.

Jonathan: So there does have to be some way to — if you look at people who are like, “I’m so stressed,” it doesn’t always correlate with people who, their decisions have the biggest impact on the world. There has to be the sort of distinction in your brain about how events are perceived. That is what we can control and that, I think, is really — rather than taking a pill or trying to be like, “I’m going to quit my job and make all these changes and then everything will be perfect.” There’s an old saying which is, “No matter where you go, there you are.” So the one thing that you can change is your perception and the way you process stress and I think that’s the area we need to focus on.

April: Do you want to hear my success story in this area?

Jonathan: I do, I do.

April: Okay, I actually have it. Well, it’s over here. I won’t go grab it but here’s the deal. I was feeling really stressed about a week ago. I am listening to the audio book of ‘The Upside of Stress’ by Kelly McGonigal that you told me about — amazing if you haven’t read it yet — and one of the things that she talked about was thinking about what story you’re telling yourself. As I was feeling stressed out one morning, I actually went and I opened up my planner and I wrote down the story I was telling myself, which consisted of something like, “I’m tired and overwhelmed. There’s a lot to do. I don’t have what it takes. My mom’s dying of Alzheimer’s. I’ve got kids who need me.”

I was telling myself this story of how tired I am and how overwhelming my life is and I looked at that story and I thought, “Well, April, hello. What are you doing to yourself? Why are you telling yourself this story?” So I rewrote the story. I actually read it to Eric the other day. I won’t read the whole thing here because it’s pretty personal but the way it starts is, “Every day, I have the privilege of waking up to live a beautiful story.” And then I went on and explained everything reversed — the blessings I have, these opportunities that I have to help other people, how even when I’m not enough, it’s okay because there’s power coming from heaven and here on Earth to help me make it happen.

I rewrote the story and every morning, I’ve been reading my new story. I can’t even tell you how that has helped me. I feel like it’s completely changed how I look at my day. It’s helped me be more patient with my kids. I’ve actually been sleeping better. It’s made everything better. So that’s just kind of my personal experience.

Jonathan: That’s a huge distinction, April, the way we communicate our reality to ourselves. I’ll give one personal anecdote but I’ll give a less personal anecdote as well. The most powerful example, at least I’ve seen, of this is the story of Viktor Frankl, which, if you haven’t read ‘Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning’, pause this and —

April: Go read it.

Jonathan: — right now because it’s the story — like, when I talk about stress, it’s the story of an, I think, Austrian psychotherapist who was in the concentration camps, lost all of his family members, and eventually developed an entire school of psychotherapy called logo psychotherapy, which is about identifying meaning and finding meaning in suffering. Religious traditions talk about doing this. They talk about giving it to God or whatever. And what April talked about here is the same kind of thing, like, “Why are you doing this?” What Viktor Frankl found is that the thing that got him through the concentration camps was that he saw it as that, “I need to get through this so that I can tell this story to the world and then I can help prevent this from ever happening again.” So he attached a different meaning to that than potentially other people were.

A much more benign — not nearly as compelling — example for me personally, there is a great book called ‘Overachievement’. It’s very hard to find but it’s awesome and it talks about how people who, if they’re going to speak publicly or do an athletic performance or any kind of performance, you might get butterflies and you perceive that as a bad thing. The book actually explains how what’s happening physiologically is, your body’s releasing the hormone adrenaline into your body and your blood is being used differently and it makes your belly feel different. The reason your body is doing these things is to optimize performance.

It’s like the perception of stress right before you’re about to do something important is actually like turbo fuel. It’s like getting your body ready. If you can perceive butterflies as like, “Oh my gosh, I have butterflies. This is going to make me do worse”; whereas once you understand the science of those butterflies are like putting turbo fuel into your body that’s going to make you do even better — the same reality has a totally different perception now and it changes your life. So while we can’t always change reality, we can always change our perception. April, I think your story is a great example of that.

