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When the Sticking Point of Losing Weight is Stress
September 28, 2011
9:40 pm
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chirosportscogee
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September 6, 2011
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An inability to burn excess fat when you are stressed is more common
than many people think. Sadly, you can be diligent in adhering to your
weight loss guidelines and still the kilos don’t budge. Understanding
how stress and excess weight interact when you are trying to lose weight
can be the difference between frustration and success.

If you are experiencing stress your hypothalamic pituitary adrenal
function, which is also known as your HPA system is activated. When this
system switches on, or in the case of long-term stress, stays on, you
are releasing the stress hormone cortisol. In your body, cortisol has an
important role organising systems and organs in various situations and
it also has a role in regulating your metabolism. Another aspect of the
HPA system is that it releases a number of chemical neurotransmitters,
and one of these is adrenalin. The chemical neurotransmitters activate
an area inside your brain called the amydala which controls your
emotional response to the stress you are experiencing. This emotional
response could be fear, sadness, overwhelm and other feelings including
anxiety. In addition, when you are stressed your brain releases a small
protein called Neuropeptide S that is designed to regulate your stress
by increasing your alertness and sensitivity, increasing your anxiety
and urgency and reducing your sleep.

The relentless interaction of HPA in longer-term stress leads to
several issues that impact weight gain, and the ability to burn fat.

Increased Neuropeptide S has the effect of decreasing sleep and sleep
quality. If you are being chased by a vicious dog then Neuropeptide S
is good, however, if you have high levels of this protein all the time
your body is ready for ‘fight or flight’ and quality sleep is hard to
come by. A 2010 study of 35,000 employees of a Japanese electric power
company showed that those who slept five hours or less per night were
twice as likely to gain weight as those who slept seven to eight hours.
Poor sleep quality also down regulates metabolism as your body tries to
store energy to deal with the anticipated need for extra resources to
fight the stress. In a 2004 study by the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort a link
was found between sleep deprivation and the hormone ghrelin. Excess
ghrelin also called the ‘hunger hormone’ is found in people who have
poor sleep and this hormone was found to increase hunger by more than
15%.

Ongoing high levels of adrenalin also inhibit fat burning. Many
people have heard the term ‘adrenal exhaustion’ which can occur in
people who are stressed. In this condition the body seeks more energy
and will achieve this by increasing appetite or storing fat. If your
adrenal system is overloaded and you reduce your calorie intake to
reduce weight, the adrenal function will act to store your fat reserves
so even the reduction in your calories may not help you burn fat.

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are linked to weight gain
and fat retention around the belly. Cortisol also increases cravings for
carbohydrates as it decreases the serotonin levels in your brain.
Unfortunately, while stress levels are high and cortisol is also high,
efforts to burn fat through changes to nutrition and exercise can be
thwarted.

The long-term news for stress sufferers in addition to the weight
loss battle is reason enough to look at reducing stress as a priority.
In the US, Medical Doctors in training are taught in their first
semester of Medical School that 75% of all the illness they are likely
to see in practice will be stress related. Stress and the lifestyle
implications of stress are attributed to be the leading causes of
accelerated ageing, obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and
some cancers.

In clinic the solution is to look at stress from 3-angles: a
scientific perspective, an emotional / behavioral viewpoint and at the
same time look at weight loss goals in order to break the cycle. Science
aside, when you are under pressure and stressed your body effectively
tries to ‘hold on tight’ and this includes storing fat. You want
comfort, hence the term ‘comfort food’ and lets be honest fat and sugar
taste delicious. It’s hard to exercise when you are so exhausted you can
hardly bring yourself to cook a meal. But maybe you are not eating or
skipping meals due to stress. This is also counter-productive for your
metabolism and weight loss goals.

Lifestyle aspects of stress need to be addressed but to start with a
‘circuit breaker’ can often increase early fat loss and improve general
feelings of happiness and relaxation. There are a number of simple
strategies that I have seen achieve some great results in clinic
including some specific nutrition based supplements and activities that
help stress sufferers reconnect to being grounded reducing the negative
impacts of stress on the body’s optimal function. Increasing the flow of
vitality and energy in the body, changing nutrients and increasing
absorption while reducing the impact of stress hormones then allows the
excess weight to truly move. Given that 30% of people who want to lose
weight attribute stress as their biggest limitation in achieving their
goal, it’s helpful to know that the reason is scientific and that there
is a solution.

December 29, 2011
11:07 am
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disneydancer76
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December 29, 2011
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I can relate to this, too much long-term stress leading to weight gain OR the innability to lose weight. I did read your article but am left with "how do fix this"? What advice do you have for people like me who are dealing with long-term stress. Personally, I have gained about 60 pounds during the course of 2 years. I had been very overwieght all of my life. In 2007, after a 14 year marriage, I lost all of my weight and was at my optimal weight. I have an idea of what triggered my recent weight gain  but at the same time do not want to push or blame others for it.

April 22, 2012
7:14 pm
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OneFoot
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August 31, 2011
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has anyone ever tried Zumba?

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