Catherine Tanaka
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IS STRESS KEEPING YOU FAT??? Understanding Stress as you age

Understanding stress is key to coping with life's obstacles, but moreover, if you're a busy women in her 40's and 50's your stress could be counteracting all the hard work you put in the gym and the way you nourish yourself by hindering your body's ability to lose body fat!
Whether you're seeking relief from everyday stress or looking to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon, you've come to the right place.

My hope is this article will outline what stress is, its effects on our mind and body, and, most importantly, practical strategies to help you manage and cope effectively. 

What is stress?

Stress is something most North American's can relate to and is a natural response that occurs when you perceive a threat, challenge, or demand.  Our stress response is a primal reactions, your body's way of preparing to face a perceived danger or difficult situation. Stress can be triggered by various factors, such as work pressures, our kids, relationship issues, financial problems, or even positive events like planning a wedding or starting a new job.

When you experience stress, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which initiate a series of physiological changes known as the "fight-flight-or-freeze" response. This response prepares you to either confront the stressor or escape from it.  You know that feeling: Your heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, and muscles tense up as your body prepares for action.

In short bursts, acute stress is beneficial. It can sharpen your focus, increase your alertness, and provide the extra energy needed to tackle a challenging situation.

In fact,  workouts are the deliberate choosing of stress to actually teach our nervous systems how to self regulate and be more resilient.

However, when stress persists over a prolonged period, chronically, it can negatively affect your physical and mental health. 

Types of stress

Here's a brief outline of common stressors:

Acute Stress

This short-term form of stress arises from specific events or situations. It is often intense but temporary, and the body's stress response is activated to help deal with the immediate challenge. Examples of acute stress include an interview, giving a presentation, dealing with a sick kid or dealing with a traffic jam.

Chronic Stress

Unlike acute stress, chronic stress is ongoing and persists over an extended period. It can result from long-term difficulties or unresolved problems, such as financial strain, work-related stress, not knowing how to hold boundaries and say no, inability to rest or strained relationships. Chronic stress can have a cumulative effect on the body and mind, leading to health issues if not properly managed.  

Chronic stress is also a challenge for women in pre- and in menopause because of the correlation to the fat storing promotion that our stress response has.

Episodic Acute Stress

Some individuals experience frequent episodes of acute stress. They often find themselves in a cycle of continuously facing stressful situations or always perceiving events as stressful. People with this type of stress may exhibit symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress refers to stressors present in your surroundings. These can include noise pollution, overcrowding, or other factors that create a stressful environment. Living or working in an excessively stressful environment can impact your well-being.

Psychological Stress *

Psychological stress stems from internal factors such as negative thoughts, worries, and emotional challenges.  This is where MINDSET WORK AND MINDFULNESS HEALS. 
 It can result from self-imposed pressure, unrealistic expectations, or dealing with traumatic experiences. Psychological stress can significantly impact mental health if not effectively addressed.

Social Stress

Social stress arises from interpersonal relationships and interactions. It can include stress related to social expectations, conflicts, peer pressure, or feeling judged by others. Social stress can occur in various settings, such as work, school, or social gatherings.

It's important to note that these types of stress are not mutually exclusive and can often overlap. Individuals may experience a combination of stressors from different categories, and their impact can vary from person to person. 

4  Key Effects of Stress on Your Well Being

Understanding the types of stress you may face can help you identify strategies to manage and reduce its effects on your well-being. Here are some key effects of stress on the body:

1.  Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Chronic stress promotes chronic inflammation, affects blood thickness, and interferes with insulin response. These factors contribute to a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, two serious conditions that require our attention.

2. Low Immunity

Have you noticed that you tend to get sick more often when stressed? That's because stress hormones interfere with the proper functioning of immune cells, making them less effective in protecting your body. Colds, cold sores, and the flu find their way to you more frequently during stress.

3. Leaky Gut

Stress can contribute to a condition known as leaky gut or intestinal permeability. When under stress, the hormone cortisol loosens the grip between digestive cells, creating tiny holes. This allows partially digested food, bacteria, and other substances to enter your bloodstream. Think of it like a "red rover" game where the junctions between cells become loose, enabling unwanted intruders to pass through.

