We’ve all experienced it – stress affecting our thoughts, our behaviors and our feelings. But did you know stress could be what is keeping you overweight? The biggest culprit that contributes to this is our main stress hormone – cortisol. Under normal circumstances, cortisol has an anti-inflammatory effect within the body and affects blood sugar balances, digestion, and immunity. But our bodies are designed for survival, not for optimal health in the 21st century. When we are stressed, regardless of the source, our body’s systems react with the intent of keeping us alive under whatever circumstances we encounter. This is our fight or flight mechanisms. While in survival mode our body speeds up some processes and slows down others. We convert amino acids to glucose, our body’s main source of fuel. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and epinephrine skyrocket, our body’s motivational hormones. And blood is diverted from maintenance work, like digestion, to where it is needed most at that time, the skeletal muscles to get us running. During times of hardship, this kept us alive but in today’s day in age, our body’s are reacting this way during rush hour traffic when your work deadline is coming up or you’re having a fight with your spouse.
When we are under chronic stress our body is constantly pumping out cortisol which can have negative side effects like insomnia, anxiety, inflammation, poor immunity, and you guessed it… fat storage. While cortisol levels are constantly high, our body thinks it’s going through hardship and is going to starve, causing us to hold onto as much body fat as possible to be used as energy during that famine. This is not an issue during a time where food is readily available. So, instead of burning that reservoir of energy our body continues to store.
I promise you this is a solvable issue. Now, you can never stop your body from reacting to stress but you can manipulate what your body perceives as stress. Begin by learning how YOUR body reacts to stress. Immediate reactions could be headaches, fatigue, digestive upsets, anxiety, anger, cravings, etc. From here, learn what actions work best to manage your stress. Try different breathing techniques or relaxational exercises like yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage or reflexology. Laughing and socializing with friends and family can do wonders. Regular physical activity is crucial to help metabolize stress hormones. And last, but certainly not least, having a healthy diet. Eating a well-balanced diet full of whole foods will help control cravings, boost energy levels and obtain a healthy weight. If you struggle knowing where to start when it comes to your eating habits then working with a Holistic Nutritionist, like myself, will give you the guidance, motivation, and knowledge you need to live a healthy, stress-free life.