It is far too common of a complaint where someone has tried to lose weight unsuccessfully or put the lost weight back on (and more). It is possible that this factor may play a role.
Regular readers of the Rantings understand just how devastating stress is for pretty much every aspect of our physiology. Reaching and maintaining an ideal body weight is no different. Cortisol is the hormone released by the outer layer of the adrenal glands (cortex). One of the jobs of cortisol is to put glucose into the bloodstream so the brain has the fuel it needs. It can do this by breaking down muscle. So basically, more stress = more cortisol = less muscle = more fat.
Given this little cascade, just how hard do you think it’s going to be to lose weight when cortisol levels are elevated from stress? You guessed it! Much harder. This is confirmed by this particular study, which found that those with lower cortisol levels were more successful at long term weight loss.
So what can we do to lower cortisol levels and improve our odds of obtaining a healthy weight:
- Do not skip meals. Skipping meals causing your adrenals to release more cortisol, hence less muscle
- Exercise can help regulate cortisol levels
- Stress management techniques like transcendental meditation or the use of the Resperate
Overall, this just reinforces the concept that losing weight in not merely the temporary adoption of a change in your diet. It needs to be a comprehensive approach to all aspects of your lifestyle. Anything less is incomplete.