Stop Stressing and Start Losing Weight!

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Stress is one of the most overlooked elements in weight loss, but it is the most common reason why we plateau and struggle with burning excess fat. Let’s take a look at how stress impacts the body, which hormones are involved, and how a few simple changes can help.

How does stress work in the body? When we're stressed, our bodies release a cocktail of "fight-or-flight" hormones, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Each does something different to help you deal with the oncoming stress. Epinephrine relaxes the digestive muscles and decreases blood flow to the stomach and intestines. Norepinephrine stops the production of insulin so fast-acting blood glucose is ready to burn. Once stress has passed, cortisol cuts off the other two hormones and digestion returns to normal. When it comes to weight loss, the problem here is cortisol which can stay high while under stress.

So what happens when cortisol is high? Your body resists weight loss. This is because the sustained increase in cortisol is signaling to your body that life is going to be hard for a while and it should hang on to fat because you may starve. You then process fat from healthier areas, like the hips and buttocks, and begin storing more fat in the abdomen which contains additional cortisol receptors. The increase in belly fat leads to more cortisol production and the cycle continues.

Okay, stress is bad, but what do I do about it? Lifestyle and diet are key to lowering stress and getting cortisol back in check. While caffeine can provide a needed pick-me-up, overdoing it causes a sustained level of adrenalin in the system which can be an indicator that the stress hormones should turn on. Try to limit caffeine to 200mg per day. Avoiding processed foods and simple carbohydrates can help the storage of additional fat which will help slow down the cortisol cycle. Small daily changes will have a big impact in the long run.


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