“Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women.
Let’s talk about stress. I’ve been feeling super anxious lately—like NOT normal for me—so I decided to investigate a bit and see what’s going on. I’m pretty sure it’s a combo of SAD (we moved from Florida to NW France where it’s super cloudy) and my CORTISOL. The more I researched cortisol and its effects, the more I realized HOW MUCH it affects our weight—and I had to share what I’ve learned with you!!
Cortisol is the main stress hormone made in your adrenal glands and it’s designed to get you out of danger. It’s three jobs are to raise blood pressure, raise blood sugar (to feed muscles so you can run or fight), and modulate immune function.
You know when you wake up in the morning, drink your coffee and feel like a rockstar? For about 20 minutes? Then you get hit by the wall, feeling anxious and jittery. This is the cortisol switch, when your body no longer registers the positive aspects of cortisol, and you switch to the negative aspects of cortisol.
Cortisol encourages your body to store fat! Over time, high cortisol, when sustained, is linked to diabetes, increased belly fat, high blood pressure, depression, poor wound healing, and insomnia.
In fact, fat cells in the body have FOUR TIMES more cortisol receptors compared to other fat cells, so as your cortisol climbs and stays high, you keep reinforcing your muffin top.
I can’t tell you how many women I work with who live a stress-crazed life, go to the doctor because they can’t lose weight despite eating well and exercising, and the doctor prescribed MORE EXERCISE. I had one client who was advised by her doctor to cut her calories down to 800 PER DAY and workout MORE. #mindblown That’s the WORST advice a doctor could give someone with high cortisol!!!!
Fix your cortisol, and see RESULTS from your hard work!!
Here are 7 steps to help you beat stress so you can get your cortisol levels under control and lose weight!
1. Low impact workouts!
Keep it low impact, since intense activity (like running) can raise cortisol levels. Go for a walk, do some yoga, PiYo, or strength training. Beachbody On Demand has its own yoga library (!!!!) so I highly recommend checking it out here. “Exercise makes your blood circulate more quickly, transporting the cortisol to your kidneys and flushing it out of your system.” Talbott
It doesn’t have to be a long workout either, one study found that 18 minutes of walking 3 times per week can quickly lower the hormone’s levels by 15%!
2. Begin meditating
The University of California at San Francisco showed that obese women who began a mindfulness program and stuck with it for 4 months lost belly fat. CRAZY. If you’ve never meditated before, here are some of my fave resources: Headspace, Calm, Sattva, and Gabby Bernstein’s guided meditations. After lighting some candles, dimming the lights, and playing some soothing music, I already feel way better!
3. STOP DIETING.
Research shows that constant dieting can make cortisol levels rise as much as 18%!! When your cortisol levels spike, your blood sugar goes crazy, first spiking, then plummeting. This, in turn, makes you ravenous (and cranky). Eat real food in moderation =)
4. Stop Drinking Coffee.
I’m sorry about this. I really am. When I figured out that my cortisol levels were too high, I started adding up all the cups of coffee I was drinking each day. Let’s just say it’s embarrassing how much coffee I was drinking lol! In one study, the University of Oklahoma found that consuming 2 1/2-3 cups of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25%—and kept it up for 3 hours! You’ll experience these effects even if your body is used to drinking a ton of cappuccinos. Since cortisol levels can contribute to stress eating, you might want to consider cutting out caffeine altogether. Please still be my friend lol.
6. Eat a Nutrient Dense Breakfast!
Deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C are stressful to your body. These deficiencies lead to increased cortisol levels and food cravings! Foods that contain these nutrients are grapefruit or strawberries (for vitamin C), plain, full-fat yogurt for calcium and magnesium, and a slice of Ezekiel bread with natural peanut butter, for B vitamins and healthy fats.
I KNOW how hard this is if you have little ones. Especially little ones that aren’t sleeping through the night yet, or wake you up at 4:30 in the morning. I hear you. But you’re gonna have to do your best. Try to go to bed early and sneak in a nap if you can while baby naps (TJ doesn’t nap anymore sadly!). Your body perceives sleep deprivation as a major stressor, and getting 6.5 hours each night can increase cortisol, appetite, and weight gain. A lack of sleep also raises levels of ghrelin, a hunger-boosting hormone. In one study, appetite (particularly for salty and sweet foods) increased by 23% in those who were sleep deprived! The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours each night, and a few nights of solid sleep can bring all of this back into balance.
If you’re not sure if your cortisol levels are high, you can take this test, and make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor who can do a saliva testing.
On a scale of 1-10, how stressed are you right now? With 10 being super duper stressed? Comment below with a few things that you’ll implement TODAY to destress and feel better ASAP!
Did this help you? If so, I would really appreciate it if you comment below and share on Facebook!