“You can’t stress your way to good health or long term weight loss.”
We’ve been told that cortisol contributes to stubborn belly fat, but what is it, and how is it creeping into our lives?
“Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help:
- your body respond to stress or danger
- increase your body’s metabolism of glucose
- control your blood pressure
- reduce inflammation.
Cortisol is also needed for the fight or flight response, which is a healthy, natural response to perceived threats. The amount of cortisol produced is highly regulated by your body to ensure the balance is correct.”
So some cortisol is good, it has regulatory functions in our body like waking up; this apparently is a person’s normal flow of cortisol in a typical day:
For the average person (i.e., somebody who rises at or around 6:30 a.m.), cortisol levels peak at:
- 8 to 9 a.m.,
- noon to 1 p.m., and
- 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
So it’s not that you are trying to eliminate cortisol altogether, but rather not raise it unnecessarily or keep it elevated for too long because in addition to weight gain, it can also cause:-
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- disrupts other hormones
- impairs sleep
- impairs brain function causing brain fog
- hampers the immune system
- irritability and depression
So if you have stubborn belly fat or any of the above symptoms, are you doing any of these things and keeping your cortisol unnecessarily high…
- Waking up early without adequate sleep – persistent inadequate sleep leads to sustained cortisol levels.
- Exercising first thing or early in the morning.
- Exercising early in the morning on an empty stomach – double cortisol body shock
- Exercising at any time of day on an empty stomach
- Exercising early in the morning and drinking nothing but coffee – triple body cortisol
- Dieting – going hungry for too long
- Difficult and/or prolonged cardio – like running, HIIT, Cross fit
- Coffee first thing in the morning
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Low carb diets
- Artificial sugar or sugar replacement like stevia – read my post specifically about this here.
- Racing around, stress at work, stress at home, trying to do too many things and then on top of that pushing yourself to do stressful exercise like cardio, cross fit & HIIT.
Too many stories I’m reading where people are complaining of belly fat but then proudly say…
- they workout first thing in the morning without food and have been doing it for years.
- Or doing cross fit and love it but still can’t shift that belly fat.
- Or had a stressful day at work, raced home to feed the kids and then went to a HIIT class?
All the while thinking they are doing the right thing to be healthy and pushing themselves to do hard exercise even when they don’t feel like it – because we’ve been told this is what we should do. Then they say something like “I didn’t feel like going but I’m so glad I did, I feel great now.” You only feel great because of stress hormones; whereas in actual fact your body is suffering and breaking down.
So your body can run on stress hormones for a certain amount of time, it may even be years but you are progressively damaging your body and heading for an eventual breakdown of health.
Stress itself hampers weight loss and raising cortisol is one of the ways it does it. So are you guilty of any of the above and hampering your own health and weight loss efforts?
- https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-lower-cortisol#section1 – I don’t agree with excess water consumption and fish oil recommendations in this link, but the rest is good.
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/ – low calorie dieting causes cortisol increase
- https://www.precisionnutrition.com/low-carb-diets – again I don’t agree with the corn syrup and whole grain statement but the rest is good