You may have heard that losing weight can be more difficult if you’re highly stressed. The scientific explanation is that stress can set off a number of responses in our bodies. When our body is stressed it releases cortisol, which is needed in frightening or dangerous situations such as being chased by a bear or we losing a child in a mall. This is known as fight or flight mode. However, if stress is ongoing, the constant release of cortisol can have a negative effect on many aspects of our health and weight loss is one of them.
Often when we are stressed we turn to food to numb or cope. This can cause overeating at times when the body doesn’t actually require more food. It simply kicks in craving food in a misguided attempt by our bodies to keep us safe. Long-term stressful situations can also lead to elevated cortisol levels in the body, which cause high blood pressure, fatigue and other nasty symptoms alongside weight gain. Another effect is known as Gluconeogenesis, which converts the protein and carbs that we take into our body into glucose. If you are trying to land in ketosis or abide by a lower carb diet this can often side track your results.
In order to combat these symptoms it’s best to do what you can to reduce the stressful situation that is driving them. Meditation, yoga, talking to a friend or family member, practicing cognitive behavioural therapy and supporting yourself with compassion and empathy can all assist in stress reduction. However, there are also a number of adaptogens that can take care of some of the symptoms. Some of these important stress support herbs are Chinese Hawthorn, Ashwaghanda, Astragulus, and Schishandra. As always consult a doctor before adding any of these to your medication regime, particularly if you are already taking prescription drugs.