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Why This Stress Hormone Is Preventing You From Losing Weight

Updated: Feb 21, 2019

Life comes with many added stressors, always has and always will, except now the day-to-day stress the average human experiences has gone beyond basic survival needs. With our hectic lives there are countless stressors on our plates, including bills, relationships, demanding jobs, providing for your family, and the list goes on. When our stress levels rise far above what is biologically acceptable our bodies start to get seriously out of whack. Today we'll be focusing on the "stress hormone" Cortisol.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones and is made in the adrenal glands and, in healthy amounts, helps you respond to stress by raising your energy and heightening your focus, along with controlling blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism, and helping to reduce inflammation. It's when we see Cortisol, and stress, in abundance that problems begin to arise––including our weight.

Why Does It Prevent You Losing Weight?

Cortisol helps your body become even more effective at producing glucose from proteins, and is designed to help quickly increase the body’s energy in times of stress. In classic cases of fight-or-flight, a stressful event is quickly resolved and the cortisol your body produced is absorbed into your system as quickly as it arrived, assisted by the increased circulation from your pounding heart. Instead, the problem for many of us is being in a constant state of stress (for many of the reasons listed in the beginning of this article). This leads to a constant state of excess cortisol production. Excess cortisol stimulates glucose production. This excess glucose then typically is converted into fat, ending up as stored fat.

Most bodily cells contain cortisol receptors, however fat cells in the belly have four times more cortisol receptors compared to fat cells elsewhere. Therefore, you just keep reinforcing that spare tire around your waist as your cortisol climbs and stays high. Basically, no matter how healthy you eat or how much you workout, that extra weight isn't going to budge until you get your cortisol levels down. In fact, high intensity workouts can be detrimental to someone with high levels of cortisol's weight loss efforts (although there are mixed views on the best type of exercise to reduce cortisol). Yikes.

While all of this doesn't sound good, the bright side is that it can be combatted. Here are our top 3 tips to fight high cortisol and start shedding some pounds:

1. Avoid sugary and processed foods

This one is good whether you have high cortisol levels or not, but in this case, high cortisol levels cause higher insulin levels, meaning your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. This is why they are called "comfort foods." Focus on nutrient dense, whole foods. Over time your cravings will decrease!

2. Meditate

Meditation has been proven time and time again to reduce stress, along with other amazing benefits to the mind and body.

3. Take fish oil

2000 mg of omega 3s per day helps reduce cortisol levels. Not to mention it helps reduce heart disease, keeps your skin, eyes, and bones healthy as well.

Left unchecked high cortisol can increase your risk of developing depression, obesity, insomnia, heart disease and digestive problems. If you're living life full tilt and constantly stressed, it's time to start crafting a plan to make some changes. A better life is possible!