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Monday, June 25, 2012

Stress and Weight Loss - The Connection

There is no gainsaying the fact that a lot of people, especially in western countries, are literally living with a high degree of stress from day to day, with many never realizing it as well as the enormous toll it is taking on both their physical and mental health.

Today, people are stressed from financial problems, looming deadlines, pressure at the office, and from emotional and personal issues relating to family and relationships.

Naturally, the human body has several evolved mechanisms of "wired responses" or "programmed physiological responses" for handling stressful situations. However, most of the programming of the body is designed to handle stress-related stimulus that are short-lived and not prolonged or long-term in nature.

Unfortunately, most of the stresses being faced by a lot of people today are more primarily psychological in nature than physical making it far more difficult to easily put away by any immediate singular response or action.

How Stress Causes Weight Gain

Be it physical or psychological, stress generally exacts a negative impact on the body. During periods of stress or chronic low-grade stage of emergency, usually referred to as the "fight or flight" mode, the body undergoes certain physiological changes especially in endocrine secretions that involves the increase of circulating epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), norepinephrine, and the stress hormone known as cortisol.

These endocrine secretions help to increase heart rate and blood pressure as well as the release of fat and glucose as energy fuels to help the body respond with the appropriate physical reaction to salvage the situation. On resolution of the assumed or actual threat, cortisol becomes active and stimulates the appetite in order for the body to start replenishing its depleted glucose stores.

Cortisol ensures that the body has fuel sources in forms that it can readily convert into sugar to meet the body's energy demands during any possible "fight or flight" situation. The body's preferred energy fuel is usually carbohydrates since they are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream due to their high glycemic index.

However, when exposed to long-term or sustained stress levels, this will be reflected in the increased accumulation of cortisol and a myriad of reactions that can occur in the body which can have a serious effect on an individual's overall health and weight.

Generally, elevated cortisol levels promote weight gain through three major ways as discussed below.

1. Increased Food Cravings

Although during periods of temporary stress we tend not to be hungry, chronic stress can however make us to become hungry. Research has found that the stress hormone, cortisol, increases food craving through the activation of an hunger-inducing brain chemical known as neuropeptide Y which is produced in the hypothalamus while on the other hand it decreases the levels of adiponectin, a hormone known to suppress the appetite.

Cortisol usually ensures that the body has sufficient amount of fast combusting energy during emergencies and therefore when under chronic stress, hunger is activated. Unfortunately, as a result of the body's need for fast combusting energy, most people tend to crave junk foods like chocolates, muffins, cookies, cakes, sugars and other sweet and salty foods. This can however easily lead to a vicious cycle of stress, frequent overeating, and weight gain.

2. Blood Sugar Fluctuations

Chronic or prolonged stress generally leads to increased secretion in the amounts of cortisol as well as insulin. The increased insulin secretion leads to what is known as insulin resistance, whereby insulin receptors become "de-sensitized" to the effect of insulin, and the resulting increase in blood sugar level.

Insulin resistance tend to increase the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and consequently causes fluctuations in blood sugar levels, resulting to a constant feeling of fatigue, moodiness, and lack of general alertness. Apart from insulin resistance being a precursor to Type II Diabetes, the sugar fluctuations also pose a lot of risk to the body as it can lead to body tissue damage and rapid or premature aging signs such as skin deterioration.

3. Stubborn Belly Fat Storage

Several research studies have demonstrated that increased cortisol levels tend to cause weight gain particularly around the abdominal vs. hip areas of the body. This is generally considered to be "toxic fat" because it is strongly associated with the development of heart disease and stroke. Excess abdominal weight is also regarded as a risk factor for diabetes and cancer.

Fat cells around the abdomen appear to be very sensitive to and love to attract cortisol because of the high density of cortisol receptors around the abdominal region. This unfortunately makes the stomach to be a kind of fat factory during periods of chronic stress due to the elevated cortisol production.

However, there is no denial of the fact that as individuals we are bound to get stressed one way or the other. Therefore, it becomes important to learn techniques that can help us to get rid of unnecessary stress through making better work, lifestyle, and relationship decisions as well as learning how to effectively cope with unavoidable forms of stress.

One very good way to burst stress is through engaging in regular physical exercises. This is amazingly one of the best ways to lower cortisol levels, decrease stress, and boost your overall metabolism for more effective fat burning. Aerobic exercises for instance, helps you to increase oxygen circulation and also produces the "feel good" chemicals known as endorphins.

Moreover, it is equally important to ensure to eat healthy foods that can actually help boost your serotonin level which normally helps to promote a calm and relaxed mood. Serotonin boosting foods include a bowl of warm oatmeal, a glass of warm skim or low-fat milk just before bedtime to improve sleep. Furthermore, a hot cup of green tea such as Tava Tea does not only help to lose weight but also to soothe and calm your nerves.

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Article Source:http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Marcus_J_Michael


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