Cortisol can cause belly fat, but don’t blame it on your weight gain! And don’t think blocking cortisol is the easy weight loss solution!
I know! I know! Some are reading this and shaking their heads, perhaps even stomping their feet and shouting at this blog, “Jackie, you’re wrong! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Oh! but I do! I know that the ads on TV are compelling. I know that nutrition (…coughSNAKEOILSELLERScough..) stores promote this stuff and it looks more than perfectly legit, it looks like reliable, scientific fact!
Here are 10 scientific facts about cortisol and what raises its levels in your body.
1. Cortisol is a hormone that the adrenal gland secretes in response to stress.
2. It is classified as a glucocorticoid ( a hormone that increases blood sugar levels)
3. In highly stressful and/or life-threatening situations, the body produces cortisol.
4. Cortisol is what prepares the system to respond with a fight or flight response depending on the the circumstances of the threat.
5. Your body experiences different types of stress and not all stressful situations require increased blood sugar levels. Here are just a few causes of stress:
6. Physical stressors might be injuries or disease
7. Emotional stressors include such things as the loss of a loved one or a strained or failed relationship
8. Mental stress might be worrying about a number of circumstances over which you have no control
9. Intensive exercise (That’s right, intensive exercise, for those of you who think that’s the way to fight your escalating weight problem, you should be aware that unless you’re an athlete and in training you could be setting back your weight management success rather than supporting it! Most human bodies just aren’t made for that kind of torture!)
10. Extremely low calorie diet (TAKE NOTE! This is not a good or reliable way to lose weight. It is stressful to the body! And I would like to add for those of you who feel like you have no willpower because you can’t stick to an extremely low-calorie diet, you haven’t been successful because your approach has been too extreme. In other words stop beating yourself up for being weak and realize your lack of success is because you’re doing too much of what you think is right but is actually wrong! You can lose weight and keep it off just by taking a more user-friendly approach to eating and exercising!)
The problem is modern life is stressful.
There’s too much bad news blasting us from all sides – on round-the-clock cable news networks, pandemics! Terrorism! Racial injustice!
Global warming! etc, etc, etc.
There are also stressors of a more personal kind such as work-related, losing your job or deadlines to firing, to near-miss traffic incidents, to family issues to a multitude of other things that can cause cortisol levels to rise and remain unnaturally high. There is no rest for the cortisol-weary. Before the body can recover from one or more stressors there is a whole slew of new ones.
You might be reading this and still having this thought, “Okay, so If I block cortisol I can lose weight or at least belly fat (just like the commercials say I can!”)
To support or negate that thought, first, understand the negative effects of increased cortisol levels:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Decreased immune response
- Blood sugar imbalance
- Increased abdominal fat
If cortisol causes increased belly fat, then it seems that blocking it should fix the problem allowing for both weight loss and of course, a flatter stomach. That’s a logical enough conclusion, but not scientifically correct.
Cortisol actually ignites the body to burn more fat, creating available extra energy for an escape from the danger that caused the fight or flight reaction in the first place.
In other words, blocking cortisol isn’t the solution.
Turning to food, especially highly palatable food that’s processed with extra fats, sugars and salt, is a common mechanism for coping with stress for some people. Of course, that’s a major cause of weight gain when those calories are not burned with increased physical activity (and that rarely happens; the opposite is more common). Blocking the cortisol won’t change the behavior and the resulting weight gain. It’s going to take learning how to reduce stress thereby lowering (not blocking) cortisol and that’s simply not something that can be fixed quickly!
Reducing cortisol levels is the answer.
Do not spend your money on cortisol blockers. To lose weight and reduce belly fat you need to lower cortisol levels, not block it. Lowering your cortisol levels means learning how to manage stress.
Commit to learning how to reduce stress
Spend your money on this book! 7 Habits of Highly Successful Effective People by Stephen Covey (learn how to be highly effective in staying calm in a stressful world.)
Take yoga classes
The next time you’re about to plunk down your dollars for a cortisol blocker to lose belly fat and/or weight, remember, they don’t work and the sales pitch is all based on anecdotal information – not real science!