Women who remain stressed out for long periods of time may be at risk for piling on pounds. British researchers recently collected hair samples from 2,500 women and men in a four-year study and found some who showed evidence of an elevated stress hormone, cortisol. Those participants also showed corresponding higher levels of obesity including larger waist circumference, heavier weight and greater body mass.
The cause and effect are unclear, researchers said, but they know cortisol production plays a significant part in the accumulation of body fat. When you are under stress, adrenal glands release extra cortisol, which sends a surge of blood sugar to your brain to boost your energy. The spike in blood sugar helps you cope with the emergency. But cortisol may tempt you to find comfort in high-calorie goods. The hormone may increase your appetite and prompt you to over-eat.
Scientists who study cortisol usually examine saliva, blood and urine. Those samples offer a snapshot of existing stress levels, but they don’t indicate the period of time the body endured stress. The recent British study relied on examining lengths of hair grown during a two-month period so they could look at the effect of extended exposure to cortisol.
Some scientific observers note that the obese subjects probably became overweight years before the study and said that their cortisol levels may reflect the stresses associated with obesity. Is more cortisol making you fatter, or are you stressed and producing cortisol because you’re overweight?
Whether it’s cortisol equals obesity or obesity equals cortisol, take steps to control your stress and avoid extra weight. Try meditation, yoga and mindful eating. Here are some other stress relievers aimed at helping you keep off unwanted pounds:
Only 20 minutes each day is all that is all you need to boost endorphins and reduce cortisol. You’ll improve your mood, relieve pain and work off that cortisol-driven excess eating.
Walk Away Mentally
Turn your attention away from the thing that’s causing you anxiety. Put your mind on something else for 20 minutes. Tax filing deadline won’t disappear, but a small diversion will refresh you and lower those cortisol levels. You’ll be better prepared to deal with that mound of bills after a break.
Crank Up Soothing Music
Heart rates and blood pressure do down when we listen to strains we find relaxing. Tense muscle unclench and breathing slows. Music is so effective at calming us that medical practitioners use it for therapy during procedures.
Write It Down
Something magic happens when you put pen to paper and release your worry onto the page. Some of the burden lifts, and you free your mind to consider options that can remedy your stress. Keep a journal. You’ll be surprised at the insights you reveal to yourself.
Soak in A Hot Bath
Warm water is just as comforting to your churning mind as it is to your aching muscles. Multiply the soothing effect by pouring in Epsom salts or bath oil before you turn on the tap.