How Cortisol Hinders Weight Loss


Stressed Woman with Measure Tape Wrapped Around Her Mouth

The "fight or flight" syndrome is a wonderful adaptation when you need to outrun a charging predator. In the modern world, where stress is more likely to occur because you're stuck in traffic or the boss yelled at you, it's not so useful. That's because our bodies respond to a threat by flooding the cells with hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. In order to get them to dissipate, we need to sprint, dodge and duck - not so easy in rush-hour traffic.

Why Cortisol is Problematic

When those stress hormones just hang around, the physiological systems in the body keep on working the way they have for millennia. After a shot of adrenalin, those systems trick the brain into thinking you've just exerted yourself and you need to refuel. Bingo - you eat to relieve the stress of the excess hormones. Cortisol is particularly problematic because it kicks up your insulin levels, which means your blood sugar drops. Next thing you know, you're craving sugary, starchy foods because your body wants to get your blood sugar back up. Eventually this becomes a habit called stress eating.

Manage Stress to Lose Weight

While it really doesn't matter what kicks up your adrenalin and cortisol levels, if you're trying to lose weight, you really do need to learn how to manage stress. Regular exercise helps, as does meditation. When the urge to snack hits, make sure you subdue it with crunchy, nutrient-dense foods like raw veggies, with some nuts or a small piece of cheese. That helps keep your blood sugar stable.

For successful weight loss, you need to attack on all fronts. Manage your stress. Eat real foods loaded with nutrients and fiber. Take a long walk every day and make sure you get enough sleep. These strategies will help keep your hormones and your stress levels under control. You can also get support from the counselors at the Metabolic Research Center; they've been there.

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