I was talking to a client the other day and she said, “I’m practically embalmed in HRT, creams and gels…and still can’t drop a pound. Why?”
This client is a super busy woman who has been dealing with a15 lb. weight gain for 5 years. One thing she said to me was “I know how to diet, but I don’t know how to eat.”
She and I have been working together for about a month. In that time we have broken her cycle of dieting and she feels confident about eating again. However the scale hasn’t moved.
So I asked her “how would you describe your relationship to stress?”
That one question completely changed the trajectory of our work. We moved from being eating focused to lifestyle focused.
Why did that one question matter? Because her answer empowered her to make a few changes that turned things around pretty quickly.
Restrictive dieting, stress and even intense exercise can make it harder to make the scale move due to how they impact hormones.
When we experience stress, our adrenal glands secrete the hormone cortisol.
If we are under chronic stress, it contributes to chronically elevated levels of cortisol. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol signal the body to store fat causing symptoms like weight gain.
When it comes to exercise, overtraining can do the same thing as chronic stress.
Intense exercise, especially at midlife and beyond elevates cortisol levels and contributes to fat accumulation.
The following symptoms might indicate you have a cortisol imbalance:
- weight gain (especially around the belly) or difficulty losing weight
- increased appetite
- sleep difficulties
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- gastrointestinal upset like constipation, bloating, or diarrhea
- problems with memory and concentration
- low libido
- irregular menstruation and ovulation
- slow recovery from exercise
So how can you turn things around? Maybe one of the following might help:
Learn how to recognize and manage your stress.
Finding a some type of stress reduction practice that is meaningful for you is critical to a balanced metabolism in the long term.
My “go to” stress management tool is simply focused breathing. If you’d like to learn how to manage your stress with your breath, click here for a FREE resource full of simple techniques that will help you.
Get optimal sleep.
Cortisol secretion follows a natural 24-hour cycle, peaking in the morning and declining during the day. To maintain this cycle, it is important to go to bed at a consistent time before 10 pm and get at least 7-9 hours of good-quality sleep.
Pay attention to light.
Avoid blue light from screens a few hours before bedtime and try to expose yourself to 5-10 minutes of natural sunlight first thing in the morning. These help to keep cortisol levels balanced in their natural cycle.
Exercise, but don’t overdo it.
Regular enjoyable exercise can improve sleep quality, reduce stress, and help to lower cortisol and weight over time. Mindful forms of movement like essentrics, yoga and tai chi can be especially useful in managing stress and balancing cortisol levels.
Herbs like ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, and astragalus are adaptogens that are calming and help the body adapt to stress. When used appropriately, they can help modulate and rebalance cortisol.
When it comes to getting your hormones on track so you can lose weight and feel your very best, changing your relationship to stress is key.
More to come next week,