Quite possibly it is!
Biologically, stress hormones – specifically cortisol and adrenaline are essential to keep us safe in times of crisis. They indicate potential threats and are responsible for instigating anti-inflammatory pathways. But if constantly elevated, these hormones can be detrimental to health and contributes to weight gain, especially around the midsection.
These precursory hormones are designed to be used in short bursts only and can be harmful when sustained. Elevation of cortisol signals to other body systems to momentarily pause with of our energy funneled to our muscles, brain, and heart. This stress response prepares us to fight or flight. So what happens if the body is signaled for constant threat? Being in constant ‘fight or flight’ mode instigates digestion and immune suppression, sleep disturbance, elevated blood sugar, and fat storage. But it’s not just sustained elevated cortisol levels that’s causing you to gain weight. Sleep patterns, diet, and exercise patterns compound sustained cortisol fat distribution. Altering these lifestyle behaviours is the only way to achieve results if you’re experiencing midsection weight gain.
Here’s a list of exercise, diet and lifestyle changes to help you lose that stubborn stress fat at any age
Drink energy drinks, or other stimulants including too much coffee
Exercise to extremes! This will only heighten cortisol and lead to an ineffective cortisol response
Eliminate carbohydrates or meal skip
Use sleep sedatives on a repetitious basis
Acquiesce to salt and sugar cravings
Buy ‘diet’ labeled pre-packaged foods
Eat pre or post work out energy or protein bars
Drink green tea and water – EGCG from green tea has been shown to stimulate weight loss and has less caffeine than coffee
Enjoy mild to moderate 30 min daily exercise – mix up your exercise routine for optimal results: play sports, dance, hike, yoga
Engage in healthy sleep habits (see our short Youtube video for 5 healthy sleep habits HERE)
Eat regularly and optimize healthy food choices by buying whole foods
Enjoy a varietal diet that is all fresh: multi-grain carbohydrates, seasonal fruit, vegetables, and lean unprocessed proteins
Seek mindfulness daily exercises such as 10 minutes of morning breathing, meditation, or light stretches
Take herbal medicines and dietary supplements to nourish and support healthy adrenal function and reduce the effects of stress (click HERE for the highest quality selection)
Eat normally while exercising and focus on post work out meals of healthy proteins, salads, vegetables, and carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes and whole grains to maximize protein synthesis and fat burning. Recognizing that stress is impacting weight and quality of life is the first step. Implementing lifestyle factors that hinder the effects of cortisol improves both its effectiveness and decreases weight gain associated with stress.