Is stress making you gain weight?
If you ever had a stressful season in your life and notice that it begins to show in your waistline. Well cortisol, the stress hormone, may be the culprit. This hormone is produced in the adrenal glands located in your kidneys when you are stressed. Once the cortisol is released into your bloodstream it sends your body into fight or flight mode. When this happens, your body temporarily pauses regular bodily functions and slows your metabolism. While cortisol is essential for survival, high levels of it can be harmful.
When cortisol spikes it creates a surge of energy in your body that can be used in case you need to flee from any physical danger, which was more helpful for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. When this happens it may increase your appetite and usually results in craving those sugary comfort foods that are probably not the best for you.
High levels of cortisol can also reduce the amount of testosterone that is being produced. This may cause a reduction in muscle mass and how many calories your body burns.
Now, because cortisol slows down your metabolism, which is responsible for converting food into energy, the shift can cause other concerns to arise. About 33% of Americans report feeling extremely stressed and almost 77% of people have physical side effects that come along with it. Side effects include fatigue, headaches, indigestion, upset stomach, muscle tension, appetite changes, and weight gain.
Although dealing with a lot of stress can feel neverending, there are things you can do to manage the side effects of high cortisol. Most commonly it is recommended to adopt a relaxation practice through mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to help regulate cortisol levels.
It is also suggested that you consume a rich diet of whole foods and healthy fats to minimize your desire to junk food cravings. Now, you may still have those cravings from time to time, but making the healthier decision will always be worth it. It is recommended to stay away from things like alcohol, caffeine, sugary foods and drinks, and processed foods like chips, cookies, cakes, and fried foods.
Another great way to minimize high-stress levels is to exercise regularly. Researchers have found regular aerobic exercises have been shown to reduce tension, elevate and stabilize your mood, and improve your self-esteem. Brisk walking, jogging or running, swimming, cycling, and boxing are all great aerobic exercises to consider when trying to reduce stress levels. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is sometimes disrupted by stress.
Over time, these practices can improve your response to stress, lower blood pressure, and even strengthen your immune system. Doing so can help improve your quality and outlook on life.
Now, what if you tried all the things yet you are still having trouble managing your stress and weight? That is when I would recommend consulting with a hormone specialist, there may be another underlying factor that may be contributing to your stress and weight gain. The best way to identify the source of the concern is through lab work. Which is what we do at The Lifestyle Clinic and how we have helped so many of our members. To learn more, click here!