Cortisol, Stress and Weight Gain
Stress activates the fight-or-flight response, the body’s involuntary response to a threat that makes our hearts pound and our breath shorten.
Chief among the hormones released during this response is the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol automatically kicks up your appetite, prompting you not only to want to eat huge quantities but especially to want sweets and simple carbohydrates-foods that make insulin levels spike and then plummet, which may leave you feeling hungrier than ever-and eating again, says Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore and author of “Fight Fat After Forty” (Viking Press, 2000).
“Stress fat” is also concentrated in the last place you need it: deep in your tummy.
Reducing Stress May Help Reduce Fat Gain
To help reset your internal stress-o-meter to normal levels, and perhaps reduce stress-related hormonal cravings, try laughter!
In one study conducted at the Loma Linda University’s Center for Neuroimmunology in California, a group of men who watched a humorous video were shown to have 30% less cortisol in their blood and significantly lower levels of another stress hormone, epinephrine, during and after the tape compared with a group that sat quietly.