Ageology experts agree the top three leading causes of stress are work, money and health. The uncertainties in life and sudden tragic events like the Boston Marathon explosion also skyrocket stress levels. It is difficult, but important to manage stress in our lives in healthy ways. In addition to heart disease, ulcers, sleep problems and an increased likelihood of infectious diseases; cortisol can also cause belly fat, excessive weight gain and even obesity.
The Cortisol Skinny (and Fat)
Our Ageology physicians counsel both men and women looking for a lifestyle of restoration and vitality versus deterioration and disease. Not only can chronic high cortisol levels be the guilty culprit of belly fat, but sustained high levels of cortisol can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
In our last Ageology blog we discussed how stress increases your body’s production of cortisol and how having consistent high levels of cortisol in your bloodstream can suppress your immune system responses, digestive system, reproductive system and growth processes.
It’s a fact that cortisol is the most fat-producing hormone. Unless you take steps to manage your stress levels and balance your cortisol hormones, you could be on the road to obesity.
3 Ways Cortisol Causes Weight Gain and Obesity
1 Cortisol is responsible for providing you with energy. Stress, be it physical or mental, hardwires your brain to look for quick energy. As a result, your appetite is increased and you crave and eat foods high sugar, carbohydrates and fat to immediately satisfy your nervous system’s hunger.
2 When you are feeling stressed cortisol increases your blood sugar to give you the energy to combat that stress; however, when the stressful event is over you are still left with a high level of blood sugar and all that excess glucose is stored as fat.
3 High cortisol levels reduce your leptin levels. Leptin is also known as “the full hormone” and when leptin levels are low it means you must eat much more food before feeling satisfied.
Controlling Stress Related Weight Gain
To prevent weight gain during stressful times and to reduce the risk of obesity. Manage your stress using the techniques described by Ageology’s Dr. Paul Savage in Hormones and Stress: Dr. Paul Savage Offers 6 Tips to Help Reduce Stress. In addition, focus on stress management techniques to combat stress-related weight gain:
- Stress stop signs and detours. Recognize the warning signs of stress, such as anxiety, irritability and muscle tension and immediately take steps to decrease your stress levels with meditation, deep breathing and/or exercise
- Throw away the bon-bons? Before eating, ask yourself why you’re eating — are you truly hungry or do you feel stressed or anxious? Identify high fat and high sugar comfort foods and keep them out of your home or office.
- Walk it out. If you are tempted to eat when you’re not hungry find a distraction, go for a walk.
- Most important meal of the day. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast.
- Dear Diary: I’m in a bad relationship with food and can’t get a date with exercise. Keep a record of your behavior and eating habits so that you can look for patterns and connections — and then figure out how to overcome them.
- Pizza + Beer = 1000 calories. Learn problem-solving skills so that you can anticipate challenges and cope with setbacks.
Saliva testing is the best way to determine your cortisol levels. Then based on the results, an Ageology physician can help you balance those levels using a combination of stress reduction techniques, personalized nutrition, a specialized fitness regimen, pharmaceutical-grade supplementation and bioidentical hormone therapy. Contact Ageology today for an appointment to live healthier, longer and avoid stress-related weight gain.