Friday, October 29, 2010

The Link Between Stress and Weight Gain: MAKE IT STOP!

Everyone knows on some level that too much stress is bad for your health.  But did you know there are many ways to measure how much stress is affecting your health and if your body is able to handle your stress load?  A healthy person can manage a considerable level of challenge or stress in their lives, but sometimes the balance shifts and the body starts to lose ground.  Too much stress can cause the body to begin to break down, subtly at first, more dramatically as time goes on.

Adrenaline is your short term stress hormone.  Take a shot of it and your pupils dilate to let in more light, your heart rate increases, blood pressure spikes, and blood moves toward your arms and legs anticipating either a fight for your life or fleeing the scene.  But the stress hormone that does the most damage is the long term stress hormone known as cortisol, and is a game changer when it comes to affecting how you digest food, mobilize and deposit fat, and produce hormones and it also decreases your immune system and bone formation.  Prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels will lead to a specific type of weight gain, where fat is deposited more around the trunk (belly, waist and low back), known as "truncal obesity".

Disruptions in cortisol levels will cause a person to be wide awake at night, but have a difficult time getting out of bed.  Hormonal changes often follow and they may begin to gain weight in a specific pattern as well.  Many people endeavor to lose weight by diligently watching what they eat and exercising, only to discover that it's virtually impossible to lose the fat in the truncal area, and more sit-ups are not the answer. (More on why you can't "spot reduce", or slim down individual parts of your body)

The missing link is often direct support of the body's normal stress response.  In other words, begin to balance the stress hormones through some tweaks in diet, exercise and specific supplementation, and it becomes easier to lose weight, get more restful and deeper sleep, and increase daily energy levels naturally.

-Dr. Shriver

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