Updated: Oct 10, 2019
Have you ever said this to yourself: "I want to lose weight but I lack willpower because I can't stop eating (insert food item here)"?
It's not your fault, it's your wacky hormones caused by chronic stress response activation.
I don't know many women these days who are not experiencing the effects of chronic stress and yet it's a wildly unconsidered factor in our health complaints. Cravings are one of the most common symptoms of stress, however, because they are so common they are a warning sign that often gets overlooked and goes unaddressed. When stress is chronic the body will send out signals for fuel and what does stress love? Fat, salt and sugar!
Stress not only makes you crave these foods but makes you eat larger amounts of them because cortisol interferes with your brains response to leptin, the hormone that tells you when you are full. These foods are a survival mechanism because they flood the body with feel-good chemicals that calm the nervous system and bring cortisol back into normal range. They are called comfort foods because they literally comfort your nervous system.
Let's take a closer look at how this cycle is keeping you from your goals:
1. Your blood sugar is up and down
The foods that you reach for when you feel agitated, anxious, exhausted, or overwhelmed may make you feel temporarily calm but they also leave you foggy, hangry and weak an hour later because of the rise and falls that happen to your blood sugar. When this roller coaster becomes the norm, it creates inflammation and causes you to pack on fat, especially around your waist.
2. Belly fat is inflammatory
The fat around your waist is known as visceral fat, which is sneaky because it produces its own inflammatory by-products that wreak havoc on the entire body further driving up inflammation and causing chronic stress. So even if you think you aren't stressed, that spare tire is creating stress for you and so the cycle of stress and cravings continues.
3. Chronic stress isn't good for metabolism
Chronic stress impacts your thyroid by increasing inflammation in the gut (hello food sensitivities) and telling your thyroid to conserve energy. The adrenals will send signals to the thyroid to slow everything down, including your ability to shed pounds. Stress not only inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3 but also makes our cells less sensitive to T3 which is the active form of thyroid hormone that determines how efficiently we burn calories and how easily we lose weight.
This cycle can be detrimental to your health beyond weight loss troubles, impacting your physical energy, motivation and immune function. This is why it's critical to put stress and inflammation before calorie counting and restriction.
So while you may believe that it's a lack of willpower keeping you from getting the results that you want, there's actually a cascade of events happening beneath the surface that makes it feel like you're fighting an uphill battle. Without uncovering the root cause of your stress, you are being counter productive.
I'm a strong believer that a lack of body awareness is what keeps people from their health goals. If you want to keep weight off, feel energized and experience vitality you gotta stop thinking that you can diet your way there. The best way any women can empower herself is to learn about how her body works.
So whether your stress is a result of lack of sleep, financial worries, marriage problems, dehydration, nutrient gaps, gut flora imbalances, or belly fat, if you want to end the vicious cycle keeping you from your weight loss goals, you need to start there. Mindset matters.