4. Sleep disruption

We've all experienced the struggle of falling asleep when our minds are consumed by stress. Lack of sleep leaves us tired and drained and affects our energy levels, memory, cognitive function, and mood. Research continues to highlight the importance of quality sleep for overall health, and chronic stress is certainly not helping us in this department.

Now that we understand the mess stress creates, it's time to tackle it head-on with some stress-busting tips. 

Impact of Stress On Fat Loss Over 40

As a fitness and mindset coach that specializes in supporting optimizing health and fat loss over 40, understanding stress is very important.  Women over 40 may encounter specific hurdles when it comes to losing body fat, primarily due to the impact of stress on their bodies. The release of cortisol, a hormone linked to the body's stress response, is triggered by stress. Heightened cortisol levels can disturb the delicate hormonal balance in women, leading to various factors that impede fat loss.

Firstly, cortisol encourages the accumulation of visceral fat, particularly around the abdominal area, which proves challenging to shed.  What I find also perpetuates this is the notion or the yoyo effect of dieting and extreme cardio that can additionally spike cortisol in the system. 

Secondly, stress often triggers emotional eating or cravings for unhealthy food, resulting in overeating or making poor dietary choices.  We all know that consistency is important and especially as we age, understanding these factors are important in your progress and health

Additionally, chronic stress can disrupt sleep patterns, further hampering hormone regulation and metabolism. Lastly, stress can diminish motivation for physical activity, making it more difficult to maintain a regular exercise routine. Consequently, it becomes vital for women over 40 to incorporate stress management techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation exercises, and self-care practices into their lives to support their body's natural fat-loss processes.

Stress Busting and Fat Blasting Tips

The truth is that eliminating stressors entirely might be unrealistic however learning to cope with stress and managing your nervous system and responses can make a radical difference. 

This is what I recommend to my clients to reduce the impact of stress :

  • Put less pressure on yourself and learn to prioritize.
  • Swap out High Energy Cardio for leisure walks.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help and delegate tasks.
  • Practice the art of saying "no".  No is a complete sentence and saying yes to yourself and no to things that feel like obligations can protect you energy and protect your stress levels.
  • Clear our heavy decisions and choice that have been weighing on you.

But what about actively managing stress? Here are some techniques to incorporate into your routine:

  • Fitness is a POWERFUL modality of moving energy in your body.  Even 15 minutes of a sweaty workout can significantly down regulate your stress response.
    During exercise, the body releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosting chemicals. These endorphins help reduce stress, anxiety, and elevate mood, promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation. Additionally, physical activities stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which play a crucial role in mood regulation and feelings of pleasure
  • Deep breathing exercises to promote relaxation.  
  • Next level option is SOMATIC BREATHWORK allowing for release of stuck emotion and regulating your sympathetic system. 
  • Meditation to calm the mind and find inner peace.
  • Spending time in nature to reconnect with the soothing power of the outdoors.
  • Unplugging from technology, immersing yourself in a good book, or indulging in a relaxing bath.
  • Engaging in low level physical activity, such as yoga or tai chi, to release tension and boost endorphins.
  • Cultivating connections with loved ones for emotional support and a sense of belonging.


Stress management is am important aspect of our overall health, and its impact often goes underestimated. It affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally, increasing the risk of various health conditions.  And in women in our 40's and 50's stress could be one of the limiting factors to your fat loss.

However, we can regain control and reclaim our well-being by adopting stress-reducing strategies and improving our response to stress. It's time to bid farewell to the stress mess and welcome a healthier, more balanced life.

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

  • 1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

About the Author Catherine Tanaka

My name is Catherine Tanaka. I am a Personal Trainer, Transformation Coach, Yogi enthusiast and Mom of two. I am on a mission to make a difference in others happiness through fitness using the best research available to give you the best fitness hacks to make being the best version of you possible. Learn more about my one-on-one coaching or check out my Online Course - The Body Project Protocol.