08/28/2011 12:23 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2011

Flatten Your Belly!

Belly fat comes in two different forms. One is slightly annoying and fairly harmless. It is the layer of fat directly under the skin called subcutaneous fat. Think of it as a layer of fat between the surface of the skin and on top of your abdominal organs.

The villainous other type of fat is called visceral abdominal fat, or VAT for short. It's associated with cancer and heart disease and a slew of other miserable age-related diseases. This layer of fat is beneath the organs and is what gives one that very rotund look of a potbelly. People with VAT can be more prone to disease because of the more serious nature of problems associated with visceral fat.

Another little known fact is that fat in the abdominal area functions differently than elsewhere in the body. It has a greater access to blood supply as well as more receptors for cortisol, a major stress hormone. Cortisol is a fight or flight hormone and is stored by your body in your VAT because this is your "emergency" fat -- the I'm-being-chased-by-a-dinosaur fat that is more readily available in the event of a famine or having to outrun a T-rex.

But I also call cortisol the "Fat Belly" hormone. It's levels rise and fall throughout the day but when you are stressed out, like when you are running late and stuck driving behind the drop-off bus, or someone blocked you into your parking space and you are already late, your cortisol level remains elevated. When you have consistently high levels of this hormone in your blood stream, something terrible happens: more fat is deposited in the abdominal area because there are more cortisol receptors in your abdominal wall than anywhere else in the body.

So stress may indeed make you fat, and not just fat all over. but especially fat in your belly.
Another switch that is triggered when we are under stress is the there is a higher pH level in the bloodstream. This acidic level leaches calcium from our bones. It is not a far reach to suggest that stress-reducing activities, like meditation and yoga and even deep-breathing may help prevent osteoporosis. Who knew that lying silently on the floor could make your bones stronger -- and, perhaps, your body thinner?

If we can reduce our stress levels, we can maintain a more even alkaline level in our blood stream, which also helps protect our bones.

So, try to reduce your stress by adding meditation or tai chi. It could help your metabolism work better so that your bones can remain strong so that if you fall, nothing will break. It could also reduce the "fat-belly hormone" to help prevent VAT.