Most of us will admit it is harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle when we are stressed. Emotional or physical stress affects our choices. If you are stressed because you are wishing for more hours in the day to get things done, rushing to pick up the kids and driving the back and forth to their after-school activities, or dealing with an overwhelming situation at work or home. Whatever the cause of stress it does play a role in unhealthy eating. We are tempted to grab something on the go and usually it is not a healthy choice.
Let's start with defining cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by adrenal glands located on top of your kidneys. Cortisol is released in response to stress - whether it's emotional or physical. It is part of the fight or flight reaction in response to danger. Cortisol has numerous effects on your body. I will just name a few. Cortisol helps to regulate your blood pressure, metabolizes blood sugar, also know as blood glucose, and plays role in releasing insulin in response to rising blood glucose levels. Cortisol also increases appetite and provides energy for exercise and activity (hence, the fight or flight response).
It is normal to have increased levels of cortisol in the morning and decreased levels at night. Cortisol helps in responding to and coping with stress, trauma and environmental stressors. Increased stress means increased cortisol levels and excessive unused energy in the body. If your body does not physically burn the energy produced from stress, this results in the body storing unused energy into fat, usually as visceral fat. This means your body increases fat around vital organs of the abdomen. This is the hardest fat to lose and it is also the most dangerous fat to gain.
In addition, the extra energy produced from excessive cortisol levels results in increased appetite or craving of comfort foods. Fatty and sugary foods are craved because they help relieve stress. Think about that candy bar or bowl of ice cream that is so tempting and comforting after a stressful situation.
Here's a list of suggestions to help avoid or decrease stress: ~exercise (yoga, spin class, jog or walk through your neighborhood) ~meditate: picture yourself in a relaxing environment, take deep breaths think positive, don't let the negativity of others affect you ~listen to your favorite music, get up dance around, have fun ~get a massage ~eliminate or remove yourself from the stressful situation ~get enough sleep
More to come about the dangers of visceral fat and successful ways to avoid stress.