Stress and Weight Loss: What is stress and cortisol?
Most people tend to think that stress is a fluffy thing. One of those made up conditions that doesn’t really exist.
But stress is real.
It is a chemical reaction that happens in your body when you sense danger. Like if you spotted a sabretooth tiger in the next field, or, if you were walking alone down a dark alley, on a moonless night.
Your senses become more alert. You notice every sound behind you. Your heart begins to beat faster.
That is cortisol kicking in.
Cortisol is your survival hormone. It’s released when danger, or potential danger is lurking. It puts your body into fight or flight mode.
Your heart beats faster and your arteries narrow so that blood can be pumped to your biggest muscles.
It floods your blood with glucose and stops your body storing it so you have plenty of energy available.
It shuts down your non-essential systems, like immune and reproductive, so they don’t take any energy away from the main task at hand.
All of this gives you the energy to fight the danger, or to flee from it.
So, cortisol isn’t so bad then?
It’s really not. It is essential. It gets us up in the morning. It gets us through difficult times, when we need that extra push.
It has kept us alive.
The problem isn’t with the hormone itself, it’s with our lifestyles.
Modern day life is always on the go. The stresses we face today aren’t so much of the fight or flight variety, they are the chronic, ongoing variety. And when you are constantly experiencing stress, you will constantly have the reactions mentioned above.
Your immune system will be suppressed; so you can expect lots of colds and illnesses.
Your reproductive system won’t be on top form; so your sex drive will probably be in the toilet.
Your arteries will be narrowed and heart rate increased; so your blood pressure will be higher than expected.
Your blood will be flooded with additional glucose and your insulin receptors won’t be functioning properly; so diabetes could be a real risk.
None of that sounds conducive to good health does it? Let alone losing weight. Or, for that matter, a happy life.
Stress and Weight Loss: Combat one to help the other
So, what do you do if you want to lose weight? Do you just give up? Not bother trying while you’re stressed? Be like the believers?
Absolutely not. Because the thing is, what you need to do to lose weight will help dramatically with your stress levels.
Disclaimer here – there are medical conditions that cause too much cortisol production. It’s always worth getting checked out by your doctor before starting any new programme. ALWAYS follow their advice first.
Exercise for example. An hour on a punch bag or a quick run can mimic that fight or flight from danger, tricking your body into thinking you’re now safe, and switching off your stress button.
Exercise also releases endorphins, which make you feel good, can give you confidence and, depending on the exercise you do, can help you relax.
As for healthy eating, omega 3 essential fatty acids, B vitamins and healthy carbohydrates, are all beneficial in combatting stress, reducing inflammation and helping you to lose weight.
So, you see, reducing stress and losing weight can be interlinked. What you do for one, will help the other.
Stress and Weight Loss: Your plan of attack
If you’re battling with stress and with weight loss I’m going to give you the same advice I give all of my clients.
Deal with the basics first.
Get your nutrition on track. Eat foods that work for you and that you enjoy.
Start exercising more. Moving your body in a way that makes you smile and you look forward to doing.
Once you’ve got those in order, if you are still struggling to lose weight it’s time to look at your stress levels and specific techniques to deal with it.
But one thing at a time. The last thing you want to do is add to your stress by trying to do everything at once. And, to be honest, your stress levels will improve through diet and exercise.
Once you realise you can do exercise you enjoy, eat food you love, it will trickle into other areas of your life.
You’ll start to prioritise things you want to do. You’ll learn to say no to things you don’t want to do. You start to understand that life is too short to spend any time being unhappy.
Stress and Weight Loss: Let’s get started
So, don’t just give up, or fail to start your weight loss journey because you think you’re too stressed for exercise and healthy eating to help.
You will probably find that those things alone will help you deal with your stress.
And if they don’t, there is always something else to try.