Nutritionist Reveals Tips For Busting Belly Fat After A Whole Season Of Gorging On Chocolate

If the winter's-worth of chocolate clinging to your midriff is losing its cute appeal, then we've got some tips and tricks to help send it packing.

Excess belly fat could increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and even cancer, which is why it's well worth making a few choice lifestyle changes to help you get in tip top shape.

The main reason people gather more fat around their middle is because of the stress hormone called cortisol, says Dr Glenville, a nutritionist and author of 'Fat Around The Middle'.

Millions of years ago, our bodies were designed to react quickly to danger, she explains.

"Just like wild animals, we were on constant alert so we could run or fight, if threatened. When your brain thinks your life is in danger, it stimulates the release of adrenaline and cortisol."

"This fight or flight response is incredibly clever and thoroughly efficient. It provides instant energy for 5-10 minutes, allowing you to react swiftly to dangerous situations."

Glenville adds that many of us live under chronic stress, but our bodies can’t distinguish between late trains, missed appointments, spiralling debt, infuriating work colleagues and the truly life-threatening stress.

"So, it still gears up to challenge and it reacts exactly the same as it has always done."

"The main problem with our modern lifestyles is that stress (our ‘perceived threat’) is almost continuous and comes without the natural release that either fighting or fleeing might provide," reveals Dr Glenville.

"All that extra energy, in the form of fat and glucose, has nowhere to go. It must be simply re-deposited as fat."

There's also the small matter of uncontrollable food cravings which add to the problem.

"After a stressful event, cortisol levels in the blood often remain high for a while, effectively increasing your appetite.

"Your body thinks, you should refuel after all this fighting or fleeing, which is the reason why people with stressful lifestyles quite often feel hungry."

So, how can you combat the excess fat that seems to be having a party around your gut? Dr Glenville has the answer...

Stop dieting and don’t count calories, otherwise your body will think there’s a famine and will raise stress levels, which contribute to fat storage.

Try to keep your blood sugar levels and energy levels stable by eating regularly. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid-morning and one mid-afternoon, with no longer than three hours between.

Try not to eat carbohydrates after 6pm.

This will stop those roller-coaster highs and sugar cravings. Because your blood sugar isn’t allowed to drop, your body will no longer have to ask you for a quick fix. As the blood sugar steadies, so will the mood swings.

If you miss breakfast, your body immediately registers famine and hangs on tight to your ample stores of fat.

If you do eat breakfast, eliminate or reduce all added sugar and refined carbohydrates and avoid any foods that make your blood sugar rise quickly, because - as blood sugar drops again - your body releases adrenaline and cortisol to stabilise it once more and you end up in a catch 22 situation.

Swap to whole grain alternatives that release energy slowly.

Protein slows down the rate that stomach processes food and delays the passage of the carbohydrates with it.

As soon as you add a protein (be it animal or vegetable) to a carbohydrate, you change it into a slower releasing carbohydrate, that keeps your sugar levels at bay.

Long term dependency on low fat products might mean that you’re consuming less saturated fat, but also that you're deficient in the good fats such as essential fatty acids - found in oily fish, nuts and seeds.

These help to boost your metabolism so don’t forget to include them in your diet.

It gives your body the message that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient.

Make a point of sitting down and eating your food as calmly, as possible.

Cut out all caffeine and sugary drinks and significantly reduce alcohol intake (cut it out completely for a month if you can).

Exercise or physical activity has never been more important. If you have fat around the middle of your body caused mainly by the activity of your stress hormones, exercise MUST become one of your priorities.

By simply making time for exercise in your life, you can control the potentially damaging 'fight or flight' response.

Changing the way you eat, adding supplements and an exercise regime may not seem easy at first. But be persistent because - before you know it - your clothes will start to feel loose and your shape will change.

Dr Glenville will be running a series of special Women’s Wellbeing Weekend’s at Champneys health resort from May to November. The first one of the series 'Fat Around The Middle' is on 8th-10th May 2015.

For more information about Marilyn’s wellbeing retreats and booking, please go to