If you have difficulty managing your waistline no matter how much exercise you do, the answer could be with balancing your cortisol, not increasing your workouts.Cortisol is a hormone related to stress that specifically targets the fat cells in the abdominal area. Constant stress produces chronic levels of cortisol, and this could be the very reason that you continue to battle your waistline.
Cortisol is an alpha hormone which belongs to the glucocorticoid family. Its main jobs are to raise your blood sugar levels, increase your blood pressure and modulate inflammation. Ideally, cortisol levels are higher in the morning and gradually decline throughout the day to allow melatonin, the sleep hormone to rise in the evening.
Our stress response is an appropriate alarm where the body produces a surge of cortisol so we can manage the specific situation. Once we respond and deal with the issue, cortisol should return to normal levels. If the ‘alarm’ never shuts off, your adrenals will continue to produce cortisol putting glucose into your blood and raising your blood pressure. Since the glucose isn’t being used up, (you are sitting at your desk or in traffic, not fighting a dragon) the liver converts the excess glucose into fatty acids and cholesterol. These fatty acids are then stored in your abdominal area for future use. Abdominal fat cells have four times more cortisol receptors than fat cells located in other parts of the body. That means high cortisol contributes to abdominal fat and extra abdominal fat contributes to excess cortisol! A vicious cycle.
Chronically high cortisol levels can also interfere with your sleep. High cortisol at night means lower melatonin, our sleep hormone. This could result in insomnia or a poor night’s sleep. Lack of sleep can increase ghrelin, your hunger hormone, which will then contribute to ‘cravings’.
So, what can you do?
Begin by making small but significant lifestyle changes that can lower your cortisol.
- Chant OM or AUM (ah-ohhhh-ummmm) . https://www.wikihow.com/Chant-Om
- Practice deep breathing. Anywhere, anytime. Slow deep breaths in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. There are many apps that can assist you in learning deep breathing techniques
- Invert pose. Lay with your legs up the wall
- Corpse pose. (Savasana in yoga)
- Limit caffeine and other stimulants
- Practise good sleep habits by limiting screen time prior to bedtime and sleeping in a cool dark room.
- Practice good sleep hygiene by getting to bed at the same time every night, preferably before 11:00pm, turn off screen time 1 hour before bed (that includes your phone) and keeping the room dark.