By Lisa Shaker-Knopp (lowfatlowcarb.com)
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “fight-or-flight” response, and you probably know that it’s the way your body reacts to danger or stress. But do you know what’s behind the fight-or-flight response? It’s actually hormones.
When you’re faced with danger, your adrenal glands release three hormones: norepinephrine, epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), and cortisol. Norepinephrine and epinephrine cause several changes to help you survive the danger, including a pause in insulin release so you have lots of blood sugar available for energy, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and a suspension of your appetite. After the danger has passed, cortisol tells the body to stop producing norepinephrine and epinephrine and stimulates your appetite again.
This response evolved to help people deal with short-term survival situations, like an attack by a predator. The trouble is, it occurs in response to all stressors, including the deadlines pummelling you at work and the traffic that drives you crazy. All that stress results in excess cortisol being built up in the blood. That cortisol just hangs around, causing lots of trouble: It turns young fat cells into mature fat cells that stick with you forever, and increases your cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods. When there are high levels of cortisol in the body, we respond by releasing excess insulin, and excess insulin in the blood stores as fat and that leads to physiological cravings.
When you give in to those cravings, your body releases a cascade of rewarding brain chemicals that can set up an addictive relationship with food — you stress, you eat. If you don’t consciously control the pattern, you can become physically and psychologically dependent on that release to manage stress. In fact, people who self-medicate with food tend to have hair-trigger epinephrine reactions and chronically high levels of cortisol.
If you are on a journey to lose visceral fat, and you are eating super clean, low fat, and low carb, but you are not losing as fast, it might be because your stress levels are too high. If you eat perfect, you still might not lose much if you don’t find new ways to deal with your stressors.
You can help yourself keep cortisol in check by limiting caffeine intake, avoiding simple carbs, processed foods, refined grains; and getting plenty of high-quality protein. It’s also crucial that you find stress-relief techniques that work for you. If you can tame your stress response and lower cortisol levels, you’ll have a much easier time losing weight.
There are many ways to lower your stress such as learning to meditate, getting a massage, taking a short vacation, exercise, or taking a hot bath. If you can learn to stress less, you will for sure lose more!