Control Your Cortisol!
The relationship between stress, obesity, and metabolic disease begins with the hormone cortisol, which is released by your adrenal glands.
Cortisol has gotten a bad rap because it’s the hormone that makes you store belly fat. However, in actuality, cortisol is one of the most important hormones in your body. In fact, if you have too little cortisol you will die - without it, you wouldn't be able to handle any form of physical stress.
The acute rise of cortisol keeps you from going into shock when you’re dehydrated, improves memory and immune function, reduces inflammation, and increases vigilance. Normally cortisol will peak in a stressful situation such as when you are being chased by an animal or your boss is yelling at you. Cortisol is necessary, in small doses and in short bursts.
On the flip side, long-term exposure to large doses of cortisol will also kill you - it will just take longer. If pressures (social, familial, cultural, etc.) are relentless, the stress response remains activated for months or even years. When cortisol floods the bloodstream, it raises blood pressure, increases the blood glucose level (which can precipitate diabetes), and increases the heart rate.
Human research shows that cortisol specifically increases caloric intake of "comfort foods" (cakes, cookies, etc.). And cortisol doesn't cause just any old weight gain... it specifically increases the visceral fat, which is the fat deposit associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
Identifying how you will manage the stress in your life is critical to achieving your health and fitness goals. Otherwise, stress and cortisol could be the metabolic blocking factor that keeps you tired, sick, and overweight.
To Your Success,