How Stress Impacts Fat Loss & 7 Ways To Combat Stress

July 03, 2020 5 min read

How Stress Impacts Fat Loss & 7 Ways To Combat Stress

Can stress keep you from losing weight? In short - yes, it can. High levels of stress can wreak havoc on the body and cause hormonal imbalances. Whether or not you understand the ins-and-outs of cortisol, it's likely you've heard of it - cortisol is commonly known as 'the stress hormone' and is the partner in crime of our heart accelerator, adrenaline.

First, let's clarify the role of cortisol as it is necessary, and beneficial in the right amounts, for our overall health. Cortisol plays a vital role in reducing inflammation and regulating blood sugar. Cortisol levels change throughout the day as they should be highest in the morning to help us wake up and get out of bed, then they drop throughout the day and by about 10pm so that we can fall (when melatonin levels should be the highest).

Cortisol, in optimal amounts, also helps buffer the effect of insulin. This is important to continue to burn body fat for energy, while maintaining stable blood glucose levels. However, if cortisol is elevated for too long it can cause insulin resistance. Both an overproduction of cortisol, and deficiency of cortisol can impact blood sugar levels and thyroid function, triggering weight fluctuation and symptoms of low metabolism.

Here are a few major causes of stress:

  • Emotional stress (relationships, job, family, kids, etc.)
  • Irregular eating schedules/skipping meals
  • Overworking (mentally and physically)
  • Inadequate sleep (sleeping less than 7 hours/night)
  • Irregular sleep schedule / shift work schedules
  • Infections, surgery or injury
  • Over training (especially endurance training)

When we are stressed, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode as the physiological mechanisms send a signal that there is a perceived threat. This is also known as the acute stress response. If you have ever been in a stressful situation, you know the feeling of instantly going into defensive mode. This is your body's way of responding to the perceived threat and it releases adrenaline and cortisol.

When cortisol is elevated, it sends signals to your body to suppress other nonessential functions as it perceives you are in a crisis, even if it is just a disagreement with someone and not an actual life threatening situation. One of the ‘nonessential’ functions that downshifts is your digestive system, which is why you may experience heartburn, upset stomach/stomach pains, loose stools or constipation.

While the internal response to stress may be similar physiologically, how we handle and respond to stress will impact each person a bit differently. Additionally, our response may be different depending upon the type of stressor. Times of high stress may lead to irregular eating patterns, poor food choices, or over-consuming comfort foods. For others, feeling stressed may cause them to completely lose their appetite and under-eat. 

Either way, high stress times and elevated cortisol levels can impact our weight and how we metabolize food. Understanding that we are completely geared for survival, the acute stress response impacts your entire system and stress is the domino causing a negative ripple effect. 

One of those ripple effects being hormone imbalance, which can result in hunger cues increasing, which for many leads to more stress eating and could ultimately result in developing insulin resistance and higher blood glucose levels. Some other negative side effects include digestive woes like stomach pains, diarrhea or constipation, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. All of these things impact our metabolism, how we utilize or store food and can lead to a significant slow down in how your body utilizes body fat for energy.

So how can we combat this ripple effect from taking over our goals during times of high stress?

We must get to the heart of the stress and either change the situation or change your perception of the situation. Manage what is in your control, and work to let go of what is not. The best way to do this is to instill de-stressing activities and practice them consistently.

  1. Focus on improving your sleep. As we have talked about in previous blogs, sleep is imperative to recovery andchronic stress can weaken your immunity. Even during high stress times, you can focus on your night-time routine and setting up your sleep environment properly to improve sleep quality. Taking a natural sleep supplement may help get into a good routine (but not have to rely on it).Our custom formulation was specifically designed to help your body calm down relax by bringing down cortisol levels (stress hormone), while at the same time naturally boosting melatonin levels (your sleepy hormone.). This combination makes for an amazing night of sleep and an energized non-drowsy morning.
  2. Do a 60 second check in with yourself. Practice breath work or meditation. One of the best apps in the marketplace is Headspace. This app offers a variety of guided meditations for various types of stress.
  3. Exercise. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, but it is also a stressor on the body as it is taxing. We recommend performing 45-60 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week.
  4. Get outside and walk in nature - Regular, planned exercise is definitely important; however, when it comes to reducing stress, getting out in nature offers much more to your mind and body. Make it a point to schedule time outside to plug in and recharge without a goal being attached. 
  5. Sit down for your meals. We know this is hard to do as many people are constantly on the go, rushing to the next meeting or chasing kids around. However, sitting down and slowing down when you eat can help your digestive system. If you are not getting enough quality nutrients in your day, we also recommend taking greens daily which also offer a good dose of digestive enzymes which help with the breakdown and absorption of food.
  6. Find a new hobby and tap into your creative side. When we engage the child like aspects of ourselves, we really open the gateways to inspiration, fresh ideas and hopeful energy. This can be anything from creating a new recipe, coloring, painting, a home project or writing/journaling. Pick something you enjoy and set time for it. 
  7. Learn to say no :)How many times have you heard yourself saying yes to the wrong things—overwhelming requests, bad relationships or time-consuming obligations?Saying no is hard to do, especially if you are a people pleaser, but your health and well-being is more important than your second cousins, nephews birthday party - we promise! 

We knowit can be frustrating when you're trying to do all the right things to lose weight like drinking water, exercising and watching your food intake, yet nothing is changing. You may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle after reading how impactful stress is on your ability to burn fat, but just remember these protective mechanisms are in place to help you survive this perceived period of famine.


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