Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cortisol and protein

I've often railed about the dangers of the dreaded stress hormone cortisol on these pages, but until now I wrote from study and theory, rather than direct experience. Cortisol comes from stress  -- any kind of stress, physical, mental, emotional, worry, anxiety, poor diets.  All of these things and more can put stress on the body, and the body responds with cortisol. In that respect, it's a good thing. But prolonged stress with prolonged high cortisol levels is downright dangerous. A quick Google search will tell you all you want to know about it. I found this quickly, just to find something to quote here, from a medical professional:
Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function; and weaken your immune system.
And that's just the beginning. But, I'm not going any deeper because exploring cortisol is not the purpose of this blog entry. The purpose is to document a recent experience with my ongoing weight-loss regimen during a period of high stress. I keep great records of this stuff, to help me know what works and what doesn't.

I've been losing weight slowly, but steadily, since February. A few weeks ago, starting with a very stressful meditation retreat and continuing through two or three weeks of personal stress regarding my living situation, everything changed. Regardless of calorie intake, my weight went back up a couple of pounds, fluctuating daily but recorded weekly. Nothing seemed to get it going downward, and I blamed it on cortisol, because of the unusual amount of stress. Starting last Friday, 5 days ago, I also decided to up my protein intake to see if that would help. On Sunday, 3 days ago, the living situation was resolved and the stress lowered. Somewhere over the weekend I noticed the daily scale number going down, and the past three days it has gone steadily down, even though I've been eating far more calories than I try to follow for weight loss. I'm now at the lowest point since February!

How much of it is due to decreased cortisol and how much is due to higher protein is something I don't know, but the combination seems to have worked. The loss was too quick and too steady to be due to anything else, since these were the only things that changed other than higher calories, not all of them healthy calories. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep that scale number going downward. Ten more to go is my mantra these days, regardless of what the scale shows. I don't have a specific number in mind, I just know that for now at least, 10 more is a good thing to aim for. It'll all depend upon how I feel and how I look. I'll know it when I reach it.

Hopefully, the stress level will stay down. I can control the protein intake, although it takes a lot more time and effort to get that and still stay close to the daily calorie intake I want. All I can say about that is thank goodness for Excel! I don't have to do the calculations.

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