Stress is the #1 reason you can’t lose weight. Most people understand stress as deadlines responsibilities, busy schedules and stressful emotions like anger, frustration and loneliness. But what you may not know is that stress triggers a physiological response in the body. This response is regulated by something called the HPA axis.

A stressful thought comes into your mind, that stimulates the H, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus stimulates the P, the pituitary gland, to stimulate the adrenal gland, which is the A to release certain hormones.

This mechanism is known for acute stress. But in today’s modern society, chronic stress is abundant. As we have this chronic stress, this HPA Axis gets dysregulated.

Chronic stress and cortisol

When you have a chronic stressor, the HPA Axis signals your adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. This mechanism is to help you run away. The way we do this is cortisol stimulates your body to release sugar into the blood. This is so you can put it into your muscles and run away.

When you’re experiencing chronic stress all day long, your body is releasing sugar into your bloodstream. If you’re not actually running away and moving, that increase in blood sugar will eventually lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents us from using this blood sugar. This blood sugar later gets deposited around your belly and midsection. If you’re someone that’s doing all the right things, and you can’t lose that last five pounds of stubborn belly fat, you may have insulin resistance.

Chronic stress and excessive exercise.

Most people are living in a state of chronic stress. When you add excessive exercise, you’re creating a massive amount of inflammation in the body. This is the number one mistake I see in my practice. Patients who are super stressed out in their day, and then they go to the gym and work out really hard. I see this often in my practice and it’s a lethal combination. This creates a state of emergency in the body. In this state, our body will hold on to caloric reserve, just in case it needs to run away and needs those calories. This combination is often the reason why most people can’t lose weight.

Chronic stress and hormones

Chronic stress directly impacts your hunger hormone, and this will keep you from achieving your ideal weight. Your hunger hormone is known as ghrelin.  As you increase stress, your body secretes more and more ghrelin. This makes you hungrier and you eat more calories. This is not about willpower. It’s your body’s biochemical survival response. 

Chronic stress and digestion

Did you know that you can’t properly digest in a chronic state of stress? There are two major parts of our nervous system. The sympathetic, which is the fight or flight part of our nervous system, and the parasympathetic, which is for rest and digest. You can only be stimulating one or the other. In a sympathetic state, your body cannot properly activate the salivary glands and it cannot release the appropriate digestive enzymes. This directly decreases nutrient absorption in the gut, no matter how healthy your diet is. This nutrient deficiency impacts your metabolism and causes you to hold on to excess weight.

If any of these points resonate with you, stress is the #1 reason you can’t lose weight. 

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