• Nisha Jackson, PhD

Stress Stores Stubborn Fat

Stress Stores Stubborn Fat

While high levels of stress may be unavoidable at times, the intense and chronic state of stress could be making you store fat at an accelerated rate, especially around your midsection. Even if you try to eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing this weight. Here’s a breakdown of what happens: First, remember that your body responds to all stress in exactly the same way. So, every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you hungry . . . very hungry. And your body will keep on pumping out cortisol as long as the stress continues. Finally, the cortisol interacts with insulin (a fat-storage hormone), putting your body into the dreaded fat storage zone, increasing your cravings and appetite all at the same time. Talk about hitting a girl when she’s down.

Few of us reach for carrots in these situations. Instead, we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods, because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension. This soothing effect becomes addicting, so every time you’re anxious, you want fattening, sugary foods, because they do the trick.

With your adrenal glands pumping out cortisol, production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone slows down. Over time, this drop causes a decrease in your muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories, even at rest. This occurs naturally as you age, but high cortisol levels accelerate the process. Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat—especially belly fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes.

-Dr. Nisha Jackson


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© 2018 by Nisha Jackson

*this degree is from an unaccredited college and is not approved for use in Oregon