April: Did you see my butterfly hanging here in the office? Alia made this for me. It’s a little sign for those of you who are watching that, just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. I’ve been doing this butterfly project. It’s for my own personal transformation that I call it. Eric actually, who was standing here watching the video, got me caterpillars and this butterfly — look, I actually have butterflies in my office. They just came out today. He said, “Now you can tell your friends that I gave you butterflies.” So I got these butterflies and actually what’s been so interesting is, as I’ve been watching them — and I actually watched them make the cocoon; I’ve never seen that before; it’s amazing. I’m watching them and I’m cheering for them, like, “C’mon, little caterpillars, you can do this.” I don’t probably think so elementary but it’s been just a really neat thing for us, for my life, for my business, to think all of us want a transformation.

All of us want to grow and develop. We don’t want to be the same as we were when we were toddlers; when we were in high school. We want to grow and continue and develop and learn. I think when you can look at nature, look at the science of why your body is giving you this stress and anxiety, seeing it as fuel, seeing it as a reason to continue to grow and do better and work your purpose, I feel like that’s just helped me so much and not ever even having to think “I need to reduce my stress” anymore. I’ve used that term my whole life. “I’m going to reduce my stress. I’m going to lower my stress.” Now it’s like, “I’m going to embrace this stress and I’m going to use it to my advantage.”

Jonathan: If you think about what you just said, April, it’s very true because, like, what is a stress-free existence? If you’ve seen the movie ‘Wall-E’, it’s these pseudo-humans are sort of having sugar and nonsense kind of pumped into their bodies and they have no worries and they have no concerns. There was even, I think, like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode of this back in the day where everything a person ever wanted happened and then the person ended up going crazy because the way — and this is one of the books that have been most foundational in my life, is a book called ‘Antifragile’ because it changed my perception of problems of saying that the way human beings develop, the way life –

The difference between life, organic things, and mechanical non-living things is that adversity hurts mechanical things. Like, if your car runs into a wall, it doesn’t get stronger or better; that’s just objectively bad. But if you run into a wall, you know what happens? You learn not to run into a wall anymore and you’re actually stronger and better because of it. So if you can sort of flip that and say –

There’s another book by Ryan Holiday which is called ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’, which is the same kind of thing. It’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses. It’s like saying, “What I have right now, how can I use that or leverage that to either strengthen myself/strengthen the world/make the world a better place and give some meaning and purpose?” That’s Viktor Frankl’s whole thing with logotherapy – “I’m going through a concentration camp. That’s happening; can’t do anything about it. All I can do now is choose the meaning that I associate with it” — and that’s what he calls the last of human freedoms.

Stephen Covey talks about this; all major religious traditions talk about this — the last thing that no — Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer who was wrongly convicted of a triple homicide many, many decades ago — when he went into prison, he was like, “Look, you can lock me up but I know I’m innocent and I’m not going to allow you to treat me as a prisoner. I can control that.” So that’s the last thing we can control — our perception and our attitude and our meaning. It’s the opposite of rose-colored glasses. It’s as scientific and real as it gets.

April: I love that. I love what you just said. I think that as I think back to my life and even just thinking back to a couple of years ago, I had a huge stress in my life in that I was tired of counting calories; I was tired of feeling guilty if I couldn’t exercise and break a sweat every day; if I couldn’t run four to six miles a day; I was tired of going to bed hungry or eating to fill myself and then despising myself because I thought I was weak. I mean, I was struggling and I was listening to all kinds of podcasts.

When I think about it, that stress I was feeling because I felt that stress and because I wanted it to end, that’s what helped me to find you, Jonathan. What’s so neat is, because I found you, I didn’t even know that my then thirteen/fourteen-year-old daughter was experiencing way more stress than I was because she was twenty-five pounds overweight and she didn’t ever want to look in the mirror and she didn’t want to be around her friends at the mall. I didn’t even know what was going on in her head that because of my stress and because I found the way out of it, I was now able to help my daughter to completely revolutionize her life.

