Why Stress is Ruining Your Weight Loss: Cortisol Connection

Stress Cortisol

We all fear that dreaded “muffin top”, you know what I’m talking about.

That excess pooch of fat that hangs out of the top of your jeans and makes you self-conscious?

I bet you didn’t think that your stress level could be a MAJOR contributing factor to that muffin top you have, but I want to talk to you about the insane connection between stress and fat, especially that hard to target belly fat!

When you are stressed out, your body reacts by releasing fight or flight stress hormones that are produced in your adrenal glands including

  • Cortisol
  • Norepinephrine
  • Epinephrine

The minute your body becomes stressed Norepinephrine comes into play and tells your body to stop insulin production, then come Epinephrine which helps to relax your muscles and decrease blood flow in your body, and once your body feels like the threat or stressor has passed in comes Cortisol which tells your body to stop producing these hormones and go back to digesting food normally.

It is normal for your Cortisol levels to fluctuate throughout the day but if you are under a great deal of stress and your Cortisol levels stay elevated for a long period of time, it can cause all types of health issues.

Why Do High Cortisol Levels Make It Harder to Lose Weight?

The main issue for most is that it makes losing weight and reducing your body fat percentage very difficult because when you have chronically high Cortisol levels the body responds in a way as if it’s going into starvation mode, so it hoards calories and fat from the foods you eat because it’s unsure of when it will be fed again so it basically goes into survival mode.

According to this site

“Cortisol tends to take fat from healthier areas, like your butt and hips, and move it to your abdomen which has more cortisol receptors…it turns once–healthy peripheral fat into unhealthy visceral fat (the fat in your abdomen that surrounds your organs) that increases inflammation and insulin resistance in the body.

This belly fat then leads to more cortisol because it has higher concentrations of an enzyme that converts inactive cortisone to active cortisol. The more belly fat you have, the more active cortisol will be converted by these enzymes — yet another vicious cycle created by visceral fat”

How Do You Lower Your Cortisol

1) Diet- By cutting out the crap carbs in your diet and eliminating refined sugar, you can effectively reduce your cortisol levels. Foods like Eggs, and Food high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids like Salmon and Chia Seeds can also help keep your stress hormone under control
2) Practicing Mindfulness Based Meditation- “A new study adds to a growing body of evidence that mindfulness meditation could be the elixir to the ailments of modern life. The latest study finds that focusing on the present — or being mindful — can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol” via

Lower Cortisol Levels Lose Weight

3) Get Enough Sleep- I am so guilty of this and I have got my Cortisol levels checked through saliva tests several times now and the results only ever shifted for the better after I started practicing taking time out to have quality sleep.
According to this source “Lack of sleep is a signal to the body that stress is all around and the body’s self preservation mode begins to dump massive quantities of cortisol into the blood stream.
It’s much easier to prevent the cortisol from being released that trying to do damage control after the lion is out. If you’re serious about your body, get 9-10 hours a night”
4) Exercise on a Regular Basis- A lot of people find that after a stressful period of time they gain belly fat, which is because there are four times the amount of cortisol receptors around your abdomen area.
According to this source “Regular exercise 3 to 5 times a week is extremely important in regulating the body’s cortisol levels.
When you exercise, your body will produce more natural dopamine and endorphins that will combat depression, lethargy, and anxiety. You will also shed the pounds and bloat brought on by elevated cortisol”
5) Go Hug an Animal- I don’t know about you guys but after a long and stressful day the only thing I want to do is go home and hug my dog, and apparently there is a scientific reason behind why hugging an animal makes you feel better.
It turns out that according to MindBodyGreen “Snuggling with our pets fills us with oxytocin, endorphins, and other healing hormones that support the body’s self-healing mechanisms”

Yoga- My Favorite Way to Lower Cortisol and Lose Weight

Practicing yoga has helped me lower my Cortisol levels more effectively then any other method. Maybe it’s just me and my extreme personality but I tend to experience stress in a whole body earth shaking kind of kind and forcing myself to calm down and breath makes all the difference.

When I was getting my yoga teacher training certification several years ago now I was practicing heated yoga twice a day, sometimes throwing in a sculpt class in there as well.

Looking back now after not having practiced yoga for several months now I definitely miss it an plan on going back to it very soon!

According to this study “When researchers measured the cortisol levels of people before and after a yoga class they found that cortisol levels has been lowered in a major way!

This study suggests that practicing yoga—even for the very first time—can normalize cortisol levels that are either too high or too low… yoga brings the body to balance. Exactly how it does this is still not clear.

But Jennifer Johnston, yoga director and research clinician at the Mind Body Medical Institute in Boston has a theory. The deep breathing we do in yoga elicits something called ‘the relaxation response,’ which invokes the restorative functions of the body. Yogic practices also help to reduce muscle tension and deactivate the stress response.”

So if you are serious about getting your stress hormone, or Cortisol levels under control then consider taking up yoga or at the very least do some at home stress relieving yoga poses!

At the end of the day though, let that shit go!

You really want to lower your cortisol levels?

Let go of all of the crazy shit circling around your mind that tells you that you are in danger, that you need to be in fight or flight mode all the time, waiting for other dangers to take place. Believing that the world is big and scary and you are not enough, or you are not capable of handling every single thing that life throws at you!

You are strong, capable, and more than enough. You are the HBIC (Head Bitch in Charge) of your own life.

You can only control what you are capable of controlling, you can’t control the outside the world, or when bad or scary things happen but you can control how your respond, and that will make all of the difference when it comes to lowering your Cortisol levels and effectively reducing your stress levels.

If you can find a way to get your stress levels under control, your Cortisol will be controlled as well.

By implementing these Cortisol lowering techniques I have shared with you, not only will you lower your stress, but you will also lose the fat that has accumulated as a result of constantly elevated Cortisol levels!

Take a Deep Breathe and Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Love as always

XOXO

Harriet

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