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Top Doc Reveals the Easy Carb Twist That Can Help Women Get Rid of a ‘Stress Belly’

Dr. Alan Christianson: "There’s no downside to improving adrenal health — it’s all upside"

Do you often feel exhausted, overwhelmed, anxious? Also struggle with frequent cravings and really stubborn weight gain — especially around your middle? There’s a good chance overworked adrenal glands (sometimes called stress glands) are “making your body resistant to weight loss,” reveals natural health expert Alan Christianson, NMD, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet. Luckily, he’s figured out a pretty easy and relaxing fix. “When I first began working with patients who couldn’t seem to lose weight, it became clear that their bodies responded once we took steps to improve adrenal function. And there’s no downside to improving adrenal health — it’s all upside,” says the doc, who has helped patients feel less stressed as they’ve shed weight. Read on to find out how Adrenal Reset Diet strategies helped 67-pounds-slimmer Carol Ford — and see if they can help you soothe away excess stress and make “stress fat” disappear.

What adrenal glands do

About the size of two peas, your adrenal glands are tiny but powerful glands on top of your kidneys that play a crucial role in alertness and stress management. Every morning, the adrenals make hormones to help wake you up. And any time your brain or body sense trouble — maybe you’re merging on a highway, caring for a sick kid, even watching a zombie movie — “your adrenals begin to prepare you for a potential emergency or crisis by releasing hormones that, among other things, help quicken your reflexes and fatten your belly,” says Dr. Christianson. 

Why belly fat? Cells in your midsection happen to be most responsive to adrenal hormones like cortisol, so that’s where they store extra fuel for you, just in case you need it, Dr. Christianson explains. In an ideal world, trouble passes, cortisol drops and we stop storing excess fat. Of course, modern life is so high-intensity “that our adrenals are often overstimulated to the point where they may stop working optimally,” he says. So it’s no wonder a UC-San Francisco study found that stress-prone women have significantly larger waistlines.

The overworked adrenals can begin misfiring hormones — too few in the morning, too many the rest of the time — “so we’re tired all day and still battling insomnia at night.” On top of that, “we’re basically stuck in survival mode. The body believes it needs to be stockpiling belly fat all the time.” Dr. Christianson’s Adrenal Reset Diet is an approach that aims to solve this draining, frustrating, fattening problem.

Related: Top Doctors: If You’re Stressed, Tired and Crave Salty Foods, It’s Time to Give Your Adrenal Glands Some TLC

How the Adrenal Reset Diet was discovered

Dr. Christianson knows much of the stress in life is unavoidable. But he says our adrenals still benefit greatly from a little TLC. He notes research has even pinpointed a surprise source of adrenal stress that’s easy to control: our diets. Turns out, sugar and processed food cause a type of dangerous and stressful internal inflammation that sends our adrenals into constant overdrive. Additionally, “studies link getting either too many or two few carbs to poor adrenal function,” he says. 

So what’s the best way to eat? To find out, the doc first experimented on himself, consuming varying amounts of carbs over days and weeks and testing his blood and saliva every waking hour. Once he found a carb pattern that led to optimal levels of adrenal hormones — fewer carbs in the morning, more carbs at dinner — he began gauging the impact of different amounts of protein and vegetables throughout the day. Eventually he recruited weight-loss resistant patients for further testing. And the Adrenal Reset Diet emerged. Meanwhile, scientists had tested a similar strategy and found eating more carbs at night leads to better hormone balance and greater weight loss than eating carbs all day. 

Dr. Christianson continued testing his plan. “In a study at my clinic, participants improved markers of healthy adrenal function by more than 50% in 30 days,” he reveals. The average woman also found herself feeling great and down about two sizes. 

Related: Adrenal Fatigue In Women: What Doctors Want You To Know

Adrenal Reset Diet menu

For women who get less than an hour of intense exercise daily, here’s what Dr. Christianson recommends:

1. Include specific foods in every meal

Dr. Christianson says to build meals around the following foods:

• 4–6 ounces of good quality protein such as plant-based protein powder, fish/seafood, poultry and beef. Amino acids in protein-rich foods help jumpstart a metabolism stalled by stress. (But do consider skipping eggs, dairy and soy for at least 30 days, as they may cause some internal inflammation.)