You should’ve seen her going to school today. She’s giving this oral presentation. She looks beautiful and confident and happy. And I watch it and I’m seriously — my breath’s taken away every time I watch her thrive and watch how she’s doing. Then I just think about — just right now, even being able to be on this podcast with you and being able to use my voice to go around the world to help other people who are struggling like I was. It just helps me look at my current stress, where I’m not stressed about calories and food at all now; I love it — but now I stress in other ways but now it gives me hope thinking, “Well, maybe the stress that I feel in this other area, maybe that’s going to bless my life too.”

Jonathan: I think you’re exactly right, April. One thing I’ve noticed as well, as we talk about tying this back to health, as we talk about your set point weight. I’ve noticed — and it seems like there is some science building around this — that some of us, we have kind of a stress set point. You can kind of notice this where you might have a friend — or someone who isn’t a friend and maybe you wish wasn’t a friend — that happens to be in your life, who is like super stressed all the time and you look at their life and you’re just like, “Why are you stressed?”

You see sort of like Real Housewives of Hollywood, where they’re like, “I’m going to have a level eight stress even if there is no real stressor in my life.” Like, no matter what, I have the set point of stress. Then you see people, like some Buddhist monk — this is a crazy example — but there are Tibetan monks that can set themselves on fire — which is a pretty big stressor — and not be stressed about it. They’re just like, “I’m on fire right now. It’s okay. I’m just going to sit here calmly.”

So that sort of set point of stress, I think it may vary a little bit based on our life circumstances but we ultimately, the mental processing, the meaning that we attribute to that stress, is what determines that set point. No matter we end this relationship, we do get a new job, this issue does — something else is going to happen and if that set point of stress isn’t addressed, we’re going to still be — I mean, this happens all the time. Like, you win the Super Bowl and then you’re stressed about, “Now I have to win the second Super Bowl.” It’s never enough. So the only thing that we can change is our perception of those things.

One last thing I’ll say is one of the most helpful things for me is, instead of using the term ‘stress’ — Kelly McGonigal kind of says this in the book — I don’t remember where I heard it but it’s not like Jonathan’s unique idea – is, “This matters.” When you think about it, the reason you get stressed about something is because you care about it or it matters or it has the impact. You don’t get stressed about stuff that’s irrelevant and meaningless. So a stress-free life, in some ways, is a life full of meaningless, irrelevant things. Well, that’s not good.

April: Thank you for bringing that up. I love the idea of that stress set point. I think that should be our next action — to figure out what it takes to lower your stress set point. What do you need to do — whether it’s reading one of the books we recommended here in the podcast or whether it’s writing down your current story and then rewriting it/making a new story? I don’t know. I think that’s a great way to start. Any other ideas or a stretch goal for us, Jonathan?

Jonathan: I like that. Identify the stress set point, maybe do some reflection in your life — Is there ever a time you haven’t been as stressed as you are right now? — That kind of a thing. Then there are things like meditation, things like exercise, things like deep loving relationships — these things will objectively — just like we talk about eating vegetables will lower your weight set point; meditation will lower your stress set point. So do some research into those things. Meditation doesn’t necessarily mean, “Om, om, om.” Walking in forests can be a meditative activity but things along those lines, I think, are great to explore.

April: All right. Well, thank you so much for this conversation. I feel like it’s been a big one for me. This has been something that I struggled with my whole life but now I feel like I’m finally getting there to the point I can lower my stress set point. So grateful for SANE; thankful for you, Jonathan. Thank you for those of you who are listening. Please share us with your friends. Tell them about the SANE show so that we can all enjoy a life healthy and in wellness the rest of our lives. Have a wonderful day and remember to stay SANE.

Learn the exact foods you must eat if you want to finally lose weight permanently. Click here to download your free Weight Loss Food List, the “Eat More, Lose More” Weight Loss Plan, and the “Slim in 6” Cheat Sheet…CLICK HERE FOR FREE “HOW TO” WEIGHT LOSS GUIDES
Facebook Comments