Could stress be making it harder for you to lose weight?
If dealing with stress isn’t hard enough, chronic stress can make it difficult to lose weight thanks to the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Our Wantirna naturopath, Kirsten Parkinson explains why.
What do cortisol & adrenaline do?
When we are faced with modern day stress (like financial strain, relationship issues, work stress etc.) our bodies respond as through we are facing primitive physical stress (like being chased by a woolly mammoth). During this fight-or-flight response the adrenal glands produce adrenaline and cortisol.
In the right amounts, adrenaline and cortisol are essential for our survival because they prime our muscles and nervous system to run away from (or fight) any woolly mammoths that might be chasing us. Cortisol, in lower amounts, can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and help to metabolise glucose.
But when cortisol is continually raised by chronic emotional and physical stress it can cause:
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
How does cortisol cause weight gain?
When we are stressed, cortisol and adrenaline released during the fight or flight response cause the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. The purpose of this is to provide energy to the skeletal muscles in case we need to run away in a hurry. But because we’re usually sedentary when we’re dealing with our stress, the glucose isn’t used as muscle fuel as it was intended and is instead stockpiled, mostly in the liver and visceral fat stores.
Cortisol also makes us hungry, so when we’re stressed we’re more likely to crave fatty and sugary foods.
The good news is, by reducing stress and helping your body to adapt and cope better with stress, your cortisol levels can be brought back into balance.
Some things you can do to reduce your everyday stress and minimise its impact on your weight are:
– Meditation and breathing exercises
– Spending time every day on a hobby such as reading, sports, crafts, music etc.
– Enjoying a warm bath with epsom salts and essential oils
– Drinking relaxing herbal teas like chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm and lavender
– Moving your body through daily exercise, yoga, walking or swimming
– Eating a diet low in refined carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol and caffeine, and high in healthy fats, colourful vegetables and protein.
– Drinking 2 litres of filtered water per day
– Going to bed at a reasonable hour and avoiding screen time for at least one hour before bedtime