Following last Monday’s post where I explained the link between stress and cortisol, carbs and insulin, and their effects on weight, this post will look further at the implication of stress. It is also now the 6th in the series on weight loss. 

Perhaps you read the post Stess + Carb -> Weight Gain and thought, ‘meh, I’m not that stressed,’ or ‘I don’t eat carbs’ or just ‘that’s not me. ‘

Well ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you see your toes without bending over?
  • Is your waistline the largest circumference of your body?
  • Do you feel wired and wide awake even after bedtime?
  • Does your pulse race and breath get shallow during the day (when you’re not exercising)?
  • Do you often clench your jaw or fist or tighten your face or shoulders during the day?
  • Do you crave carbs, sweets, or other junk food between meals or in the evenings?
  • Do you itch for cigarettes, alcohol, or other addictions on a daily or weekly basis?
  • Do you do chronic cardio workouts (more than 30-40 minutes of steady-state cardio)?

All except for the last one are symptoms of stress, and therefore cortisol.  (The last one is a cause of cortisol production.) So if you answered yes to any of those, you are on the cortisol train.  We’ve all been there–my hand it is up–and suffered both the immediate and long-term effects.

Now, why is this a problem?

Well, besides the obvious–that stress and carbs cause weight gain–chronic stress also causes:

  • Breakdown in the communication between the hypothalamus and pituitary, leading to
  • Failing of the endocrine system (pituitary-thyroid-adrenal-reproductive). Symptoms may include:
    • Difficulty losing weight
    • Hair thinning and loss
    • Little or no sex drive
    • Infertility
    • Amenorrhea
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Abdominal obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome
    • Coronary artery disease
    • Stroke
    • Type 2 diabetes / Insulin resistance
    • High blood pressure
    • Low LDL cholesterol
    • High triglycerides
    • Osteoporosis
    • High risk for heart attack
    • High risk for kidney disease
  • Poor, disturbed, or restless sleep
  • Low immune function
  • Declining happiness
  • Negative effects on personal relationships
  • Cancer

Personally, 90% of those scare the sh*t out of me.  Literally any of those would be in the top 5 of my worse fears (and hence why I got into health/wellness and am trying to share this information with you.)

Even if you don’t eat carbs and therefore don’t think you’re on the blood sugar roller coaster or can’t blame carbs for your belly fat, if you’re stressed, there’s a dang good chance you have more fat surrounding your vital organs than you should, and you have cortisol to thank for that.

Certainly diet has a huge influence on the outcome, but in the presence of such a powerful hormone as cortisol, I’d recommend stress relief over disciplinarian-like dieting.

So what does that mean?  If you’re even slightly afraid of any of the things on that list, I’d highly recommend you find some way to reduce stress and anxiety.

(And this is what I don’t understand in the medical press and health news, when stress is implicated in, if not the most direct cause of,  so many diseases of the developed world, why is there so little attention given to it?!?!)


And try to be able to see you toes again.

Photos by Flickr users:  stuartpilbrow | bottled_void | yarnivore