Effects Of Excess Cortisol
Excess cortisol stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically is converted into fat, which gets stored.
A number of research studies show that fat cells can, in the presence of too much adrenaline, become resistant to the effects of adrenaline.
Eventually, the fat cells become unresponsive to adrenal stimulation to release fat, but through the presence of high cortisol, theyre more responsive to fat storage. At the same time, high levels of circulating cortisol increase the risk of obesity and increased fat storage.
Some studies have found a difference in individuals who respond to stress-induced higher cortisol levels by increasing the amount of food they eat. Some are high responders, while others have no such response. However, the results from different studies have found a variety of results.
What Is Extreme Weight Loss
Extreme weight loss can be defined as the loss of more than 1 kilogram a week. According to the CDC, healthy and sustainable weight loss means a loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week . Anything more than that is considered extreme and unhealthy.
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Explore The Issue More Deeply
Now that your client has admitted that stress is a problem generally, youll want to ask a few questions to help your client make the connection between stress and fat loss.
- Use open-ended questions that help your client investigate possibilities.
- Listen to and affirm whatever your client has to say.
- Ask for permission to fill in any holes in your clients understanding.
- Include your client in the solution.
The conversation might go like this:
|Coach: Crazy question: You mentioned how stressed you are. Are there any ways it might be affecting your weight or your eating? What are you noticing?|
|Client: I dont know. Usually? I eat out more when Im stressed because I just dont have time to cook.|
|Coach: Thats great that youve noticed that. Youre spot on. Funny enough, there are lots of other ways that stress affects body weight too. Are you okay if I share those with you?|
|Coach: Well, you already mentioned that it can lead you to eat differently. But lots of people dont know that stress can also drain your muscles of energy, leaving you feeling tired and achy. And it can also slow metabolism and interfere with sleep. What do you make of all of that? Does any of that seem like it might apply to your situation?|
|Client: Yeah, yeah. I think youre onto something. That might be it.|
|Coach: How do you want to approach this? Is this something that you want to address now? Or do you want to set it aside for a bit and see if we can do other things first?|
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Stress Less Sleep More
Have you ever wished for more hours of sleep and a less stressful life in general? Most people have stress and lack of sleep can be bad news for weight.
Chronic stress and inadequate sleep may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger, resulting in overeating highly palatable foods and therefore weight gain.52 If youre looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, it may immediately affect your stress hormone levels and perhaps your weight.
You should also make an effort to get enough good sleep, preferably every night. Strive to wake up refreshed of your own accord, independently of the alarm clock. If youre the kind of person who always gets brutally woken up by the alarm ringing, you might never be giving your body completely adequate rest.
One way to combat this is to go to bed early enough for your body to wake up autonomously before the alarm clock goes off. Letting yourself get a good nights sleep is another way of reducing stress hormone levels.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, goes hand in hand with sugar cravings.53 It also has an adverse effect on self-discipline and makes it painfully easy to give in to temptation . Similarly, sleep deprivation weakens your resolve to work out.
Insulin Resistance And Abdominal Fat
Sustained increases in cortisol, such as is seen in Cushing syndrome or people taking glucocorticoid medications, can result in insulin resistance. Other causes of insulin resistance include genetics, obesity, and lack of physical activity.
In insulin resistance, the brain and some of the bodys cells fail to react to the presence of insulin in the bloodstream and take in glucose produced by food digestion. The glucose continues to circulate in the bloodstream.
After a period of time, the overworked pancreas begins to tire and may lose its ability to produce enough insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is, in fact, sometimes called pre-diabetes.
The fat cells in your abdomen are particularly sensitive to high insulin and are very effective at storing energyfar more so that fat cells youd find in other areas such as the lower body .
Metabolic syndrome is diagnosed once insulin resistance results in abdominal obesity, low HDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and high fasting glucose levels.
Metabolic syndrome puts you at far greater risk of heart disease and stroke. People with metabolic syndrome may progress to type 2 diabetes.
