Fitness Medical Newsletter Style & Beauty

Is stress making you fat? Health and fitness expert Alexa Towersey discusses body fat and the relationship with health and hormones

By: Alexa Towersey

Losing weight and having a flat stomach isn’t just possible with the newest diet, exercise fad or physical fitness plan.  Weight loss is made easier with health and diet tips from expert Alexa Towersey. Read on for advice in the second in a series of articles by health and fitness expert Alexa Towersey that explores your body fat and what it says about your health and your hormones.

The number one question I get asked on a daily basis is, “How do I get a flat tummy or rock-solid abs?” People want to know why they can’t seem to shift stubborn belly fat when they are training more, eating less and generally being particularly obsessive about doing everything Google has told them to do.

What if I told you that was exactly the problem? If you’re a classic example of an overachiever, it’s often a case of taking your pedal off the metal and doing less to achieve more.

Excess baggage around the mid-section is correlated to prolonged exposure to stress, and elevated levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Stress isn’t just crazy work deadlines, family commitments and being stuck in rush-hour traffic. It also includes physical stressors such as food intolerances, digestive issues, poor quality sleep, dehydration, having too much coffee, and overtraining (or under-recovering).

Our bodies were not designed to deal with being stressed every minute of every day, and when this happens, we turn into a fat-storing machine. This is why a relaxing holiday could well be the best fat-loss nutrient we can get. It also explains why, as we age and our cortisol levels increase, it’s more important to utilise stress-management techniques to fight the flab.

On a positive note, you can learn to work with your body, not against it, by making simple lifestyle changes for an immediate impact.


1. Test for food intolerances. Just because a food is “healthy” doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. If it doesn’t make you feel good, don’t eat it! Some of the most common intolerances include those for eggs, gluten, wheat, dairy, soy, corn and nuts.
2. Support your digestion with a good quality probiotic, digestive enzyme, and plenty of fibre through cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Add sauerkraut to salads for a prebiotic benefit. A glass of warm water, lemon juice and raw apple cider vinegar is a great start to the day.
3. Sleep more and sleep soundly. Your room should be a “bat cave”, free of light, sound and electronic devices. Have a bath in Epsom salts. Try a gratitude list before bed where you can channel all the negativity of the day out of your head and onto paper.
4. Avoid dehydration by filling up water bottles first thing in the morning, and taking them to work. Aim to make sure they are finished by end of play.
5. Cut the crap – literally. Restrict your coffee to mornings or pre-workout only, and minimise refined sugars and processed foods. Also, I’m sorry to report that a beer belly isn’t called a beer belly for no reason!


6. Train smart, not long. Better fat-loss results come from using a combination of weight training and high-intensity interval training, instead of long sustained cardio. Aim to be in and out of the gym within 45 minutes. Balance out hard training with recovery practices like yoga or passive meditation.
7. Assist your body in lowering cortisol, promoting rest and reducing inflammation by incorporating natural supplementation such as vitamin C, rhodiola, magnesium and omega-3 oils.
Next issue: Managing muffin tops – and why fat is your friend, and sugar is your enemy.
Alexa Towersey is a personal trainer and nutrition and lifestyle coach with clients in Hong Kong and Sydney. Twitter: alexatowersey | Instagram: actionalexa