Although short bursts of stress sometimes leads to weight loss, long term stress makes you fat.
Initial physical reaction to stress triggers an adrenaline release. In times when humans needed energy fast to run away from a life threatening situation adrenaline was released with the resulting effect of blood sugar going up. This provided pretty much instant energy for muscles that needed to spring into action.
At the same time another stress hormone would be released – cortisol. This stress hormone has a longer term action and its role is to replenish the energy that was just used with a bout of massive physical exertion. It does this by making you hungry.
These days a lot of our stress is psychological. We get the adrenaline release, but because we don’t need to run away from a bear or something we end up with glucose flooding our system, because our muscles don’t use it up.
Since the expected physical exertion hasn’t used the glucose up it needs to be dealt with another way. High blood sugar will trigger a wave on insulin, and as a result some of that blood sugar will end up being turned to fat.
Ongoing Stress Makes You Fat
Cortisol is an important hormone, and normally it has a circadian fluctuation. Levels rise early in the morning, and higher levels help you get going in the morning. Cortisol lowers in the evening and is low at night, otherwise it would keep you awake.
If your body is in a state of stress much of the time – that’s not normal or healthy.
Ongoing stress elevates your cortisol levels and keeps them high when they should be low. Cortisol not only increases your appetite, but is also increases your desire for energy dense food. These days that tends to be sugar, and high density carbs – sweat or savoury.
Chronic (long-term) stress makes you fat because it results in abnormally high cortisol levels.
And it gets worse..
Cortisol increases fat storage around your middle, and especially intra-abdominal fat, aka visceral fat. This is really dangerous fat as it increases your chance of a heart attack and is linked with diabetes.
Cortisol is great for you when it’s doing it normal thing, but it’s nightmare for your weight when it’s out of control:
- It increases your appetite
- It draws you to junk food
- High levels at night can prevent you sleeping properly
- Lack of sleep increases your appetite for junk too
Stress can be barrier to losing weight too. If this is you – a diet is not the answer, but tackling your stress is.
Have a great week!