Are Your Everyday Stressors Making You Fat?

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The typical American is chronically stressed in ways that they may not realize. What does it take to trigger your adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, the stress hormone, into your system? 

Say you set the alarm for 6:00 am, (because you can’t wake up without it), that’s your first hit of stress.  Next you stumble to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee, that’s your second hit.  Then you get into your car and proceed to battle traffic to get to work, POW, more cortisol.  Once at work, your boss is on your case about a report he wanted yesterday that you are frantically finishing up.  All of the frustrations, arguments or rushing around at work add to your load of cortisol.  Lunch of McDonalds latest delight eaten at your desk adds nutritional stress to the picture.  Let’s not forget the Red Bull to keep you going at 3:00 pm, which triggers a flood of cortisol.  The drive home adds to your stress, as does whatever “situation” awaits you at home.  The final overdose of cortisol comes as you stay awake under artificial light, (not sunlight), until midnight.

All of that cortisol in your system keeps you from burning fat for energy and also sets you up for metabolic syndrome and diabetes because cortisol causes an increase in blood sugar and therefore insulin to carry the excess sugar out of the blood and into your cells for usable energy. 

Once your cells are full, which happens very quickly, the excess glucose gets stored as fat.  Meanwhile, the more your overworked pancreas pumps out insulin, the more your cells become insulin resistant. 

As your blood sugar lowers from the insulin, your body begins to crave more sugar to come back to a stable level.  Not only that, but cortisol also suppresses leptin, the hormone that signals your brain that you are full, so now you are eating sugary processed carbohydrates because every cell in your body is screaming for them, and you have no shut off valve. 

As the cycle of stress, low blood sugar, then binging on sugary carbohydrates continues you get fatter and fatter, typically around the middle. 

Here are some suggestions to break that cycle of stress=fat:

*  Get to bed as close to 10:00 pm as possible.  As in lights out, not with a computer on your lap.

*  If you need coffee in the morning, make sure it's organic, and stick to one cup.  Better yet switch to green tea for some energy in the morning.

*  Eating some protein in the morning will also help keep your blood sugar level and avoid cortisol spikes.

*  Take some nuts and veggies to work as an alternative to whatever highly processed sweet is in the break room.

*  Give ourself time in the morning so your drive won't be panicked.

*  Take short 5 minute breaks during the day to breathe and smile.

*  If your drive home is in heavy traffic, accept it and listen to a book on tape, classical music, or whatever puts you at ease.

*  Practice patience at the end of the day when dealing with family members.  They've had "a day" as well.  Compassion and gratitude when shared will be returned.

For one-on-one help managing stress and weight gain, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation at nina.lynn@me.com, or call me at 301-332-5732.