The boss is on vacation, your partner is down with a cold, your workload is doubled, the car is in for repairs, the kids are home from school, the fridge is empty, and the house is a FREAKING mess. You are exhausted, frustrated, at the end of your rope, and feeling fat and lousy.
You are stressed all the time and too tired to exercise. Heck, too tired to tie up your running shoes. Dinner is something you grab and gobble on your way out the door. Again.
Middle age weight gain may be inevitable due to crazy life circumstances, but now there is an extra layer of uncomfortable fat around your middle. What’s with that? Lack of exercise? Poor eating habits? Or is stress to blame? Is it the hormone called Cortisol that causes belly fat?
We know that there is a link between cortisol and abdominal body fat, but is this singular hormone the sole culprit? So many seemingly reliable sources say it’s so, but what are we to believe?
Who’s the Bad Guy?
If you depend on the information in advertising claims, you would be convinced that stress and cortisol are to blame for obesity, belly fat and the failing world economy. It always makes me wary when one factor is made tidily responsible for a multitude of problems. It’s important to realize that by simplifying scientific facts, advertisers sway millions of intelligent people into believing the unbelievable.
So, is cortisol the “bad guy'”? Does stress make you fat? I did some research in order to make an informed opinion. Take a look at some facts:
Just the Facts
Fact: Cortisol is an important hormone; balanced levels of this hormone are essential for numerous body functions. (Me: Cortisol is good.) Fact: Cortisol works to break down stored fat, but chronically elevated levels can lead to muscle loss. (Me: Muscle loss is bad.)
Fact: High cortisol levels can contribute to storage of body fat. (Me: eat too much + move too little = body fat storage.)
Fact: Stress alone does not increase body fat. Stress may stimulate appetite which can lead to overeating, which will lead to overweight issues. (Me: Stress eating, eating poorly, under-eating are facts of life for the middle ager.)
Fact: Balanced cortisol levels can improve strength and recovery, but reducing those levels below normal has not been proven to have a positive effect on strength and recovery. Less is not necessarily better. (Me: Taking cortisol suppressing drugs are not a weight loss answer.)
•Eat healthy balanced meals.
•Spend time in caring environments with caring people.
•Get out of relationships that cause you stress.
•Limit alcohol and other (non-prescribed) drugs.
Stress is Important!
Cortisol is a Good Guy. Positive growth is achieved by adapting to imposed demands. Go ahead, embrace stress, but learn to manage it.
Work hard to steer your life away from chronic and continuous stress, not only in everyday life but at the gym too:
•Stop low calorie dieting for long periods. Calorie deficiency stresses the body and is counterproductive.
•Train with an intensity that is relative to your ability to recover. Training a tired body is stressful and harmful.
•Keep most workouts short and intense. Cortisol response will kick in after 45 minutes of training.
•Get lots of sleep! Good quality sleep!
•Limit stimulants that may give false energy and mask important body signals to slow down.
•Limit alcohol. Yes, large amounts will raise cortisol levels!
Look, we have stress. That’s what life is all about, right? I like to give problems a reasonable amount of time (based on the seriousness of the situation) and a time limit. Some things demand I worry for one hour, other things one day, and if it’s a pretty complicated issue, I give it a week. Very rarely do I tolerate anything for more than a month without taking some drastic action to ease the situation. It’s just not worth it! Life is short! I’ve got stuff to do, and so do you. I’m tough love all the way, on myself and my clients. If you want to lose weight, you can if you do it the right way; with consistency, tenacity and a solid plan you can change your physique and win the battle on belly fat.
Face the truth about what is holding you back rather than accepting (even legitimate) excuses. Have you given it everything you’ve got? Have you worked diligently towards your goals with proper exercise, eating, sleeping and minimizing stressful situations? Do you believe it’s possible to get a flatter tummy? You’ve got to believe!