We all experience stress, and an inability to cope with stress can lead to overeating and obesity. Stress also releases hormones that influence body fat storage.
Examples of stress include:
- Daily stress related to the pressures of work, school and family.
- Stress related to negative change, such as losing a job, divorce, or illness.
- Traumatic stress experienced in an event like a major accident, war, assault, or a natural disaster.
Unresolved Stress can Adversely Affect your Health
Problems also occur when your body’s stress response goes on for too long, becoming chronic. With chronic stress, your fight-or-flight responses result in suppressed immunity, digestive problems, sleep disorders and increased production and release of stress hormones, specifically, cortisol.
Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands in response to the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the pituitary. Cortisol increases the concentration of blood glucose by converting amino acids into carbohydrates (gluconeogenesis), inhibiting glucose uptake, and breaking down lipid stores into adipose tissue (lipolysis).
Cortisol, Stress and Weight Gain
Cortisol is known as the primary “stress hormone” and is secreted in response to all forms of stress. Stress triggers your “fight or flight” response causing your adrenal glands to secrete large quantities of adrenal cortical hormones. These hormones mobilize the body’s energy supplies and direct all of the body’s resources toward survival.
This response may be extremely beneficial during a life-threatening situation, but is not as well suited for today’s modern world since most stressful situations do not require us to fight or run away. Although there are no physical activity required in response to the perceived “threat,” (stress) cortisol signals the body to refuel as though there were. This signal to refuel increases appetite and increases your body’s fat storage to cope with the perceived emergency and may also increase your risk of emotional eating. All of these factors lead to weight gain in the chronically stressed. The National Institute of Health has found that an overproduction of cortisol is linked to obesity.
There is a Direct link Between High Cortisol Levels and Visceral Fat Storage
Visceral fat is stored deeper in the abdominal cavity, in and around the internal organs, whereas “regular” fat is stored below the skin (known as subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat is particularly unhealthy because it is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
Ways To Reduce Cortisol
- Exercise – Aerobic exercise increases the production of endorphins. Endorphins interact with your opiate receptors in your brain to produce an overall feeling of euphoria which counteracts the harmful effects of stress and lowering cortisol levels.
- Avoid Sugar – Sugar triggers a strong insulin response which can produce a rapid drop in blood sugar several hours after a meal. A fall in blood sugar triggers the secretion of cortisol. Eating balanced meals of proteins, fats, and fiber along with simple carbohydrates can reduce blood sugar and insulin swings.
- Get Plenty Of Sleep – Sleep deprivation increases stress and makes weight gain more likely. People who sleep five hours or less per night are 70 percent more likely to be obese than those who sleep between seven and nine hours per night.
- Practice Stress Reduction – Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness, and yoga are effective methods of stress reduction which will reduce cortisol levels.
Your Stress Management Coaching Career
All coaches must understand stress management and how it’s connected to personal success, sports performance, fulfilling relationships and optimal health. Our stress management coaching program is designed for life coaches, as well as fitness and wellness professionals who want to expand his or her knowledge in the lucrative and expanding field.
Spencer Institute certification programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.