Why stress affects weight
Your appetite, weight and energy level are all largely controlled by your blood sugar balance. If your blood sugar rises too high, perhaps as a consequence of eating or drinking too many fast-releasing carbohydrates in a meal or snack, the excess is converted into fat. Your blood sugar then dips, which triggers hunger.
Low blood sugar is perceived as a stress by the body, because without a sufficient supply of glucose – our primary fuel – we cannot function and our brain cannot work properly. So, we produce the stress hormone cortisol to activate the release of glucose stored in our liver and muscles. If these stores are used up, cortisol can also prompt the liver to convert fat – and, when necessary, protein – into sugar for fuel in a process calledgluconeogenesis.
If an imbalance in blood sugar persists – and your life provides plenty of opportunities to trigger the stress response still further – your body understandably thinks you are in the midst of an emergency situation. So, to ensure you are ready to tackle these frequent perceived ‘fight or flight’ scenarios, cortisol stockpiles sources of fuel and locates them around your middle, close to where it can call upon your liver to convert them to sugar when required.
This makes sense if you’re often in a situation that requires you to call upon your energy reserves to enable you to fight or flee. But stress in our modern lives rarely requires us to expend energy as our ancestors did. We don’t even have to stand up to watch the news, fret about the traffic or get caught up in workplace politics, so our energy stores, like us, just sit there.
Three tips for stress reduction
You could follow a full Stress Cure Programme like the one outlined in my book The Stress Cure. But here are a few stress reduction techniques, well-worth trying.
1. Heart Math
The HeartMath system is a scientifically validated way not only to reduce stress but more importantly, to transform the negative emotional and physiological effects you experience when a stressful event occurs.
This is crucial because so many stress-relieving activities focus on relaxation after the event. Yet by the time you wind down, you’ve probably experienced hours of stress and its unpleasant effects. The stress hormone cortisol, for example, stays in your system for hours once it has been released.
To get a full understanding of how this technique could work for you read my Heartmath report.
2. Daily relaxation
Resting and recuperation are not things to fit in when you’ve got time. They are essential to ensure you function at your best. Relaxation activates your parasympathetic nervous system, therefore restoring equilibrium, so find a form of relaxation that appeals to you.
3. Prioritise sufficient sleep
Stress is vital to help you recover from stress and for your body to repair. See my separate report on The Power of Sleep.
Three natural nutrition tips to help weight loss
I’m an advocate for the Low-GL Diet for keeping weight off. But if you’re looking to lose some extra weight, then there are some natural aids. Slimming pills rarely deliver the results they promise, and those that do often act like stimulants, speeding up your metabolism and giving you short-term weight loss but long-term problems. However, there are three nutritional supplements that are extremely effective and therefore recommended if you are trying to lose weight. They are
1. Hydroxycitric Acid (HCA for short)
HCAHCA is extracted from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garciniacambogia), which you may know from Indian and other Eastern cuisine. It works by inhibiting the enzyme that converts sugar (or glucose) into fat – ATP-citrate lyase – thereby slowingdown the production of fat and reducing appetite. Evidence of HCA’s fat-burning properties has been accumulating steadily since 1965. It also has no toxicity or other safety concerns.
2. 5-Hydroxy-Tryptophan (5-HTP)
The two most powerful controllers of your appetite are your blood sugar level and your brain’s level of serotonin, the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter. Serotonin is often deficient, especially in those on weight-loss diets, with a low level frequently leading to depression . . . and increased appetite (which is why many depressed people over-eat). If you are low in serotonin, one of the quickest ways to restore normal levels, and normal mood and appetite, is to supplement your diet with 5-HTP. It also helps to reduce sugar cravings.
For insulin to work properly, it needs a good supply of the mineral chromium. As we’ve seen, many people struggling with weight issues are ‘insulin resistant’, which makes them more prone to storing sugar as fat. The average daily intake of chromium is below 50mcg, while the optimal intake – certainly for those with a weight and blood sugar problem – is around 200mcg or more. (Diabetics can benefit from as much as 600mcg.) Numerous studies have shown more weight loss and/or less appetite when chromium is supplemented. Chromium is found in wholefoods and is therefore higher in wholewheat flour, bread or pasta than in refined products. Beans, nuts and seeds are other good sources, and asparagus and mushrooms are especially rich in it. Chromium works better when taken alongside cinnamon, or more specifically an extract of cinnamon called Cinnulin®.