General

Stress & Cortisol Can Lead to Belly Fat & Weight Gain

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Join the Conversation: What’s your favorite way to relieve stress? Share your thoughts now.
Stressed out? Struggling with excess weight?
StressIf you’rve been stressed out and you’ve gained weight, you want to learn about cortisol, which is caused by stress and its role in both weight gain and infuriating belly fat.
Here are some answers to questions you may have about the stress-cortisol-weight gain connection.
How does too much cortisol make you gain weight?
We normally think of cortisol as being released from our adrenal glands in “fight-or-flight” situations when we don’t have control of a situation or it’s threatened.
It raises our heart beat and gives us a burst of energy. Yet, there is a second even result relating to cortisol, which is related to the ‘defeat’ response, which occurs when stress is prolonged.
“Although the stress pathways work together,” wrote a team of exercise science professors at the University of New Mexico, “they each can uniquely affect the function of bodily processes.
“The ‘defeat’ response {when stress is prolonged} can lead to enhanced lipogenesis (fat creation), visceral obesity (deep abdominal obesity), breakdown of tissues, and suppression of the immune system.”
In short, stress and your elevated levels of cortisol can make you fat.
More specifically, cortisol is a steroid hormone, which has the ability to move fat in your body from storage deposits directly into the fat cells located in your abdomen.
Plus, the more cortisol you secrete over extended periods of time, the more you engorge fat cells in your abdomen to create belly fat.
Not only that, but cortisol “also indirectly influences appetite by regulating other chemicals that are released during stress such as cortiocotrophin releasing hormone, leptin, and neuropeptide Y,” the New Mexico research team noted.
Does abdominal fat attract more abdominal fat due to stress reactions?
The short answer is yes! Another study, this one from a team of health psychologists at the University of California, San Francisco, researched 59 premenopausal women, about half of whom had a high waist-to-hip ratio (abdominal fat) and half, who had a low ratio.
Over four days, all the women were exposed to stressful test situations and had their cortisol secretions measured. Women with a high abdominal fat reported more chronic stress and “secreted significantly more cortisol” than women with lower abdominal fat.
The study authors concluded that “stress-induced cortisol secretion” contributes to central body fat and this fat distribution, in turn, “relates to greater psychological vulnerability to stress and cortisol reactivity.”
Physicians at the MedicineNet website label this cortisol-induced abdominal fat “toxic fat” because its buildup in this part of your body “is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.”
What are proven methods to control cortisol and reduce belly fat?
It’s a one-two punch in the gut, so to speak. You need to manage your stress so cortisol doesn’t continues to inflate your abdominal fat cells, and you need to adopt a dedicated exercise program that not only burns calories, but also helps to manage stress levels.
“Many types of aerobic and anaerobic exercise have been shown to be effective interventions in reducing or managing stress,” observed Len Kravitz, Ph.D., an exercise science expert at the University of New Mexico.
“Some of the popular ‘mindful’ exercise programs such as yoga and Tai Chi are also recommended for stress management. medditation, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, and visualization are methods that can be effective in decreasing stress-induced symptoms. Also, eating right and getting enough rest should be incorporated in a stress management plan for life.”
Join the Conversation: What’s your favorite way to relieve stress? Share your thoughts now.

Beyond Sugar Shock

Why We Overeat: The Toxic Food Environment & Obesity

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Join the Conversation. What is your biggest Ahah! from this video, “Why We Overeat: The Toxic Food Environment and Obesity”? Talk to us now.
Do you or your loved ones overeat? Have you or your family members been gaining unwanted excess weight? Are you concerned about our obesity crisis?
To gain insights into why two-thirds of people are getting fatter and fatter and sicker and sicker, I urge you to watch a video of this fascinating panel discussion, “Why We Overeat: The Toxic Food Environment & Obesity,” thanks to the Harvard School of Public Health and the Huffington Post.
I’m so excited that I came across this video while doing research for my next book, Tame Your Crazy Cravings™.
This program presented an illustrious panel, which included:
Walter Willett, Chair, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, and Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition
David Kessler, Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco; and Author, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
Dariush Mozaffarian, Associate Professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School and
Michael Rich, Director, Center on Media and Child Health, Boston Children’s Hospital
The modferator of “Why We Overeat” was moderated brilliantly by Meredith Melnick, Editorial Director for HuffPost Healthy Living.
This program has many fascinating points, and I urge you to watch through it for the entire time.
In particular, I urge you to pay attentiont to these fascinating comments from Dr. Mozaffarian:
“Now sugar, I agree that sugar is a problem, but sugar is no greater a problem and then totally unsweetened refined grains. And the worry I have about just focusing on sugar, it gives the refined grains, it gets them off the hook.
“So white bread, all refined cereals that have no added sugar at all, they say zero sugar on the panel, those are just as bad. And when we’ve looked at populations of hundreds of thousands of people, the weight gain associated with Skittles is exactly the same weight gain that is associated with Corn Flakes or white bread or a bagel. So to think that a bagel, that has no sugar, is different than candy is really misleading. …”
Also, I invite you to keep watching to check out the second video (at 59:00) from the HBO film, Weight of the Nation, .where you can discover which beverages contain the most sugar content, thanks to The WATCH Nutrition Clinic.
I’d love to hear what you think about this video.
Join the Conversation. What is your biggest Ahah! from this video, “Why We Overeat The Toxic Food Environment & Obesity”? Talk to us now.

