Stress Can Make You Fat

Lean Lingo

Adrenaline is a hormone that directly affects the brain as a stimulus and indirectly affects our entire body. Our primitive ancestors relied on adrenaline for survival. An adrenal hormone, cortisol, causes weight gain around the waist and midsection. To get rid of the “spare tire” waist, reduce the chronic stress in your life and get enough sleep.

Living in a state of chronic and relentless stress actually adds pounds, regardless of what you are eating. You can have a very sound food plan and exercise regimen, and your best intentions can get derailed because of stress.

Frank is a businessman who worked in a major city, but a few years ago he moved his family to a pastoral location 40 miles away. His morning and afternoon commutes were at least an hour long, even longer if there was snow or ice on the roads. By nature, Frank was a pretty high-intensity person, and the commutes made him even more tense and anxious. After a year, Frank's weight had increased 40 pounds, most of it around his middle. The commutes were ruining his dream of enjoying the countryside, so Frank and his family moved back to the city. His commute time dropped to about 15 to 20 minutes. Within six months, he lost the extra weight without altering his eating in any way.

During the long, congested, and sometimes treacherous commute, Frank's body instinctively shifted into fight-or-flight mode. Subconsciously, he was on ready alert and his adrenaline was working overtime. Even Stone Age men didn't have to run away from the woolly mammoth every single morning and evening five days a week for one to two hours! Yikes! While Frank's automobile ran on gas, he ran on adrenaline. He was under chronic stress.

When stress causes adrenaline to be secreted into the blood stream, along with it comes cortisol, a hormone that is responsible for putting on waistline weight. Recent research shows that when our bodies produce too much cortisol, we gain weight with or without eating changes.

Weighty Warning

When a person drinks beer and other alcoholic beverages, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which causes weight gain around the waist. They aren't called beer bellies for nothing!

Frank didn't move back to the city to lose weight; he just wanted more quality time with his family. He wanted more time … period. But a wonderful side benefit was that his weight returned to normal. By simply changing his home address, he consequently changed his weight.

If you can find a way to change your lifestyle to reduce stress significantly, do it. You will find that your weight issues will improve or dissolve. Unfortunately, sometimes making the change doesn't seem feasible, as was the case with Laura.

Laura was an executive with a Fortune 100 company. Because of her work, most weeks she traveled from Sunday evening through Friday evening. Appointments were preset for her every day. She typically started her day with a breakfast meeting with one customer, called on customers all day long, and then ended the day with a customer dinner meeting. Her Friday dinner was often a not-exactly-gourmet meal on yet one more airplane flying home. On weekends, she did laundry, slept, and prepared for the next week.

Laura never enjoyed down time. She ran on adrenaline, not just three hours a day but virtually full time, day after day. She got by on just enough sleep, zonking out after finishing her business dinner and catching up on e-mails. She slept hard until the hotel wakeup call signaled that it was time to get ready for another customer breakfast. Laura was about 65 pounds overweight, and most of it was around her tummy. No weight-loss program had ever worked for her since she'd accepted her well-paying executive position.

Was it possible for Laura to slow the adrenaline rush? Absolutely. But it didn't seem possible to her. She could have used relaxation techniques such as exercising at the hotel's exercise facility before breakfast and enjoying a warm bath every night before bed. By also being attentive to eating 0-5, Laura could have released her adrenaline-cortisol weight.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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