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Is stress making you fat? You need to check your Cortisol

Is stress making you fat? You need to check your Cortisol | Mr Vitamins
It’s not a secret that the rates of obesity are on the rise in Australia. And stress is a big factor. Diet and lifestyle, genetics and environment can all play a role in your overall health and whether you become stressed and gain weight. Even if you don't think this is currently an issue for you, here are some statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which  you should be aware of
  • 3 in 5 of Australian are overweight or obese
  • The prevalence of obesity is increasing - 10% since 1995
  • 1 in 4 children are obese or overweight
  • Life expectancy of an obese adult is less than an adult with healthy weight

What is the link between stress and obesity?

A stress response is a normal and important response to events that are threatening. It is actually in your body’s best interests to have a stress response. After a stress response your body should return to a relaxed state. But, when under continual stress your body stops returning to that relaxed state, and then stress becomes a problem. Long term stress can lead to serious health problems.

Cortisol, Cravings and Carbohydrates

Many people crave fattening comfort foods when they are stressed. In a response to stress, cortisol is released. Cortisol plays a vital role in both energy usage and fat storage in your body. It can also increase appetite, especially for sugary or fatty foods. This combination of higher levels of cortisol and the intake of sugary or fatty foods, results in higher insulin levels and fat being stored around the abdomen. Those same cravings for sugary or fatty foods are create the urge to eat more carbohydrates in an attempt to raise your body's feel good hormone, Serotonin. Unfortunately, the problem here is the type of carbohydrates that are being consumed. Also stress also lowers your basal metabolic rate, which means you burn less calories.

What can you do to feel less hungry when you are stressed?

Like it or not, stress is real. Work, life and family commitments can be very demanding. Stress management helps you cope with stress and reduce the negative effect it has on overall health. Some simple techniques to help your feel less hungry when stressed are:
  • Don’t wait to become too hungry to eat. This causes blood sugar levels to drop and the response will be to eat anything, especially sugary and fatty foods
  • Be aware of how much food and what food is being eaten. Healthier food choices will help your body deal with stress.
  • Incorporate stress management strategies to deal with stress. These include regular exercise, relaxation techniques, social interaction, adaquate sleep and an overall healthy diet and lifestyle

Article by Janne Ramsay - Naturopath