posted on October 19, 2009 22:46
Anxiety is the most powerful biological trigger for weight gain. Even if you are exercising and eating correctlly, high stress levels can prevent weight loss, and in some instances, can actually trigger weight gain.
Whether the stress is psychological or physical, your body reacts in the same way.....physically. You get a surge of adrenaline and cortisol...the adrenaline is a command for flight or fight...the cortisol triggers a request for energy....which can make you extremely hungry....and that cortisol keeps requesting food for as long as the stress continues. Cortisol also encourages the body to start storing fat which raises cholesterol and insulin levels.
We crave salty, fatty, and sweet foods, which stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals, which in turn, reduce tension. This is the addictive part; every time there is stress we look for a means of pleasure to help us through that emotional/stressful time.
Chronic stress also slows down the production of testosterone which builds muscles. This drop in testosterone can cause a decrease in muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories.
Here are some suggestions to handle stress levels, and to control your cortisol and your weight:
1. Move your muscles. Drop and do push ups, do jumping jacks, run in place. This physically fools the body into thinking you are escaping from your stress. Your blood circulates faster and this transports the cortisol out of your system faster. 18 minutes of walking 3 times a week can lower levels by 15%.
2. Eat slowly, savor the bite and flavor, enjoy the moments and ritual of eating. Slowing down can decrease the amount of food needed to feel full, lessen the cortisol levels and shift the focus away from production of belly fat.
3. Constant dieting can raise cortisol levels by 18%. Too much time, in-between meals, makes your blood sugar spike and then dips, making you feel cranky and starved. To control this, and thus control the cortisol that affects you, eat three healthy meals with 2 or 3 snacks spaced through the day so your blood levels don't spike. You will feel pleasantly full, with no issues of hunger.
4. Give yourself a treat once in a while....it's ok to have a cookie or pieces of chocolate...don’t get stressed by totally denying yourself. Just remember that one is good.....and stop there.
5. Watch your intake of caffeine. Caffeine consumption while under stress can raise your cortisol levels by 25% (University of Oklahoma).
6. Take a good Vitamins for Women and include B and C, calcium and magnesium. Low levels of these nutrients can also lead to increase cortisol levels and food cravings.
7. Get enough uninterrupted sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major stressor. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep. Studies have shown that even 6 1/2 hours of sleep can be perceived as a stress source and can increase your cortisol levels, appetite and weight gain. Appetite can increase the desire for sweet, salty, fatty food by 23% in people who do not get enough sleep. Fortunately several nights of good rest can restore your natural balance.
Even if you can’t get rid of all the stress in your life, you can be aware of what triggers your body’s responses, and you can then be more in charge of your cortisol and weight gain.
Be Blessed, Kersten