The Hormone Cortisol and Its' Link To Weight Loss

by barbarab

How does the level of cortisol make or break a weight loss program?

There has been a lot of information about the hormone sometimes called the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. This hormone, cortisol, is one thing that makes it difficult to lose weight. Perhaps for that very reason there has been so much emphasis placed on this hormone. Everywhere in America there has been more awareness of our weight and the way our weight can affect our overall health. It is wonderful that this has become an added awareness for increased body weight can cause detrimental changes to our lives.

A Bit of Background

But to discuss how the cortisol hormone actually works means that some background information needs to be given.

 

This hormone is produced in the adrenal gland, at the back of the kidneys, and the level is usually highest in early morning and lower when you sleep. That flow of cortisol is like the ebb and flow of the tide. When the level is low, the hypothalamus gland sends out “corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH)”, and that hormone sends a message to the pituitary gland to produce "adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)” and in turn that tells the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol all over again.

 

That is usually…if you are under stress for a long time and are not able to deal effectively with that stress then your cortisol hormone levels will not be able to ebb and flow and they remain elevated. Over time not only is weight management affected but bone loss, perhaps osteoporosis, lowered immune system which increases risk of infection and increased blood sugar are potential problems that can occur. In order to not only manage our weight but to prevent other health problems it is imperative that we learn to handle and rid our bodies of stress over the long term.

 

But How Do We Do That?

Some ways that may seem simplistic are very beneficial. Find ways to make yourself a priority. Learn yoga or meditation, try journaling and ways to discover what you can or cannot change about the stressors in your life and of course, improve your nutrition and add activity as a way to lower the cortisol levels naturally. Does this seem a daunting task? Let’s take each one apart and see if we can finds ways to make it happen.

Yoga and Journaling

There are free yoga workouts and information on yoga on the internet. You can start as an absolute beginner and still gain huge benefits from adding just 15 minutes a day for yoga exercises. Check out these sites and you might find that this is just what you need to lower your stress levels!

Writing down what is happening on a daily basis is one of the best ways to remove stress as well as a way to gain insights on how to deal with future stress.

However, journaling as an end all answer to stress may not be enough. Sometimes it helps to think it out a bit further. For example, after you write out all the things that caused you stress during your day go back to each piece and think about what and whether each thing was going to cause the world to end..is it really important in other words.

If so, fine, now what could you control about that stressor or what was out of your control? Taking each piece of your day and all the stresses that occurred can go a long way to enabling you to change the way you react to stress in the future.

How will that help for the future?

Because life tends to repeat itself and you may come up against that same stressor sooner than you wish! Having an arsenal filled with controllable actions will then make stress less likely to stress you!

Nutrition Piece

Now for improving nutrition and activity, this is where weight management can be dealt a blow from cortisol. Let's do nutrition first.

 In order to effectively lower our body weight there are the obvious aspects that must be in place. What types of foods are being eaten and when, the way we use those foods, so calorie loss, and how we rid our bodies of stress. If allowed to increase, not effectively dealt with or just ignored, then stress could cause our bodies to stop losing weight.

Start with some small ways to improve your nutrition. Drink your water. Eat small frequent meals. In this instance, a small meal could be a cup of grapes and a piece of cheese. Those little round wedges of cheese wrapped in red wax are delicious and just the right amount!

Work on eating foods that come without any nutrition labels. Ha! I know you expected to be told to read the food labels, watch out for salt and sugar and on and on. Nope, not this time. Eat foods that come just the way they are. A tomato! Add a sliced up cucumber and a splash of lemon juice and you have a tasty afternoon snack. Also, the lemon will cut your salt craving nicely!

 

Finally comes the activity part.

Don’t go making those faces and telling me you are busy, too tired, have to go to little league or still be at work! The thing about activity is we really are doing more than we realize. Just because we aren’t training for a half marathon or walking five miles a day does not mean we are just sitting still.

If we do any housework we are doing activity and if we move a sofa to vacuum we are doing strength training! I like that concept. Do you wash your car? That’s causing your heart rate to increase and that burns calories and that helps with weight management.

All those things that we “have” to do all become part of our physical activity regimen. And, since we all need a minimum of 150 minutes a week of some form of moderate activity let’s take credit for what we are already doing!

Next and perhaps more importantly, think of something that you like to do and build your physical activity piece around that! After all, if you are doing something you enjoy isn't it likely that you will continue to do it?
Do you enjoy riding your bike? Make that a priority a few times a week!
Do you love to play soccer or some other sport? How about finding a team or a group of people that also love to play a sport?

Should the term be work out? Why isn't it called play out I wonder?

Now we all have some information on cortisol, the role it plays on our stress levels as well as ways to reduce that cortisol level and start again with weight management.

Let’s try again!

Updated: 09/02/2012, barbarab
 
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Rose on 12/04/2015

I wonder if reducing stress also reduces cortisol?

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