Believe it or not, our body’s stress response was supposed to be a good thing for us. In the rough and tumble world of our past, if we were attacked by a wild animal or a fellow human, it was the stress response that allowed us the edge we needed to survive.
When the body determines it is in a stressful situation, it enters into “Fight or Flight” mode. Adrenaline is released which allows for the quick burst of energy needed to climb a tree to escape or swing a fist to attack. This response is supported by the hormone cortisol that raises blood sugar to provide easy access to energy and raises blood pressure so that energy can travel faster throughout the body.
This stress response was designed to be activated for a short interval and then lie dormant for the majority of time but what if that’s not the normal pattern? What if you are constantly under stress and your body sees every other car on the highway as a lion about to attack or every other coworker as a possible threat? This leads to the body keeping cortisol levels higher than normal constantly and that makes weight loss efforts especially difficult.
The main biological issue you have with higher than normal cortisol levels is you have trouble lowering your blood sugar levels. Higher blood sugar levels means constantly elevated insulin levels and since insulin is your body’s fat storage hormone, your body is constantly working to store energy as fat instead of using it for fuel. This is a major factor in why some people can eat the perfect diet and get the perfect amount of exercise but not see the weight loss they expected to see.
Cortisol is also responsible for telling the body WHERE to put fat and it wants to put that fat as close to the liver as it can get it. One of the liver’s jobs is to convert stored fat into energy and if your body thinks you are constantly being attacked because your cortisol levels are constantly elevated, it wants that energy as close as possible. The problem here is the fat stored around the midsection is the most unhealthy because it crowds out your other organs and makes them work less efficiently, causing other long term issues with your health.
So when you are working on your weight loss efforts, you should absolutely get your diet right and get the proper amounts of exercise, but don’t neglect stress reduction efforts as well.
This can be as simple as a few minutes of deep breathing or meditation to something a little more active like yoga or even a nice stroll after the evening meal with your significant other. Whatever you do, don’t neglect your stress levels when working to manage your overall health.