Did you know stress management is a critical part of any weight-loss programme?
It’s true.
Chronic stress not only adversely affects our long-term health, it can also derail our weight management goals!


What is the difference between stress and chronic stress?

Stress is the cocktail of mental, emotional and physiological symptoms we experience when we perceive consciously or subconsciously that we’re under threat.

Chronic stress is stress we experience over a long period of time.

We perceive dieting as a nutritional threat

One of the reasons diets don’t work is because they involve putting our body under a nutritional threat with the goal of making it consume the excessive fat we’re storing. This threat triggers the stress response flooding our body with stress hormones.

Cortisol, fat storage and weight management

Cortisol is one of the ‘stress hormones’ released in the body when we activate the stress response. The release of cortisol is essential in preparing our bodies for action against a threat or danger – to fight or flight.

While other hormones dissipate once we switch the stress response off, cortisol levels can remain elevated over a period of time. In fact, cortisol levels can remain persistently elevated in the body when a person is experiencing chronic stress.

There is substantial evidence that chronic cortisol stimulation prevents insulin from being effective, so the body produces more insulin to compensate. We need insulin to transfer sugar from our blood and into our cells to make energy, but when our cells are fully loaded, that insulin puts any extra sugar into storage as body fat.

We are programmed to store food as fat for a rainy day. This is known as the 'survival of the fattest.' Our ancestors who were genetically best programmed to do this were the ones who survived. Unfortunately for our waistlines, rainy days are few and far between these days, so we just keep storing the excess sugar as fat, and especially as abdominal fat (see below).

Elevated levels of cortisol also:

  • slow our metabolism, causing us to gain weight.
  • directly and indirectly stimulate our appetite and create cravings for food that is high in fat and/or sugar. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food was scarce; however, today, in industrialised nations, when food is rarely scarce, this previously adaptive mechanism causes us to overeat leading to unhealthy weight gain.

Cortisol affects where you store the fat

Chronic stress tends to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area, which results in an increased waist/hip ratio (WHR). Abdominal fat deposition is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

In short: Chronic stress = too much cortisol = higher appetite = more abdominal ‘belly’ fat.

Reducing stress to reduce cortisol to reduce weight
Experts agree that stress management is a critical, but often overlooked, part of any weight-loss/management programme.

Contrary to popular belief, chilling out in front of the television and comfort eating don’t help relieve stress and these activities certainly don’t help us lose weight!

The good news is, once we choose to engage in effective stress management techniques to reduce the chronic stress in our lives, weight loss and maintaining our desired weight become easier.

There are lots of  effective, evidence based stress management techniques. These comprise coping strategies, such as relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, massage therapy, and exercise; and avoidance strategies such as adopting a challenge mind-set; enhancing our problem solving skills; prioritising, delegating.

A combination of coping and avoidance strategies is the best option for our long term health and well-being and our waistline!

What Next?

I help people to master stress and problematic anxiety so they can enjoy the success, health and happiness they desire. If you'd like to explore how I can help you contact me on 021 056 8389 or email me at tony@tycoaching.nz.

Until next week,

Go well

Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise is in helping people perform under pressure and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and distress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.