First Things First, Get Your Stress Managed

Posted: April 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

If weight loss is your goal and you are about to take part in an exercise and/or nutritional program there are some steps you need to take first.  Taking some time to self reflect and discover what things may be causing you stress can be the biggest step towards reaching your goals.  Stress is a major player in packing on the visceral (stomach) body fat.

In times when we need to utilize out stress response our bodies will gear up to run or to fight.  In this moment in time we are not concerned with the absorption of nutrients.  Our body is mobilizing energy to working muscles, increasing heart rate, breathing, and it also is decreasing our ability to store more fat.  So should we just stay stressed to lose weight?  Not so fast because there are other issues that can arise from chronic stress, but that is a story for another day.  In essence ou body makes itself insulin resistant.

After the stressor is removed the exact opposite things happen.  Our parasympathetic nervous system returns breathing and heart rate back to normal and energy is restored for later use.  This is accomplished by a group of hormones called glucocorticoids.  These hormones will actually remain in our blood for hours after the stressor is removed.  In this extended time period they will also increase our energy storage from our next meals.

We just burned a ton of energy to run for our lives and our body needs to protect itself from famine and also restore the energy incase of another attack.  Ever workout super hard and feel like eating a horse when you were done?  This is an example of this.  It is a survival mechanism.  If we are constantly turning on this stress response our appetites will increase and our body’s will extract more calories from the foods we are eating. 

This is why we just can’t run for longer on the treadmill if we cheat with that cookie for lunch.  It does not quite work that way.  Studies have shown that intense exercise increases appetite and eating binges.  With that being said too much exercise can actually lead to weight gain in a couple of ways; excess cortisol leading to insulin resistance and causing us to overeat.

Our visceral fat cells are more sensitive to storing fat in this case.  This is why stress and overtraining can lead to an increase in belly fat.  If we continually put ourselves in this stressed out state we will actually make ourselves insulin resistant.  Our body’s will get really good at ignoring the insulin to store fat because of the constant stress we are under.  We need that energy to fight for our lives.  This leads to an increased amount of insulin being produced from our pancreas to clear out and store the glucose.  During the times when we upload energy really well in response to glucocorticoids, we are really going to pack on some pounds.

We have predetermined amounts of fat cells as well.  Once they are full and our body has nowhere to store excess glucose many problems can arise.  This is where diseases such as type 2 diabetes can become a real issue.  Increased glucose in the blood can lead to the gumming up of blood vessels which can lead to heart atacks and strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases.

The diet and exercise parts, with the right direction are simple.  Eat a paleo diet, lift weights a couple days a week, and sprint a couple days a week.  Make sure you are not doing too much exercise as to induce the stress response that was just discussed.  Managing your stress takes some personal reflection.  It takes time for you to identify who you are and what you enjoy to do.  Find a hobby, watch funny movies or go to comedy shows, learn a new skill, whatever it may be.  Doing so just may save your life.

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