Home > Stress and Weight Loss
Impossible to ignore, the effects of chronic stress are widespread these days. If you're like most people, you too must have experienced food cravings and stress eating during high levels of prolonged stress - and weight gain, as a result. In fact, weight gain is just one of the many debilitating effects of stress on health.
And whether your stress is physical, psychological or social, your brain reacts the exact same way, triggering the fight-or-flight response:
"Prepare for danger!" ... "Get ready for attack – or RUN!! "
As a result, cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) is released into your system to get you ready for this state of high alert, during which the energy resources (a.k.a. body fat) must be preserved; adrenaline makes your heart race; your blood pressure rises; glucose is pouring into your bloodstream for quick energy – your body is ready for fight... or ready to escape.
In the distant past this automatic response was genetically programmed in our brain to save our life - chronic stress and weight loss weren't issues back then!
But in today’s world, our stresses do not come from life-threatening circumstances; instead, we are dealing with a rushed lifestyle and more mundane stressors:
A difficult task, an imminent deadline, an abusive boss, job loss...
...lack of sleep, overwork, emotional trauma, a bad relationship, a dreaded phone call...
...conflicts with family or friends, worries about children or over finances, illness, and many other anxieties.
Fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of being judged, rejected, hurt, unloved, unwanted…
As shown in many reputable studies, endless psychosocial stressors cause long-term weight gain by inducing a state of chronic stress and constant high levels of cortisol, which triggers the body's fat-storing mechanism.
Well, beyond controlling your body’s hormones and blood sugar levels, cortisol also regulates your sleep pattern, basal metabolic rate and your body’s use of carbohydrates, fats and proteins – specifically, how these are used or stored.
For example, too much cortisol slows down your metabolism and signals the fat cells to hold on to as much fat as they can and burn for energy as little as possible – even during a lower caloric intake (if too low, this is a high stressor itself).
Sadly, there’s more to this chronic stress and weight gain connection.
Cortisol signals your brain to increase your appetite and cravings for certain foods, especially fats and carbs, because of their high caloric content (energy potential).
Chronic stress means continuous high levels of cortisol, hence the constant food cravings, stress eating, insulin resistance, accumulation of abdominal fat, and many other exasperating high cortisol symptoms.
As you can see, cortisol is the real link between chronic stress and weight gain. It triggers a hormonal "Molotov cocktail" that makes you eat more, burn fewer calories, and store more fat.
So if you want to eliminate your chronic stress and weight loss resistance, reducing cortisol levels is really the first step you'll want to take.
Because if you don't release stress regularly, chronic high cortisol levels can cause your adrenal glands to wear out - this is known as adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue makes you experience a cluster of frustrating symptoms: poor sleep, hypoglycemia, mind fog, headaches, chronic fatigue – and a general sense that the life has been sucked out of your life. To cope and get some quick energy, you start using more stimulants (like coffee, coke) and eating more high-energy foods (like sweets and refined carbs). This way, a spiral of more stress and weight gain pushes you into a battle you simply can’t win.
So what can you do to provide a much-needed relief to your adrenal glands?
If long-term stress and weight gain (or inability to lose weight) make you think you may have high cortisol levels I highly recommend to consider consulting a naturopath. Or, an Ayurvedic practitioner, since all Ayurveda diets have some very effective ways of eliminating stress naturally.
In the meantime, here are six simple tips for melting stress away:
For a faster - yet gentle - relief of chronic stress and high cortisol levels, a combination of several adaptogens works best to lower your cortisol levels, help you curb stress eating as well as sugar cravings and any sleep problems.
The bottom line is this.
You are NOT condemned to a life of stress and weight loss struggle. Don't wait till your doctor puts you on some type of medication - the side effects and dependence it comes with are too dangerous.
Consider instead the much healthier, natural options for reducing cortisol levels and relaxing your lifestyle, as the ones we've discussed above. Remember this: dropping the extra weight off is only a side effect of releasing stress regularly and living a more relaxed lifestyle, with meaningful “ME” time and with healthy boundaries at work and at home.
Easier said than done, I know.
But never forget that your mind is an awesome tool for transforming your body - if you know how to program it so these changes happen automatically.
Personally, I use a special kind of guided relaxation that melts my stress instantly, bringing more joy, pleasure and excitement in my super-busy days... Guided relaxation is for a long time now scientifically proven to reset the brain's response to stress and control fat-storing hormones.
During these delicious power-pause audio gems stress and anxiety are released at the core level - take a look yourself now and see if it's something you'd like to try too >>
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