Nutrition

Stress, Hormones and Weight Gain

Stress, Hormones and Weight Gain

Do you feel like you are doing everything right but still not shifting weight? If you are training hard, eating well but still not seeing changes, then it could be your hormones. Hormones are our communication cells that send instructions to our bodies; like whether to use fat for energy or conserve it and store it. We have specific hormones for each mechanism so that the signal is very clear to the body. 

Our fat storage hormones, Insulin and Cortisol, have the job of protecting us by storing fat when the body communicates it is in danger. Cortisol is our stress hormone and is released in response to perceived danger. Cortisol is important for regulating blood pressure and maintaining healthy body weight by telling the body to use stored fat as a fuel. Our bodies release Cortisol in a normal pattern with levels highest in the morning and lowest at night. This can be disrupted by stressors such as vigorous exercise or pressure from work/home (feeling stressed) and this leads to weight gain, especially around the abdomen, and a physiological drive to eat more which in turn leads to more weight gain. For people who have high Cortisol levels, the best way to bring them back to normal and shift any excess abdominal fat is to partake in gentle exercise such as walking, yoga and also practicing relaxing, breathing and meditating. 

Insulin is another important hormone when it comes to fat storage or use. Insulin is released in response to rising blood glucose levels and it works to remove the glucose from the blood before it gets to dangerous levels. An important measure of insulin is its sensitivity; this can tell you how well it is doing its job. Over time, if insulin is being overworked (because it is being constantly exposed to too much sugar-glucose), then it stops working as well and becomes resistant to glucose. After this your body cannot regulate your blood sugar at all and you can develop type 2 diabetes. 

If you want to get your insulin sensitivity checked, you can order a test from your doctor. Early stages of insulin resistance can normalise with dietary changes.

By Kali Grey BSC Human Nutritionist