If you feel like you are under prolonged, chronic stress, you could be at the highest risk for excess weight gain.
Researchers have identified that an over-secretion of cortisol can cause excess weight gain in these three ways:
1. Slowing metabolism
Too much cortisol will slow your metabolic engine, making weight loss much more difficult. If you're trying to lose weight, this decrease in your metabolic function may make the process frustrating.
2. Increasing cravings
When you are stressed and craving something to eat, do you crave an egg or a piece of celery? Of course not. Most people crave a sugary or starchy goodie in an attempt to improve their mood and boost their energy. Unfortunately, treats like cookies, cakes, muffins and fancy coffees are high on the glycemic index and will trigger the excess secretion of the pancreatic hormone insulin. In a nutshell, excess insulin is stored as excess fat (especially around the mid-section) and it will cause the vicious cycle of cravings to continue.
3. Fat storage
An excess secretion of cortisol promotes abdominal fat storage, which has been linked to a greater risk for heart disease, cancer and stroke. Ideally, a man’s waist circumference should be less than 40 inches and a woman’s should be less than 35 inches.
Decreasing cortisol levels naturally
Since cortisol levels play an important role in regulating blood sugar, fat storage and energy production, it is important to practice techniques that can keep cortisol levels low. Here are seven ways to de-stress and keep cortisol under control:
Regular cardiovascular workouts will greatly help to reduce stress and cortisol levels.
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2. Keep blood sugars balanced
Refined flours and sugars can increase cortisol levels and can contribute to weight gain. Reducing your intake of high glycemic index foods such as cookies, cakes and candy will help you to drop excess weight, eliminate cravings and keep cortisol levels down.
3. Supplement wisely
Supplement your diet with a high quality multi-vitamin and multi-mineral. An additional multi-B vitamin can also be helpful in times of prolonged or increased stress. Supplementing with fish oils can also help with depression and overall brain health.
4. Belly breathe
Simply inhale thru your nose for a count of four while your belly rises and exhale for a count of four while you belly flatten. Do five rounds at a time several times per day.
5. Create a regular sleep routine
The body thrives on routine. Try to go to sleep at the same time each evening and rise at the same time in the morning. Ideally, you should be in bed by 11 p.m. and out of bed by 7 a.m. For optimal hormonal secretion and health, sleep in a room that is completely dark.
6. Drink green tea
In addition to being loaded with anti-oxidants, green tea also provides natural anxiety relief by triggering the release of the amino acid L-theanine. For weight loss, it is recommended to drink 2 to 3 cups per day.
The art and science of meditation is one of the most effective techniques to reduce stress levels. Start by simply sitting in a room by yourself and focusing on your breathing for five minutes. If you mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to focus on your breathing. Remember, meditation takes practice – but even a small effort will make a big difference.
Stress can contribute to excessive weight gain and eventually ill health. If your stress levels have escalated to a chronic nature, start by implementing the simple yet very effective steps above to manage your health and weight in an effective manner.
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Dr. Joey Shulman DC, registered nutritionist, is the founder of the Shulman Weight Loss Clinics. Her latest release is Healthy Sin Foods – Decadence without the Guilt. For more information, please visit www.drjoey.com.