How Does Stress Make Me Fat?

We talked a lot about how stress hormones change your internal biochemistry in our article Is Stress Making You Fat?  If you haven’t read that yet, I suggest popping over there to read that article real quick before you read this one!

High stress hormones affect your Blood Sugar levels which then make your body into a fat-storing machine! Remember that when Cortisol is being produced in higher-than-normal levels, your body sees this as a sign that something is happening and it might need to prepare you to be ready to deal with whatever that might be. So when this increase in Cortisol occurs, your body naturally slows down your blood sugar responses and BAM – your eventually body tries to regain balance by getting rid of the extra sugars and you store them away for a rainy day.

6 tips on Stopping Stress from making you Fat

  • Get your 7 – 8 hours – Sleeping six hours or less per night has been found to significantly increase Cortisol levels so much that they can stay elevated for several days afterwards! 8 hours of nightly shut-eye allows your body enough time to recover from the day’s stresses. Getting less than 8? Take a nap the next day (20 minutes max) and this can help re-balance your sleep (never catch up though so stick to the 8 hours).If you’re getting about 6 or 7 hours, try setting yourself a bedtime limit (yes even if you’re an adult) of 10pm. You must be in bed at 10pm and try to be asleep by 10.30pm. The sleep time before 1am tends to be the most restorative so try and get to bed earlier instead of sleeping in later. You will feel the difference.
  • Exercise – GENTLY – yes we need exercise to keep weight under control and stay healthy, however I can’t tell you how many patients I have had to take OFF exercise as the type and the way they were doing it was causing MORE stress (i.e – more Cortisol) to their bodies. You must mix both relaxation type exercise and fast paced exercise together to get the best effects. Eg: Easy walking, stretching, deep breathing session or Yoga for stress release one day, and a fast run, fitness class, boxing or bootcamp another. Both Yin and Yang to bring balance in the body.TIP: STOP telling yourself that you “should be” or “need to be” exercising for weight loss. This in itself creates a negative, guilty and stressful thought pattern which gets you nowhere. Instead, start thinking about exercise as an activity that you do to clear your head, feel good and for your stress health management – NOT for weight loss. Change the focus, change the outcome. See what happens.
  • Herbal Medicine – Apart from the mental and physical supports you can try to help reduce your chronic stress, there are some incredible Herbal Medicines that have been used for centuries to help your body manage and cope with stress. There is more and more research being done on these Herbal Medicines and science is starting to reveal what most Herbalists have already seen in clinic on a daily basis! Obviously there is no Pill you can take from your Doctor or anyone that can remove stress from your life (if I had one of those I would probably have been on Oprah by now). But there is MUCH you can do to help assist your body and support those hormonal processes. Especially if Stress is going to be an ongoing feature in your life, wouldn’t you want to be able to cope better through it?I take Herbal Medicines for stress and hormone support frequently because I believe that cleaning up as you go not only works when you’re cooking in the kitchen, but also when it comes to your stress levels as well. I don’t want to wait and see how crummy I’ll feel at the end of the stressful day/week/month and then act upon it – I want to be able to pump through that time feeling like I am burning on all my cylinders, sleeping well and functioning at my optimum. And at the end of it all – still feel fantastic and ready to take on the next challenge.
  • Check for Nutrient Deficiencies – Have you had your blood tested to check if you are low in any vitamins? And I am not talking about the general check up your GP might give you. Assessing your Vitamin B12, Folate, Iron and Zinc levels can really help to see if you body is under nutritional stress. And just because your levels might be “within range” set by the lab, doesn’t mean that they are at optimal levels for your optimal functioning. Scraping by on the bottom end of the scale is not doing you or your adrenals any favours.
  • Breathing & Meditation – Sounds very new age when in fact, it isn’t! Meditation and deep breathing have been around for centuries & have been proven to reduce Cortisol and stress levels when done on a regular basis. Many of you might be aware of how Meditation changed my life and controlled my anxiety (if not – that’s a story for another time). If you are like me, you might struggle to lay flat for 20 minutes listening to relaxing music – you won’t last long before you are looking under the lounge wondering when was the last time you vacuumed under there. If so, try a “Guided Meditation” first to help keep that overactive brain steady and on task (and from under the lounge). There are many you can download, purchase online and free apps (such as Headspace), however there are millions for free on YouTube which can start you off. Pop in your headphones, close your eyes, breathe deep and before you sleep or when you wake up take 10 minutes for yourself. Your Adrenals and waistline will thank you.Try this 15 minute one from the lovely Deepak Chopra: HereOr this 12 minute one from The Honest Guys: Here
  • Sort out your Food Intolerances or Allergies – These little devils can cause all sorts of inflammatory havoc in your body and can create more stress. Not only that, but they themselves can be a big road block for weight loss – quite often after we assess someones food intolerances they drop weight without trying due to loss of inflammation and fluid. The body starts to respond to your exercise and diet appropriately. One of the ways we can assess your dietary needs is by testing your blood for these intolerances and allergies .For more information click here.

Think you need more support?

Often these issues are very complex and as I treat everyone as an individual (we all have our own genetics, lifestyles and stressors), an in-depth consultation usually helps me get the information I require in order to help you on a deeper level. If you have been following our Adrenal Series and feel like this is you all over and you are ready to get someone else on your team to help you, get in touch with us or make an appointment online today.

Monique Kelly Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist