By Lisa Shaker-Knopp (LowFatLowCarb.com)
Over the years I have learned about how high levels of stress can cause my body to hold weight. It is very frustrating and doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is real.
Stress is a fact of life. We all have daily stresses to deal with. Even if you are staying right on your plan, eating perfectly, and getting some movement, you can still hold fat. I know it sounds crazy, especially if you believe the myth about the calories in calories out theory, but it’s a fact. Research shows that chronic high stress levels can prevent you from losing weight, or even add pounds! REALLY.
There is a hormone produced from our adrenal glands called cortisol. Cortisol is known as the “fight or flight” hormone. Here’s what happens: every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you hungry…very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues. High levels of cortisol, also increases the hormone insulin, which also prevents weight loss and helps to store fat.
Do you think most people reach for celery or cucumbers when this happens?? No way! We want salty foods like chips, or sweet foods like cookies and cakes. That’s because we want pleasure foods to help reduce the stress. And, even if you don’t grab for those foods, your body still believes it’s in trouble, so it will HOLD the fat you already have stored.
High levels of cortisol also encourages your body to store visceral fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes. This is the reason some clients don’t lose as much weight on a weekly basis, and get frustrated that the scale is moving slowly. Many times, it is because of high level of constant stress, and the release of this ‘fat storing hormone’.
How do you control, or change your reaction to your stresses called ‘life’? There are many coping mechanisms you can apply. I teach clients to change their response, as we can’t always change what happens. So, instead of reaching for the “fun, comfort foods” when stress is high, maybe you can go for a walk, paint or color, go out and play like a kid, take a bath, do some meditating, or do some yoga poses as examples. There are many things you can do to redirect your stress, stay on your plan, and be well. The choice is yours.