The Stress Hormone: How Cortisol Affects the Waistline and How to Beat It

Have you ever heard that being stressed out can lead to weight gain? Unfortunately, it’s true. Cortisol is commonly known as a stress hormone, produced in the adrenaline gland, that is released in the body when it is stressed. Cortisol also has an affect on weight gain in that it can increase the fat in a person’s body — particularly around a person’s midsection — if the body has elevated amounts of stress over time.

Fight or Flight

When we first experience something stressful, the body quickly breaks down fat to supply energy. It also puts out the corticotropin-releasing hormone, which gets the body ready to respond to the stressful situation we encounter with the “fight or flight” reaction. The pupils dilate, thinking improves and the lungs receive more oxygen. One other thing that happens during this process is that our appetites are suppressed and the digestive system shuts down temporarily.

Sounds great so far, right? Not so fast.

When stress is diffused, the body holds onto the cortisol to balance itself back out. One of the ways this happens is that the appetite increases to make up for the quick breakdown of fat from the start of the stressful situation.

When the body is at a constant state of stress, weight gain is likely as appetite and insulin levels steadily increase. When stress is elevated all of the time, cortisol is constantly being produced, which stimulates glucose (sugar) production. The extra glucose is stored as fat, leading the inevitable weight gain.

Here are some other affects of cortisol:  

  • Increases blood sugar levels
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Suppresses the immune system

Rest and Relaxation

If you feel like you are stressed out all of the time, there are lots of things you can do:

  • Take deep breaths (it is not overrated because it works so well — think meditation)
  • Count to 10 before responding to a negative situation
  • Take a quick walk or any other physical activity to diffuse and release endorphins, our feel-good hormones
  • Listen to music
  • Practice meditation and visualization
  • Drink a hot beverage
  • Get a massage
  • Pamper yourself

Here are some other ways to manage stress.

Do you have a particular stress management trick that works for you? If so, share with me!

Resource: Medicine Net

Photo credit: beatlequeen

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  1. Yoga! Yoga! Yoga! Check out some DVDs or go to a class with friends. Either way the soft yoga stretches and focus on breathing techniques takes the stress away and helps bring on sleep.

    1. I love yoga too Lisa!! I find it is very relaxing and peaceful as well! I am so glad you are able to manage your stress this way, it is so important!!

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