Friday, May 19, 2006

Why Stress Makes You Fat

First, some of us eat to keep our hands and mouth busy. It makes us think we are doing something. We are not even aware of everything we put in our mouth. A taste here, a taste there, a couple cookies, a piece of pie, and one thing after another increases our total calorie count which packs the pounds on.

The second reason is even sneakier because we don’t even know it’s going on. The second reason we get fat while under stress has to do with hormones and chemical reactions in our brain.

When we are under any kind of stress, our body produces a hormone called cortisol. This is the stress hormone. One of its main jobs is to alert our body to get ready to fight or flee. In order to have the energy to do this, the cortisol causes our fat cells to absorb more fat than usual and to store it around our stomach where it can be reached quickly if needed for energy. This is done by having the cortisol trigger two other chemicals in our brain. One produces a craving for carbohydrates so we will have more immediate energy and one causes a craving for fatty foods so the fat can be stored for use later.

Unfortunately, dealing with modern stress is generally an emotional or intellectual job rather than a physical job and requires less energy than stresses of years gone by. We no longer have to fight or run away from dinosaurs. Solving our stress producing problems may only require figuring out how not to be lonely, how to pay the bills, who is going to baby sit the children or what to do about a bad relationship. These things just don’t burn off the same amount of fat as was stored when we were first stressed so we gain weight.

The key, then, is to practice some form of stress management to keep your body from producing the cortisol in the first place. In addition to yoga and meditation, my two stress management programs work well to keep you unstressed in this busy and hectic world.

The “STRESS MANAGEMENT” program is a 30 minute relaxation and balancing visualization that will help you function better in your real life. In addition to keeping you from gaining weight, it will also have a beneficial effect on your blood pressure and heart health in general.

The “10 MINUTE STRESS RELEASE” is just that - a quick but deep relaxation session that can fit into any busy schedule.