Cortisol and Weight Gain
Have you ever noticed how at stressful times in life, you start to gain weight? Sometimes the answer appears to be obvious. When you’re stressed, you turn to the box of Oreos or dig into a pint of ice cream.
But what about those times when you’ve actually been good. You haven’t over indulged. You even went out for your morning run every day of the week, despite the fact that you were so stressed, you thought you were going to rip your hair out.
Then when you hopped on the scale, you saw that increase. Not only that, but you feel it in your hips and stomach.
Pretty discouraging, isn’t it? Well, you can blame that on cortisol. Cortisol and weight gain go hand in hand with stressful situations.
What’s Important About Cortisol And Weight Gain:
The Basic Cortisol Facts
Cortisol is a natural part of your body. It is a hormone that influences your metabolism. The adrenal glands secrete it in response to stress. This stress can be either physical stress or mental stress or even emotional stress.
It enters the blood stream along with adrenaline to help you get through a difficult situation. It is part of your body’s fight or flight mechanism, and it is essential. However, unlike adrenaline, once it’s in your system, it does not dissipate. It remains in the body. It tells the body that there are still things that need to be done, battles to be fought, and, therefore, those calories should be stored as fat.
According to Medicine.net, it even goes so far as to spike your blood sugar levels and produce insulin so that you can get through.
This is how it stimulates weight gain. Cortisol is what is telling your body that something bad is coming or that you are in something bad. While the adrenaline helps you to escape, cortisol is arranging everything to make sure that you survive by storing extra fat.
Controlling Cortisol Levels
Before you head off and grab some of those magic diet pills that suppress cortisol production, remember that this hormone is vital to your body. Its orchestration allows you to get through the stress in better condition than you would otherwise. And while you may feel that you have no choice but to gain weight while you’re going through a stressful situation, that’s not the case at all.
Learning to control your cortisol levels is an important skill, and it’s one that you can start working on right away.
The first thing is to make sure that you get rid of sugar. This is going to be hard, because cortisol often creates cravings for high calorie and high sugary foods.
Dina Aronson of Today’s Dietician explains this by stating that the cravings are in response to cortisol’s perception that your body needs energy and fuel fast. Sugar is a fast form of fuel. However, remember that your body is going to be converting those high sugary snacks into visceral belly fat.
Charming, isn’t it?
So just get the temptation out of there. Your will power isn’t going to be strong when you’re dealing with a cortisol sugar craving. And when I say get the sugar out, I mean it, all of it. That includes supposed health foods and classic items like orange juice. That and other supposed health foods will sabotage your weight loss efforts.
Getting rid of sugary foods is not enough though. You need to start your cortisol reduction efforts even sooner. If you’re one of those people who exercises even when under stress, then good for you.
While you shouldn’t be running a marathon, regular exercise helps to reduce the effects of stress and cortisol on the body. While it is expending calories, more importantly it is providing an outlet for all of the stress that is bottling up within you. Additionally, it increases the production of endorphins that help you to control your cravings.
So pick something and use it regularly. Functional exercises are the best since they will be training whole sets of muscles rather than just a single muscle. Make the exercise something you enjoy like dancing or walking with friends.
If it’s something you hate, you might unintentionally increase your stress levels as you dread doing it.
The next thing that you can do to naturally control your cortisol levels is to make sure that you get enough sleep. Sufficient levels of sleep will help you to keep your will power at its highest while also increasing your body’s production of serotonin and dopamine, according to Bloom Natural Health.
The standard eight hours may or may not be enough for you. You just need enough to feel refreshed. Ideally, try to keep your sleep in periods long enough for an REM cycle. Try for segments of time that can be divided by an hour and a half.
So there you have it. Cortisol may be sabotaging your weight loss, but it doesn’t have to win. The cortisol and weight gain connection is one that has been well documented. It is also one that you can control through healthy eating, removing sugar, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.
Please like and share if you agree,
“Stress, Hormones, and Weight Gain,” Medicine.net, http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53304 (2011).
Dina Aronson, MS, RD, “Cortisol – It’s Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy,” Today’s Dietician http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml (2009).
“Cortisol Levels and Weight Gain,” Bloom Natural Health, http://bloomnaturalhealth.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/cortisol-levels-and-weight-gain/ (2013).