Anything from stress and anxiety to overexercising and a diet high in foods that lead to inflammation forces the body to release increased amounts of the hormone cortisol, which is directly linked to fat storage (the fat usually sticks to the waistline).
When cortisol levels spike, sugar and carbohydrate cravings become present, telling us to eat sweets even if we are not hungry for them. According to Dr. Vincente Mera, head of internal medicine and anti-aging at Sha Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain, cortisol (just like insulin) is responsible for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates, fat and proteins. High cortisol levels contribute to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight because the production of muscle-building hormones slows down, so less calories are burned.
- Cortisol raises when we are stressed, and the best way to lower it is to get moving (exercise) because nonprescription supplements are not effective,” says Danine Fruge, MD, associate medical director and women’s health director at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami.
- Find a way to relax and de-stress. “Deep breathing helps calm your body’s stress response so your cortisol levels are less likely to spike,” says Dr. Fruge.
- Getting enough sleep each night is key to keeping cortisol levels manageable.
- Make sure you eat breakfast every morning—cortisol levels are higher during this time, and if blood sugar levels drop from not eating, the body makes more cortisol—and don’t go more than a few hours between meals.
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