Stress is part of our lives. It makes it difficult for most people to lose weight. They don’t even know they have a problem with stress and how it affects their ability to lose weight. There are several things you can do to eliminate the stress-inducing weight gain in your life. And, the exciting thing is that most cost your nothing but your time, energy and attention.
Your pituitary gland produces an adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH) which in turn causes your adrenal cortex to produce cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone in a group of steroids called glucocorticoids which regulates blood sugar, inflammation, and your immune system. Cortisol governs metabolism and blood pressure. Some studies suggest that cortisol levels may be a predictor of fractures for older adults.
A deficiency of cortisol results in fatigue, chronic exhaustion, and Addison’s disease. An overabundance of cortisol causes you to gain weight, especially around your abdomen. It also depresses your immune system and can accelerate aging and stomach ulcers.
An increase in any stress leads to an increase in cortisol production. Stress can be physical; overexertion, trauma, infection; environmental: heat, cold, noise; chemical: nutritional deficiencies, refined sugar consumption, drugs; psychological: worry, fear; and/or even imaginary stresses. All these stresses are additive and cumulative in their effect.
Cortisol impacts fat in two ways. Initially, when the stress occurs, fat is broken down to supply the body with an immediate source of energy. You brain releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and puts your body on alert to the Fight or Flight response. CRH causes your pupils to dilate, your thinking to improve and your lungs to take in more oxygen. When this happens, your appetite is suppressed and your digestive system shuts down temporarily. CRH then triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol which helps to mobilize your carbohydrate and fat supplies for quick energy.
This is where the problem begins – when you have overcome the stress, your adrenaline levels dissipate, but your cortisol levels remain high to bring your body back into balance. This balance is achieved by increasing your appetite to replace the carbohydrate and fat supplies that were used up when you needed them.
This whole process sounds logical – and, it worked well before the evolution of modern society. Today, your body is ‘forced’ into refueling when it doesn’t need to refuel. Sustained stress keeps your cortisol levels elevated, and causes your hunger to remain unabated. High cortisol levels keep your insulin levels elevated. A high cortisol level stimulates additional glucose production. This ‘excess’ glucose is now converted to fat and is stored as excess fat.
High levels of cortisol make you feel tired and listless. To compensate for being tired or exhausted, you eat to renew your energy level. How many of you had the ‘need’ for a candy bar, or coke, to take the edge of a temporary feeling of exhaustion? This extra fat is stored around your waistline because the cells in that part of your body are more sensitive to cortisol.
Your abdomen contains fat cells rich in stress hormone receptors. The sensitivity to cortisol makes them particularly sensitive to high levels of insulin, which, in turn, makes them very efficient for storing energy in the form of fat. This is a perilous place to store excess fat. It can lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease.
Stress management is critical to remove this cause of weight gain. There are many good programs available on YouTube. I recommend EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Go to YouTube and type in EFT and stress relief/management. Review several videos. Select one or two and follow along with the narrator. I prefer Brad Yates as a leader of EFT instruction.