• 1–2 servings of good fat such as avocado, nuts/seeds or a healthy oil (like olive, coconut, avocado or MCT). These fats contain compounds that help soothe any chronic internal inflammation that may be stressing your adrenals.

• Unlimited nonstarchy vegetables such as leafy greens, celery, onions, peppers — really anything you like since all veggies boast natural anti-inflammatories as well as fiber, a nutrient that helps the body eliminate adrenal-damaging toxins. 

2. Cycle carb-heavy foods through the day

Dr. Christianson’s carefully tested strategy involves consuming steadily increasing doses of gluten-free starchy carbs (potatoes, beans, brown rice, corn, oats) and/or fruit as the day goes on: ¼ cup at breakfast, ½ cup at lunch, ¾ cup at dinner. He does have you skip gluten since this wheat protein can cause internal inflammation for some of us. “This approach works fast,” he promises. “You can feel a difference in your well-being within a few days, and you’ll see the scale going down not long after.”

Adrenal Reset before and after: Carol Ford, 62 

Before and after images of Carol Ford who lost 67 lbs with the help of the adrenal reset diet
Maureen Fernandez/Ikonik Pix

When Carol Ford first found Dr. Christianson during an Internet search, she was stressed and feeling lousy. “I was always hungry no matter how much I ate and always tired in spite of sleeping at least seven hours a night. I had brain fog, dry skin, brittle nails and my hair was falling out,” recalls the Delaware financial analyst. And after endless diet failure, “even thinking about food seemed to put weight on me.” She’d been put on meds for prediabetes, “but I worried there was something more wrong with me my doctor hadn’t found.” 

Luckily, she heard about the Adrenal Reset Diet and got started. One of the first signs Dr. Christianson’s easy techniques were working? “I had none of my usual carb cravings and pants that were snug started getting loose,” she shares. “In about six days, I actually started craving sauerkraut, and I was never a cabbage person. That’s how fast this diet changed me.” She became such a big fan of Dr. Christianson, she even helped test the plan for his book The Metabolism Reset Diet. She’s lost 67 pounds in all. “I feel like a weight-losing machine in my body has roared to life,” shares Carol, now 62. “A big shout-out to Dr. C. Because of him I got off prediabetes meds. I haven’t felt this healthy since my son was born over 30 years ago. I went from dreading what was to come to looking forward to each new day.” 

Adrenal Reset Diet sample menu

In addition to protein, good fat, nonstarchy veggies and rotating servings of starch/fruit, Dr. Christianson allows for any natural, low-cal extras (herbs, spices, salsa, vinegar, lemon juice, stevia) you like to flavor meals. He also suggests staying well-hydrated with water and caffeine-free herbal tea. Caffeine can stress adrenals, so skip or limit coffee. You’ll also steer clear of ingredients that can cause irritation for some, including eggs, dairy, soy, peanuts and gluten. After 30 days, experiment with any foods you’d like to add back, sampling them one at a time. If they don’t trigger tummy trouble, fatigue, achiness, bloat or weight gain, it’s fine to add them back to your meals. Here are 2 recipe ideas to get you started:

1. Cherry-Vanilla Adrenal Boost

cherry vanilla almond smoothie for the adrenal reset diet

This quick and delicious smoothie makes a perfect breakfast for busy mornings.


  • 1-2 scoops sugar-free plant protein powder (any variety, such as Dr. C’s Daily Reset Shake)
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 frozen cherries
  • 2 Tbs. rice bran or uncooked oats
  • 2 Tbs. flax seeds
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon or ginger
  • ½ cup water


  1. In blender, blitz all ingredients until smooth, adding ice to taste, if desired.

2. Adrenal-Revving Soup

Bowl of broccoli soup for the adrenal reset diet

Snack on this soup as needed to help control hunger between meals.


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach


  1. In pot, sauté onion in olive oil. Add cinnamon and garlic; sauté 1 minute.
  2. Add broth, broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until broccoli is tender. 
  3. Stir in 2 cups baby spinach until wilted. Season and enjoy.

Click through for more ways to heal your adrenals:

If You Feel Tired & Crave Salty Snacks, Your Adrenal Glands May Be Worn Out — This ‘Cocktail’ Can Help

Expert: If You’re Over 50, You’re Riding a Cortisol Roller Coaster — And Those Ups & Downs Are Packing On The Fat

9 Best Supplements for Adrenal Fatigue

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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