Is Stress Making You Fat?
The simple stress of everyday living could be the reason you're carrying more weight than you should be. Coupled with a vigorous diet and exercise program, stress could be sabotaging your efforts to lose weight.
Menopause itself is a form of stress on the body. Living in a stressful environment can also cause you to experience the symptoms of menopause more severely. Your body reacts to this stress by producing cortisol. However, consistently high levels of cortisol can be damaging to your body. This is why prolonged stress is not good for your health.
The hormone estrogen helps maintain the level of cortisol in the body. As you enter the perimenopause phase the levels of estrogen begin to drop. This means you are unable to regulate cortisol levels in your body as effectively as before, causing you to experience stress more readily.
Stress hormones and the chain of events that follow set off warning signals to the brain resulting in the brain sabotaging your efforts to lose weight.
Your brain does not understand the difference between a real threat or a perceived threat. Stress activates the adrenal glands resulting in adrenaline being released preparing the body into action, boosting heart rate and blood flow.
Every day stress factors such as juggling work and house duties, money issues, teenage angst, can leave your body in a low-level but constant stress mode resulting in the body continuously releasing cortisol which further contributes to weight gain.
Another reason for weight gain when you are under stress is due to the high levels of cortisol streaming through the blood causing you to be less sensitive to leptin, which is the hormone that give the signal to the brain that you are full. Without this signal properly working, there may be a tendency for you to eat more than needed, as your body feels that it may need to eat more for survival.
Coupled with stress, the cortisol and adrenaline released can interfere with how your thyroid functions. This can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and depression. It can also interfere with how your liver functions and lead to allergies, joint pain, and headaches. It can disturb your digestive system and lead to bloating, indigestion, and other irritable bowel problems. It will interfere with the balance of your estrogen, progesterone, and can exacerbate hot flashes, and reduced libido.
Our body's fat cells have special receptors cortisol, and there are more of these receptors in your abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in the body. This belly fat is actually an active tissue, that acts as an endocrine organ that responds to the stress by welcoming more fat to be deposited right where you do not want it. Yes that right, right there in your belly fat!
Lack of sleep that is often associated with stress and night sweats disrupts the hormones ghrelin and leptin which are responsible for turning your appetite on and off respectively and tell the brain whether to use your body fat for energy or storage. What happens is that the brain is getting mixed signals and tells the rest of the body to go easy on the fat stores and keep them in storage. This then leads you to being tired, hungry, not know when you are full, and store fat when it should be burned. You will also be more likely to be less inclined to exercise and choose to eat unhealthy foods.
Digestion is also affected when your body is under constant stress further leading to weight gain. When the body is trying to fight a threat (as it thinks you are experiencing) it shuts down anything that is not vital for survival and this usually means the digestive metabolism slows considerably thus food is not digested properly.
If you are not digesting your food properly, the body can retain fat and excess water, leading to puffiness and sluggishness. Poor digestion also prevents the body absorbing the nutrients which could cause excess fat and leaving you hungry.
Finding calm in your menopause storm is your utmost priority. Once you decrease your stress levels, the weight loss will follow.
Julie Dargan is a Nurse, Naturopath BHSc and has worked in the wellness industry for over 30 years. Julie's FREE 5 Day Kickstart Program is excellent to get you on the right track to help you lose weight and find hormonal harmony in the menopause. Sign up now and enjoy the free program in 2016. Julie recently released an exciting eBook that explores why diets do not work and how to get you in the correct mind frame to lose weight. Julie also has a Facebook page for women over 50 and looking for solutions to halt weight gain in the menopause.