Monday, June 11, 2012

Stress, weight gain and cortisol

I can't remember when I last had a life that I thought wasn't stressful. That's not a complaint -- it's just what is. Even now, 'retired' and without job stress, life is filled with money stress (or, lack-of-money stress), which for me is the worst kind of stress. Fortunately, it's fairly minor because I do have the social security and Medicare cushions, and savings.

Thankfully, I no longer have the daily 'hate the job' stress that I've had for countless years. I don't have to face angry bosses or angry customers or anything of the sort. And that's kind of where I'm going with all this, because while I'm still very much learning to relax, to let go of stress and tension and anxiety and all that ugly stuff, I'm seeing that perhaps something I've heard for years may be true, and that's the stress/cortisol/weight gain issue.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted largely due to stress -- helps the body with the old fight or flight syndrome, as adrenaline does. Excess adrenaline has its own issues within the body, but excess cortisol is known to cause weight gain, particularly belly fat in women. Who's to say that any one thing, even cortisol, has affected the weight issues I've had for 10 years or so, but I'm seeing clearly that now that the big stressors are gone, the weight is coming off. Granted, I'm eating less, foregoing non-necessary foods that taste good but aren't good for us, in favor of nutrition, but for the most part I've always done this. And I've been on similar restricted diet regimens in the past, even as recently as last March, without significant success. And I've certainly exercised as much in the past as I'm doing nowadays with my daily 30 minutes at Curves. But the weight is coming off. I guess the oddest thing is that I haven't made any effort to lose weight, but it's going, so there must be a reason.

On the other hand, the belly fat started coming on when I quit my job in Eugene and moved to Brookings, where life wasn't overly stressful and where I had tons of exercise, hiking the coastal beaches and trails and redwood forests. That kind of blows the cortisol/stress issue, but perhaps not. There was more money stress then, certainly, and I probably drank more coffee then. Coffee (caffeinated or decaf) stimulates cortisol and I've been urged not to drink it. But, coffee simply makes me feel better after drinking it, so I have one lovely cup each morning and let it go at that. The second cup is never as good as the first, anyway.

I can't help but conclude that stress has played a big part in this weight gain, and now loss, and I'm curious to see how low it will go before it levels out. I'm happy with every pound that goes, but I'd be even happier if I can manage to lose another 25.


  1. My weight lose is frozen in ice. I cannot seem to break the 162-164 barrier and I would so like to be 155... Oh well.

  2. I thought mine was frozen too, and it may well be. Time will tell how far this goes.