SECRET 1: STRESS IS KILLING US (AND MAKING US FAT)
Have you ever noticed that it doesn’t matter how much kale you eat, if you hate your job or you’re in an unhappy relationship, it’s almost impossible to drop the last few kg’s, to get rid of your eczema or solve those nagging digestive issues. Yes, it’s important to have a healthy diet, but let’s be real, we often do not consider the impact our careers, finances, relationships, physical activity and spirituality have on our overall wellbeing.
It is a known fact that emotional, mental and physical stress play a huge role in your overall health. Whether you are stressed from undergoing surgery, training for a marathon, eating poorly or constant exposure to toxins or whether you worry about finances, have a difficult relationship with a loved one or have a stressful career, your body responds to stress in the same way.
SO, HOW DOES IT WORK?
When you are stressed, your body perceives the stressor as a threat. To prepare your body to either fight of flight from the threat, your adrenal gland releases cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts you energy supplies.
Cortisol releases sugars and fats into your blood to be used by your muscles. The essential functions for survival needs to get priority, so cortisol curbs the non-essential functions like the immune system and digestive system.
Let’s say you are chased by a lion. Your fight or flight response is activated, and cortisol and adrenaline work together to help you survive. By the end of the event, you are either dead (killed by the lion) or alive and safe (because you climbed a tree or ran away). Either way, there is no need for the body to continue producing adrenaline and cortisol and both levels return to normal.
The problem with modern times is that stress is chronic and never goes away. From having a demanding job, raising kids, meeting deadlines, being stuck in traffic, writing exams, fighting an illness, going through a divorce or a death in the family. There is never a relief and you are in a chronic fight or fight mode. All those other “non-essential” functions, like the immune system and digestive system, that are suppressed by raised cortisol levels, never get a chance to be prioritised.
So, if you don’t need that energy to run away from the lion, then your pancreas will pump out insulin to bring those blood sugar levels back down again. When insulin is high, the excess sugars in the body is converted to fat and stored around the organs. To make matters worse, you crave more food as your sources of energy is being stored.
The first step of un-dieting is to understand the impact stress has on our bodies, minds and overall wellbeing. It is almost impossible to lose weight (or be healthy) when you are in a chronic fight or flight mode.
In the next post, we’ll look at ways to manage your stress.