Announcements

Snacks at the Office Can Derail You

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Check out this really timely, important op piece, “The High Cost of Free Office Snacks,” by New York Times contributor Ezekiel J. Emanuel.
For years — basically, since 1998 when I quit sugar — I’ve been irked by this phenomenon of offering sugary “treats” galore at company offices and meetings.
What I’ve found discouraging is that sweet “treats” — candies, cookies, cake, and soda — also are often offered at conferences intended to make you a better blogger, speaker, and author. But when you eat all that junk food, you’ll have trouble thinking straight and may not be able to remember all those good tips! And, of course, mindlessly noshing can also lead to challenges with your waistline if you don’t already have them.
Kudos again to Ezekiel J. Emanuel for getting people’s attention to an important topic.

Announcements

Connie’s Confession: I’m a Health Hypocrite! Help Each Other

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Normally, I don’t reveal my vulnerabilities here, on this Sugar Shock Blog. Nor do I share a personal plight, but today, I feel a need to confess to you that I feel like the ultimate Health Hypocrite.
Sure, I eat healthy, wholesome, real foods. Yes, I religiously avoid sugary foods and carbs — and have since 1998 with only a handful of very minor infractions. I don’t even smoke anymore. (Inhaling two packs of cigarettes is a thing of the past.) What’s more, I’ve been shunning caffeine since a doctor suggested I do so more than a decade ago. And I don’t even chew sugar-less gum or eat candies with artificial sweeteners anymore. In addition, I’ve triumphed over my diet soda slugging. Plus, I’m huge exercise aficionado. But feeding my body well and moving just aren’t nearly enough.
Sleep My body craves — as does yours — ample sleep. We desperately need those zzzzzz’s.Otherwise, I’m headed for sniffles, sneezing, coughing and congestion.
Well, lately — especially in the last week — I haven’t walked my talk. Despite the fact that I know about the wonders of a good night’s sleep and I’m even mentioning it as a “Smart Diet Habit” in my next book, I skimped on sleep myself last week. Now that I’m a health coach, I’m not going to indulge in self-blame. Rather, I’m going to use this realization as an opportunity.
The irony is that lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about and striving to do excellent self-care, because of my training as a health counselor and life coach and because I’ve been completing Cheryl Richardson’s fabulous book, Take Time for Your Life, which was required reading for my life coaching program through iPEC.
I even just bought Cheryl Richardson’s latest book, The Art of Extreme Self-Care, this weekend at this remarkable Hay House ouse Movers & Shakers conference. Both books have motivated me to think a lot about how we all will benefit if we devote ourselves wholeheartedly to treating ourselves with respect and reverence, even it it means we have to let go of current projects and disappoint people.
Well, despite my commitment to treating myself right, last week, I neglected my needs when it came to snoozing. You see, I felt compelled to help you you a lot this month.

Beware of Hidden Sugars

Thanksgiving: How Not to Pig Out

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People often wonder how to make it through Thanksgiving without pigging out on sweets and quickie carbs and going into sugar shock.
They don’t want to wake up having gained weight, feeling fuzzy-headed and moody.
Just think: Wouldn’t it be nice to feel happy and self assured that you didn’t cave into those candied yams, pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes?
So today’s Tip of the Week will offer you three simple tactics to put into action at your Thanksgiving meal:
1. Imagine What If… Just think about how you’ll feel the day after Thanksgiving if you allowed yourself to have some “treats. Would you feel angry and disappointed at yourself? Would you lose self-respect? Would you feel discouraged that you couldn’t control yourself? My clients say that all of the above emotions would hit them—and hard. So before you put those Thanksgiving “goodies” into your mouth, just “Imagine What If…”