Stress and weight loss

There are many day to day factors that can trigger stress such as:

  • Emotional upsets
  • Financial worries
  • Work pressures/working too many hours
  • Relationship problems
  • Eating too much sugar, carbohydrates
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Lack of sleep
  • Physical or mental illness, pain, inflammation, injury, operations
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Constipation and digestive problems

Cortisol, the stress hormone

Stress increases the levels of cortisol which is often known as the ‘stress hormone’. When we experience stress, our cortisol levels can dramatically increase taking up to 8 hours for them to return to normal.

How cortisol affects our weight

When cortisol levels are too high, they interfere with the thyroid gland and can lower one’s metabolic rate, making it difficult to lose weight. Also, when cortisol levels are increased, fat is stored around the abdomen and in turn, can become very difficult to break down.

How cortisol affects the way we eat

Cortisol raises blood sugar levels which in turn can crash, making us want to eat all the wrong foods, e.g. sugar and carbohydrates. When this happens, we refer to it as ‘comfort eating’.

How cortisol affects our sleep

High levels of cortisol make it difficult to sleep and lack of sleep can also make it more difficult to lose weight!

Other effects of cortisol

There are other effects of too much cortisol production including loss of memory and concentration. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t think straight when you are stressed, the answer is too much cortisol.

Cortisol also weakens the immune system, increasing the chances of becoming ill. When under stress, our bodies are prone to becoming ill more easily and more often. As mentioned above, it also affects your metabolic rate.

Cortisol can also be linked to an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart attacks and high blood pressure.

Recommendations to help lower cortisol levels

Exercising for about 30 minutes a day, such as swimming and walking, can reduce cortisol levels. However, an excessive amount of exercising can increase cortisol levels.

Wherever possible, try to reduce or remove the source of stress.

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