Stress is a normal condition for many people. At the moment, many see it as part of life—nothing special about it. No wonder! According to The American Institute of Stress, about 33 % of people report feeling extreme stress. 77 % of people experience “stress” that affects their physical health, While 73 % of people have “stress” that impacts their mental health (1).
It’s not too late to take countermeasures. Now is the right time to start. Better late than ever because extreme stress can seriously threaten our dream body project. The effect of prolonged stress on our bodies can turn the hunt for a fantastic body into a hopeless battle.
The connection between chronic stress and obesity
If you know how stress happens, how you can recognize it, and how it affects your overall body, you can do something about it. This article will show you how to do that. Let’s take a look at how stress develops in the first place.
How does stress develop?
Stress can develop as a result of psychological and physical factors. Mental stress occurs in situations to which we mentally give a negative meaning. These can be conflicts and crises that we believe are overwhelming, such as:
- Pressure at work
- Social conflict
- Responsibility in job and family
- Social conflict
- Money worries
- health problems
- Unfavorable or unpleasant news
Stress can also arise from several physical factors that affect our body – often without us even being aware of it. Examples are:
- Lack of sleep and sleep disorders
- unknown food intolerances and allergies
- Insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity
- Pollutants and drugs
- Quality of the air you breathe
Our bodies don’t care where the source of the stress is. Whether it is negative thoughts or external factors, our body’s reaction to a stressor is always the same.
How does your body react to stress?
When our body perceives a problem, it also gives off a signal by releasing the primary stress hormone, called cortisol. The stress hormone cortisol blocks the action of two essential hormones in our body:
- Cortisol as anti-testosterone interrupts the build-up of proteins in the body.
- Cortisol as anti-insulin pulls proteins out of the muscles and converts them into glucose (sugar).
Cortisol has a muscle-degrading effect. That alone can stop the success of your good-looking body project.
How Does Stress Affect Weight Loss and Fat Burning?
Chronic stress has several negative effects on weight loss, fat loss, and overall health. Many unhealthy factory foods have been specially developed so that our brains release cortisol-lowering happiness hormones.
When we are constantly exposed to internal and external stress factors, cortisol becomes our constant companion. Chronic cortisol release affects fat loss in three ways.
1. Cortisol numbs our cells
Cortisol numbs the receptors that make our cells respond to other hormones. You become resistant to these hormones.
Type 2 diabetes produces sufficient insulin, but our cells no longer react to this messenger substance. This condition is called insulin resistance. If this condition persists for an extended period, diabetes develops.
A high insulin level – and this happens with insulin resistance. Your body removes less or no fat from the fat cells. This keeps the fat “trapped” in your body, even if you are on a diet.
For many people, a low-carb diet can work wonders correctly if they are subliminally insulin resistant. A low-carbohydrate diet lowers insulin levels and opens the doors of fat cells again.
Resistance to Leptin
Our fat cells release the hormone leptin. It works like a thermostat. Leptin signals how much fat we have stored and how quickly we lose fat.
A high level of leptin sends signals to our brain that we are full. Don’t eat anymore, please.
However, this signal is absent if the leptin receptors are numbed by cortisol. The hunger remains, and we continue to eat. Constant stress can lead to an endless appetite.
Insulin and Leptin resistance results in diet frustration
Those who are resistant to insulin are usually also resistant to leptin. If you want to break down fat to make your body look good, this combination is downright deadly: On the one hand, the excess fat remains trapped in the cells, and hunger remains.
Losing weight becomes a hopeless fight for those people who simply limit their energy intake and want to lose weight. That is undoubtedly one of the reasons many diets don’t work.
2. Cortisol Increases Inflammation
Cortisol promotes inflammation in our body and thus indirectly blocks the breakdown of fat. We store fat in different ways. The most prominent is stored directly under our skin, the subcutaneous or subcutaneous fat.
There is also the fat that surrounds our organs – the visceral fat. Beer belly carriers usually have a lot of visceral fat (the belly appears bloated). When you expose yourself to permanent stress, your body prefers to store visceral fat. Excess visceral fat is dangerous for two reasons:
- Visceral fat sends the same inflammatory signals as cortisol.
- It can restrict your organs in their function because it envelops them directly.
To summarize, too much stress leads to too much cortisol. Cortisol promotes visceral fat, while cortisol and visceral fat promote inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, leads to even more stress. Then another vicious circle arises as a result.
3. Cortisol brings the satiety hormones out of balance
Cortisol also upsets another satiety hormone called ghrelin. While leptin is responsible for filling you up, ghrelin makes your appetite grow. On your perfect stress-free day, the two hormones do their job:
- You pour out ghrelin when you need energy and get hungry.
- As soon as enough energy is filled up, your body releases leptin, you are full, and you stop eating.
Now cortisol comes into play: Cortisol dramatically increases the release of ghrelin and makes your brain cells resistant to leptin. As a result, many of us overeat when we are constantly stressed.
Insulin causes the cortisol level to drop, our stress level decreases. Our body wants to reduce stress levels through our cravings for sweets. Not a bad idea. And yet just another vicious circle.
Because the sweets are digested quickly, with the blood sugar the insulin level falls into the cellar, our body releases cortisol to stabilize blood sugar. The desire for sweets is back rapidly!
In addition to the right training, the right diet, and sufficient regeneration, the correct handling of stress is also an essential success factor if we want to change our bodies.
With constant stress, losing weight is like fighting an endless war. Many of us put additional stress on our diet and exercise. Then we are later frustrated if we keep gaining weight instead of losing weight. In doing so, they reinforce the stress-related vicious circle.
Many of us are not consciously aware of the situations in which we wear ourselves excessively and how our bodies react to them.
You only have a chance to actively take countermeasures if you consciously recognize yourself in a stress cycle. You can only then actively eliminate many stress factors through your behavior in thinking and in doing.
See also: Why You Should Start Eating Real Food