Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Stress And Weight Gain - The Cortisol Connection

There is a connection between stress and weight gain. And
there's also a lot you can do to minimize the negative effects
of that connection. How does all this work?

When you're under stress your body naturally secretes cortisol.
Does that term sound familiar? You may have seen commercials
on TV about cortisol and the link between stress and weight

Cortisol is an important hormone produced by the adrenal
glands. Stress certainly isn't the only reason cortisol is
secreted into your bloodstream. But it's often called the
"stress hormone" because it is secreted in higher levels during
your body's "fight or flight" response to stress.

As you know, many events trigger a stress response in your
body. You may find yourself stressed out because of silly work
antics, a disagreeable co-worker, high workloads, a
fender-bender, an unexpected illness or other dangers, and the
list goes on and on. All these cause your body to react by
releasing huge amounts of energy. Your metabolism begins to
shift and your blood flow changes.

Although small increases of cortisol have some positive effects
on your body, higher and more prolonged levels have been linked
to negative effects. Chronic stress results in these higher and
prolonged levels of cortisol. And one of the negative effects
is weight gain.

Yes; stress and weight gain go hand-in-hand. How does the
weight gain occur?

First off, negative effects of higher and prolonged levels of
cortisol include suppression of the thyroid function and blood
sugar imbalances. How your body functions has changed and now
abdominal fat is being created and stored. This is one of the
most dangerous places for fat to be stored and is linked to
various serious health problems.

Just how much cortisol is secreted varies from person to
person. Studies have also shown people who secrete higher
levels in response to stress also tend to eat more food. And
the food they choose is typically higher in carbohydrates.

In addition, stress has been known to slow the metabolism in
some people. Of course, when this happens it is easier and far
more likely that you'll gain weight. You may even feel full but
still find yourself hungry. You may also be eating the same
amount of food but now your body's efficiency in breaking down
the calories is impacted. You end up with an "excess" of energy
(from the calories) which is converted to fat cells.

Back to the food: Stress can also affect the foods you crave.
When you feel sad and depressed you're more likely to reach for
foods higher in fat, salt, and sugar content. Eating a salad
just doesn't make you feel any better so instead, you reach for
the ice cream and potato chips.

Besides the unhealthy cravings, stress can also create
emotional eating disorders. The change in cortisol raises the
nervous energy stored in the body. When this happens it seems
natural to eat anything and everything you can get your hands
on. You don't need the excess amount of food but devouring it
makes you feel better; at least in your mind.

One of the best actions you can take to break (or at least
minimize) the connection between stress and weight gain is to
manage your stress. Specifically, you can keep cortisol levels
healthy and under control by relaxing. That's right. After a
stress episode where the "fight or flight" response was
triggered, you must relax. Take a 10-minute nap, exercise,
meditate, get a massage, yoga, breathing exercises, or a
multitude of fun activities to give your body the chance it
needs to recover.

Finally, a healthy lifestyle will do wonders. Surround
yourself with fruits and vegetables for snacking. Make time for
a sit-down home-cooked meal instead of opting for the fast food
drive-through. Change your mental programming on how you
respond to daily stressful episodes. Break the connection
between stress and weight gain by taking charge of your body,
mind, and your stress levels.

About The Author: More stress relief ideas plus natural
treatments for depression. Find help at
http://www.StressAndDepressionAnswers.com on stress, anxiety and
depression topics.

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