Thursday, February 28, 2013

How Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?

Had you been under a great deal of stress lately?  Have U. been struggling with her finances?  Job?  Relationships?  School?
Many of my patients working on their weight management have found that there weight increases or plateaus due to stress.  Patient's frequently ask how this occurs.  A simple answer is this: our bodies are designed with a "fight or flight" response.  If you're in the woods and you stumble across a bear, you will immediately experience a rush of adrenaline which includes cortisol, hormone that stimulates increased glycogen in your bloodstream from the liver.  Glycogen is a form of sugar, and the glycogen response raises her insulin level.  The adrenalin and cortisol, among other hormones, are released so that blood can be shunted from your stomach and intestines to your muscles and brain to more effectively enable you to either fight the bear, or run from the bear.
Most of us will never "stumble across a bear," however, your boss may drop an extra pile of work on your desk, you may run short on your finances this month, you may have a serious disagreement with your significant other, or someone may cut you off in traffic causing a near accident.  Any or all of these stimulate the identical "fight or flight" response. Whether the bear or traffic, the same adrenalin and cortisol response occurs.
The elevated cortisol causes a cascade effect raising your insulin levels.  Insulin will remain effectively elevated in the blood stream for 4-12 hours.  Insulin is the primary hormone driving and stimulating weight gain.  If you've had 2 or 3 stressful events throughout the day, and you have not had the opportunity to burn off these stress response hormones, your body will store and/or continue to gain weight throughout the entire day.
How do you prevent this from happening?  A simple 15-20 minute walk is enough to decrease the stress hormone surge that occurs from a "fight or flight" response.  Any regular exercise program will decrease these stress hormones.  Adequate sleep also decreases these hormones.
So, if your job is stressful, incorporating an exercise program as simple as a daily walk for 15-20 minutes will  notably improve your waistline.

No comments: