Hormones could be hindering your weight loss plan. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone is normally high in the morning and naturally declines throughout the day. When we were hunters and gatherers cortisol was the hormone that signaled the body to slow down and store fat in stressful times of famine. Today’s stress usually has nothing to do with famine but the body’s response is the same. Cortisol is released and fat storage is encouraged. Since we are not in famine and continue to eat, perhaps high calorie foods, weight gain is the result. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated due to constant stress, health problems can arise. The weight gain due to this is most often around the body’s mid-section. This type of fat is known as visceral fat. It doesn’t lie beneath the surface of the skin but surrounds the abdominal organs and is strongly correlated to heart disease. Stress that is not managed keeps cortisol high. Excess cortisol also causes lack of sleep. Poor sleep also throws off two key appetite regulating hormones called leptin and ghrelin. When one is sleep derived the body decreases leptin, which is an appetite suppressant that tells us when we are full and increases ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant that tells us when to eat. Therefore when one is sleep deprived the body is signalling to eat even when it is not necessary. Managing stress can help balance cortisol, leptin and ghrelin levels and help you maintain a healthy weight. Exercise can help manage stress. Aerobic activities such as running, swimming or cycling help prevent heart disease and they tire you out therefore promoting better sleep habits. Mind/ body activities such as yoga and meditation teach methods to calm the mind, reduce anxiety and manage modern day stress.
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. All foods, not just sugary ones, are broken down to blood glucose to be stored in muscle cells to be used for fuel during activity. This worked great in the past. We had stored energy for when we needed to work to get food. We don’t need that today. Food is plentiful and we don’t need to work to get it. Blood glucose gets too high due to overeating. Muscle cells reach capacity and the body is unable to release enough insulin to bring sugar levels down. Weight gain occurs and this weight gain also goes right to the mid-section. As we age our bodies also becomes resistant to insulin which means the body must try to compensate by releasing more insulin . If the blood sugar is already high and the body is resistant to the insulin being released, blood sugar levels will not be managed. Weight gain results. Type II diabetes can also result due to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. There are many other serious health issues that come with diabetes if it is not managed.
Exercise will improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Type II diabetes can be managed with regular activity and a healthy diet. Exercise burns blood glucose as fuel therefore reducing it without the need for insulin. A brisk walk after dinner can help reduce blood sugar levels for someone with type II diabetes. Manage your health busting hormones with a variety of activities on a regular basis!