As many of you know, my life has been extremely stressful over these past two months. Now, while I have not missed a workout, or a meal, I have lost 10 pounds in less than five weeks.
Now, I know most of you are going to say, “Poor baby”. Well, maybe not. But I do know that many of you struggle to lose even five pounds and are wondering, as was I, why I was losing weight during stressful this stressful time, while most gain weight with elevated life stresses.
Well, there you have it…the birth of this installment of Body Designs.
The body undergoes many chemical changes when it experiences stress (whether physical or mental). As mentioned in a previous installment, long term and chronic stress causes the body’s adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol (aka the Stress Hormone). This hormone also competes with dehydroepiandroserone (DHEA), the anti-aging hormone, which is why some (hopefully not me) seem to age before your eyes when under a great deal of stress. DHEA is needed to maintain a healthy metabolism. It has been shown to help induce thermogenesis (the burning of body fat).
Normally, its presence in the body is high in the morning and lowest at night. However, it is also released into the bloodstream when the fight or flight mechanism is triggered. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Positively, cortisol allows for; a quick burst of energy for survival reasons, heightened memory functions, increased immunity, lower sensitivity to pain, and actually helps the body maintain homeostasis (body stability).
But, if one’s stresses are overbearing, one might find, among other potential health problems, an increase in abdominal fat and thus inevitable weight gain.
On the other hand, another hormone produced by the body when it’s under stress is epinephrine. This hormone increases the amount of blood the heart pumps and directs it where needed. It also stimulates the breakdown of glycogen (stored carbohydrates) and fat! Thus, reducing one’s bodyweight!
Now, the obvious question…is it possible to control which hormone (cortisol or epinephrine) is released when one’s body is under stress. Unfortunately people, the answer is “no”.
So, what’s a person to do if they are stress gainers and not stress losers? Basically, keep cortisol levels under control. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques (i.e. meditation), and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. Believe it or not, one of the best stress relievers is exercise. Now, you don’t have to make an appointment with me to relieve stress (I am sure the opposite is true). But, just going for a walk with your dog, friend or spouse (if you have one) will suffice – unless one of them is the source of your stress.