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The Stress-Fat connection (and how to mitigate it)

In an ideal setting, your hormones are released in short bursts as opposed to being released over a long period of time. Functioning this way prevents developing a resistance to a hormone.

It starts with cortisol.

Cortisol, known as your stress hormone, if released in short bursts, like when you are being chased by a wolf, results in a reduction in the production of insulin and increases the production of glucose in your liver (from fat). In the wolf scenario, cortisol counters the effect of insulin in the short term.

Since insulin is a hormone responsible for weight gain, does that mean that we want more cortisol released to balance it all out? In a word: NO.

Outrunning a wolf is, hopefully, a short-term event. Cortisol is released so that you don’t have to rely on insulin and food to supply your body with energy for the run. It is a brief event and so the hormone release is also brief.

But what if the event isn’t brief? What if you work for the wolf, or you’re married to the wolf, or you owe the wolf money? When your stress is chronic, rather than short-term, the effects of cortisol become problematic. Chiefly, when it comes to body composition, prolonged cortisol production makes you insulin resistant. Insulin resistance leads to higher insulin output, which leads to more resistance and so on. The combination of higher insulin output along with insulin resistance makes energy storage far outperform energy usage resulting in weight gain (fat).

What can help?

This is why stress reduction and proper rest/sleep are such important parts of weight management.

You can adjust your diet to reduce or eliminate foods that lead to high insulin output, but taking measures to reduce stress can improve your insulin sensitivity. Good sleep hygiene and meditation are two methods of reducing stress.

Speak to the Live Well team at Pharmasave Summerland about how you can improve your insulin sensitivity and reduce excess body fat.


Dan Cassidy – Registered Nutritional Product Advisor