How Much Weight Loss Happens Under Stress
Stress can lead to quick weight loss due to increased energy consumption and decreased intake of food. An individual under stress can easily lose upto 10 to 15 percent of overall body weight. The percentage of weight loss is higher in people who are heavier. Also, stress related weight loss can happen all of a sudden and one can notice shrunken face and dangling shirts within a short span of time.
Why Anxiety Causes Weight Gain
There are three main ways that anxiety can cause weight gain: it produces the stress hormone cortisol, it may contribute to over-eating, or it may reduce the amount of physical exercise that an individual engages in throughout the day. Although weight gain can be a symptom of anxiety, it is not always the reason that an individual may gain weight.
Anxiety has a very complicated impact on the body. Weight gain can be related to the emotional state of mind, but it is not always the primary factor that has caused you or a loved one to gain weight.
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Stress Isnt What You Think
Could it be that weve just overcomplicated stress? That weve taken something normal and made it an entire thing. Stress, which is and has always been a part of human nature, has changed focus, becoming the root of our problems. Or perhaps, we have failed to differentiate between different forms of stress, making it all sound terrible and daunting.
Leading us to live lives fearing stress, working to avoiding it meanwhile heaping it upon ourselves because were too fixated on it to move beyond it.
Sign #: They Look Sound And Act Frazzled
Some people make it easy. During an intake they might just come out and say, You know, stress is a big problem for me.
Or maybe they say, Ive literally tried everything. Im starting to think it might be stress related. What do you think?
Other clients, however, are more subtle.
They might not communicate their stress with actual words, but rather with their tone of voice, their pinched facial expression, or the flurried way they send texts at midnight. And at 2 a.m. And 3 a.m.
They also might reveal it in their writing style: lots of exclamation points, a generous use of all caps, or a proclivity for angry emojis. For them, its almost as if they just dont have time to bother with punctuation or capitalization. Theyre that busy.
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Schedule Time For Fun
Take care of yourself, especially when you can feel the tension building in your shoulders. Do this by scheduling time for fun.
Make time to meet up with friends, have a museum visit, go ice skating or go-carting with the kids.
And make sure you set time aside for getting a massage, a manicure or pedicure if possible.
Another great way to take care of yourself? Hit the sauna if you can. Sweating in the sauna for 10 minutes boosts your metabolism and circulation AND releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
Why You Crave Comfort Food When Youre Stressed
Chronic stress has an almost diabolical effect on the metabolism. Chronic stress may influence our brains reward system in areas such as the amygdala and hippocampus, which may promote food cravings, says Chao.
The secretion of cortisol in response to a stressor also tells your body to store belly fat, says Shawn Talbott, PhD, an exercise physiologist and nutritional biochemist in Salt Lake City, and author of The Cortisol Connection. A review published in July 2018 in the journal Medicine found that belly fat not only adds pounds but increases your risk for heart attack.
In addition, a study published in February 2017 in the European Journal of Neurology revealed a connection between belly fat and ischemic stroke in women. At the same time, hormones released in response to chronic stress can prompt the loss of skeletal muscle, according to a study published in January 2014 in the Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research. Muscle tissue is the largest calorie burner in the body, so overall metabolism drops, Dr. Talbott says.
Research has repeatedly found that social support can help decrease stress levels and thus lower the likelihood of weight gain. In a study published in May 2017 in the journal Behavior Modification, researchers found that while most first-year college students gained weight, students with lower levels of social support at the beginning of college had greater increases in body mass index .
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What Can I Do
“Read the labels,” says Miles. “You need to look at the overall energy and calories. Although a food may have a reduced amount of fat, it may still have the same amount of calories.”
A food labelled “low-fat” may still contain more calories than an alternative. For example, a “low-fat” muffin may contain more calories than a currant bun.
Find more healthy food alternatives in Healthy food swaps.
Stress And Weight Loss Or Gain
More people under stress tend to be hyperphagic, or overeaters, and fewer are hypophagic, or undereaters, according to Sapolsky he says the ratio is 2 to 1. One study of university students in Great Britain found an even greater ratio: 55 percent of participants gained weight during their stressful first year of school, compared to only 12 percent who lost weight. Female students in the study were more susceptible to both weight loss and gain than their male counterparts. The results appeared in the journal Physiology & Behavior in 2007.
