STRESS: is it making you HUNGRY, OVERWEIGHT and TIRED?
In short: probably! When we get stressed, we produce a stress hormone called cortisol, and this can be responsible for making us hungry, tired and overweight.
WHAT DOES CORTISOL DO?
Cortisol is made by the body for the “flight or fight response”. Back in the day, when the caveman came across a bear, he felt stressed. Very! His body went into fight or flight mode, producing cortisol.
- Cortisol releases glucose (sugar) into the blood stream
- The sugar is designed to fuel our muscles and produce energy to fight the bear off, or run away (take flight)
- Cortisol makes us hungry so that we replenish after the physical exertion of dealing with the bear. It makes us want sugary and fatty foods.
WHY WASN’T THE CAVEMAN HUNGRY AND OVERWEIGHT?
The caveman used the extra sugar produced by the body to either fight the bear off or run away (my bets are he ran away!). He was hungry, but the hunger made him eat to replenish after his physical exertion. Maccas was not an option. He likely ate healthy foods.
Nowadays, it is rare that we encounter stress that involves physical exertion. However, our body responds in the same way to the constant stress of modern stressors. We are often in a permanent state of emergency, and producing cortisol. Yet we are more likely to remain sedentary while we consider our finances, are stuck in traffic, or feel overwhelmed by our never-ending to-do-list.
We produce sugar that we do not use, and this sugar gets stored as fat.
We get hungry, so we eat. We reach for fats and sugars. But we are not replenishing after burning off calories, we are just stock-piling them.
WHY ARE WE TIRED IF WE ARE NOT EXERTING OURSELVES?
An unhealthy and continued stress response can cause tiredness in many ways. Here are just a few:
Constant stress can affect our metabolism, not only making us gain weight, but also making us tired.
High cortisol will affect sleep. You may be unable to sleep or your sleep is never refreshing. This will make you tired.
When stress becomes chronic, the body may slow down the cortisol output to protect you. Instead of producing energy to fight or flight, you will feel you have no gas in the tank. Left unchecked, this can result in the sort of low energy commonly seen in chronic fatigue.
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
If you are struggling with either stress and/or a creeping waistline, seek help to find strategies and techniques to manage the stress, and reduce your waistline again. You may also need help to re-balance your cortisol and other nutrients. In the meantime:
- Steer clear of sugary and fatty foods when you are stressed….the weight gain will make you more stressed. Keep some nuts and fruit handy for when you get the munchies.
- Avoid caffeine drinks when stressed, as caffeine increases cortisol too (sigh!)
- Include stress management techniques e.g. exercise you enjoy, meditation.
If you have any questions, or would like to have a chat, please contact me or make an appointment:
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