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Is stress making you fat?

I deleted this heading post so many times to try and soften it as I really don't like the word fat, I put some glitter on it but all that sparkle just didn’t get the message across. So here it is – Stress could be the culprit of our expanding waist lines?

You may be exercising daily, eating a beautifully balanced and portioned controlled diet but for some reason you are still slowly gaining weight, having trouble losing weight – and it all seems to be going to be belly!

But why?

Well it could all very well be to do with a hormone called Cortisol.

Cortisol – what is it?

It is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands to save us from when we are under attack from some charging Lions. The body produces cortisol in times of stress preparing our body for a state of emergency. For all its amazing attributes and benefits, most of us are in a constant state of stress which leads to an ongoing release of cortisol and elevated levels in the blood which isn't ideal.

Why are you stressed?

It is when the alarm clock starts beeping, you are running late for work, an appointment, your to do list

is getting bigger, you skipped a meal, you have to get your kids to an appointment, you didn’t get enough sleep, you drank too much coffee, not enough coffee... this list could go on.


our blood sugars, our sleep, immune system, digestion, the balance of other hormones among quite a few other things.

It takes about 10 minutes for the adrenal glands to release and circulates for about 1-2 hours before breaking down.

The problem is we are constantly exposed to different stresses and the body keeps releasing cortisol so it is constantly circulating in our blood stream.

So with the constant exposure to cortisol we enter a cortisol cycle, having continual effects our blood sugar balance, it opposes our hormones that help us sleep - lack of sleep increasing our cortisol levels. We feel tired, we eat foods that give us instant energy which results in blood sugar imbalances, we gain weight. The more weight we gain the more cortisol is released, and sadly the receptors for these are highly concentrated around the belly – which is amplified by our fat cells that are getting larger due to the signalling caused by circulating cortisol.


There are plenty of things we can do to stop this cycle, w


  1. Start to remove things that make you feel stressed – or find systems and ways to manage them

  2. Get into nature – biophillia – being beside the sea, under trees sends feel good signals to the brain and reduces our stress

  3. Breathe – when it all gets too much – stop, and breathe deeply for 10 minutes

  4. Nourish – take time to prepare food, eat well and choose and nutritious meals and snacks

  5. Balance blood sugars - Reduce sugar intake and have healthy snacks on hand

  6. Reduce caffeine intake – swap for herbal teas - try Tulsi or chamomile tea

  7. Gentle restorative exercise – walking, swimming

  8. Sleep – sleep hormones oppose cortisol – get a good night’s sleep

  9. Craft/cook – find a hobby that you just love and enjoy on a weekly basis

  10. Take regular time out for yourself

Seeking the support of a qualified naturopath or nutritionist can assist, support and guide you through your weight management goals, with personalised nutrition, herbal and nutritional support and referrals if needed.

To book your personal consultation send me an email or phone P 0403 772 806, I offer both personalised programs via face to face consultations and am now offering Skype nutritional and naturopathic consultations.

See you soon.

Lauren Stark

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