Saturday , January 23 2021

Stress and Weight Gain

Weight gain is not just about food choices, activity level and portion control. Stress plays a significant role in the obesity epidemic. Traumatic events such as a death, divorce or even COVID can have a dramatic impact on weight. But more frequently chronic stress, can impact health and affect the body’s ability to lose weight.

Let’s say a car stops abruptly in front of you and you almost get into an accident or you tune into the 10 o’clock news and hear one negative story after another. As stress rises, your body starts to respond to a threat or demand (think “fight or flight”) by calling on the adrenal glands (located on top of your kidneys) to release a flood of stress hormones, in particular adrenaline and cortisol to protect you from the “threat.” These hormones affect your blood pressure, pulse, digestion, thinking, immune system and breathing. They also control the release of excess sugar (glucose) into your blood stream via the liver and muscle. This dump of glucose can lead to weight gain.

The “threat” will be over in a matter of seconds or minutes and your body chemistry and physical sensations will return to normal. However, if you are in a constant state of anxiety, ruminating on a problem or situation such as job issues, caring for a sick loved one, financial problems, even exercise (which can be counterproductive if you stress about doing it) then the adrenal glands will respond with a continuous drip of cortisol. “Chronic elevated cortisol levels can lead to serious issues,” states Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic and “contribute to obesity.”

This constant drip along with an unhealthy diet can cause the body to incorrectly process food and store fat. I call this situation AdrenobesityTM. Adrenaline and Cortisol stimulates the liver and muscles to release glycogen (glucose) for instant energy. Because there is no “fight or flight” issue, the pancreas responds to the increase by pumping out extra insulin. Insulin acts as a key, unlocking the cell for glucose entry. If your cells are full, insulin is rendered ineffective and the excess glucose is sent to fat cells for storage. Not good! The excess of glucose and insulin create an inflammatory state, which makes losing weight difficult, even if you are watching every calorie.

What can you do to improve the situation?
1. Get enough sleep (8 hours at least)
2. Eat to protect your pancreas (the goal: keep your glucose between 70 and 100)
3. Deep breathing Inhale through your nose (to the count of 1,2,3,4; hold your breath for 4 counts and then exhale through your mouth 4,3,2,1)
4. Increase activity. I don’t believe in strenuous exercise. Yard work, weights, yoga, tennis, walking, hiking, swimming, even taking clothes out of the dryer (squat – take one piece out, squat – second piece). Before you know it, you’ve done 20 squats.

2020 has been an incredibly challenging year. The one thing we have learned is the best chance you have against any virus is to make sure that your body is in tip top shape. Reducing stress, along with a pancreatic friendly lifestyle and physical activity will help you take on 2021 in the healthiest way possible even if another 2020 happens…

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