The prevalence of hyperphagia under stress makes sense, given the longer period in which cortisol remains in your system making you want to eat. In addition, chronic stress keeps your cortisol levels perpetually high, for example, if you are struggling to adapt to a new situation, like college, or you are caring for a sick or elderly relative.
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The Top 3 Things You Need To Know About Cortisol And Weight Gain:
If youre noticing these signs of cortisol imbalance in your life, grab my free guide Balance Hormones to Stop After Dinner Eating.
You will implement the most important daily eating routine to keep cortisol balanced throughout the day and curb cravings and get you started on your weight loss journey.
But What Can Walking Do To Reduce Stress
Taking regular walks outside in the open, especially greenery areas, has been shown to reduce stress, low mood and anxiety. If you can take a walk after eating this could benefit you even further as it has been shown walking after a meal can help normalise sugar levels in the blood.
Walking is an easy habit to add into your life to help you reduce stress to lose weight.
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Other Symptoms Of Cortisol Imbalance
Other symptoms of imbalanced cortisol include an initial jolt of energy, that then fades to exhaustion when youve been under pressure for so long.
So, cortisol makes it harder to lose weight, adds belly fat, amplifies your food cravings, and steals your energy.
Ok thats a bummer, but soon you will see theres hope.
Nutrition To Balance Cortisol
From a nutritional perspective, you can assist your bodys inborn mechanisms to balance hormones by focusing on blood sugar balance, anti-inflammatory food choices, and eating regularly.
Making sure youre getting *enough* food and nutrients so your body doesnt feel deprived and stressed is also key, since restriction can raise cortisol.
You may be thinking, if I eat more, how can I lose weight?
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How Hormones Work Under Stress
Stress makes your body release an excess of cortisol hormone which gets in the way of your metabolism. These are often linked to a slower metabolism. This can also mean that you lose your appetite all together.
Stress may alternatively over stimulate the secretion of the thyroid glands. This will lead to not only a gregarious appetite but also a speedier calorie burning scenario in your body. While it all sounds good too much of everything can never be good for a long time.
Nervous Movement Burns Calories
Some people use physical activity to work through stress. Although an exercise-fueled endorphin rush can reduce your stress, engaging in more physical activity than normal could result in unexpected weight loss.
Sometimes stress triggers unconscious movement, like foot tapping or finger clicking. These tics may help your body process your feelings, but they also burn calories.
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When Youre Stressed Nothing Else Really Mattersnot According To Your Body
If youre trying to lose weight while youre chronically stressed, its like trying to run a marathon while giving someone a piggyback ride. Sure, you might make it across the finish line, but you made it a lot harder than it needed to be.
I see patients all the time who have high stress levels, and they struggle with weight loss, says Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS, a licensed psychologist specializing in health and wellness. Theres a reason for this: When your sympathetic nervous system is stuck in on mode, its like your bodys smoke alarm is constantly going off. In this state, its hard to pay attention to anything else, and its hard to determine when something is truly alarming.
Fight Flight And Food
The fight-or-flight response is an innate reaction that evolved as a survival mechanism. It empowers humans to react swiftly to acute stress like a predator or adapt to chronic stress like a food shortage. When faced with stress, the body wants to keep the brain alert. It decreases levels of some hormones and brain chemicals in order to turn down behaviors that wont help in an urgent situation, and it increases other hormones that will.
When under stress, the body lowers levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin. Serotonin regulates emotions, appetite and digestion. So, low levels of serotonin increase anxiety and can change a persons eating habits. Dopamine another feel-good neurotransmitter regulates goal-oriented motivation. Dwindling levels of dopamine can translate into lower motivation to exercise, maintain a healthy lifestyle or perform daily tasks. When people are under stress, they also produce less of the sleep hormone melatonin, leading to trouble sleeping.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine mediate the physiological changes associated with stress and are elevated in stressful situations. These biochemical changes can cause mood swings, impact a personss eating habits, reduce goal-oriented motivation and disrupt a persons circadian rhythm.
Overall, stress can throw your eating habits and motivation to exercise or eat healthy way out of balance, and this last year has certainly been a stressful one for everyone.
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