Is your scale not budging? Nothing is more disheartening than eating right and exercising only to find that you’re not losing weight. While losing weight may seem like a straightforward process, many factors can interfere with a person’s ability to shed excess pounds.
Many of us experience stress on a daily basis. The brain and body know how to adapt to chronic stress to ensure that we remain productive and motivated. However, stress, coupled with illnesses, busy schedules, intense exercise, and other components, can cause cortisol levels to rise.
With chronic stress resulting in the continued release of cortisol, the body attempts to hold onto fat. Many people who experience chronic stress also engage in bad habits, such as binge eating. As a result, it can be difficult to lose weight, even when you eat a clean diet and exercise regularly.
The Link Between Cortisol and Weight Gain
Weight loss or gain is common during times of high stress. Elevated stress levels can create imbalances in hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA. In addition, increased stress can force the adrenal glands to create inadequate or excessive amounts of these hormones. While hormone levels usually start to stabilize once stress subsides, many people continue to experience irregular hormone levels.
There is a direct link between cortisol and fluctuations in weight. Both deficiencies and excess amounts of cortisol can affect thyroid function and blood sugar levels, resulting in weight fluctuations and symptoms that indicate low metabolism. Many common stressors can cause a cortisol imbalance, such as poor sleep, severe infections, shift work schedules, traumatic injuries, skipped meals, or excessive exercise.
Unhealthy Eating Habits Caused by Stress
Chronic stress can induce unhealthy eating habits that have a direct impact on your weight. Emotional eating is a common side effect of stress caused by increased levels of cortisol that cause you to crave unhealthy foods and eat more than you normally would. Stress can also make you more likely to choose “accessible” or fast food over healthy, home-cooked options.
Exercising less and skipping meals are also common stress-induced habits. A demanding work and social life can cause fitness to fall on your priority list. People with busy schedules may also not take time to eat healthy foods, resulting in skipped or delayed meals. Stress can also contribute to poor sleep or unrestful sleep. Feeling fatigued can even affect your willpower to say no to unhealthy foods.
Reducing Cortisol Levels in the Body
Reducing cortisol levels in the body requires you to pay close attention to your daily habits and to escape from the harmful cycle of stress. Identify the source of your stress and find healthy outlets, such as yoga, meditation, walking, or gardening. Make exercise a priority and practice mindful eating. Keeping a food journal is a great place to start.
At Vitalia Health Care, our naturopathic doctors will get an accurate assessment of the effects of cortisol on your body by discussing diet, lifestyle, and physical symptoms. We can also test cortisol levels with a laboratory analysis known as the Adrenal Stress Index which measures salivary cortisol and insulin levels at different times of the day.
Weight Loss Treatments at Vitalia Health Care
Testing adrenal and cortisol function, along with proper nutrition, herbs and supplements may help regulate cortisol levels and manage weight loss. Contact Vitalia Health Care in Vancouver today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND