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How Stress Activates The Fat Storing Switches

In part one of the “Uncovering Hidden Weight Loss Obstacles” series we talked about how digestive system imbalances can be one of the most common hidden problems with not being able to lose fat.

The importance of a digestive system cleanse so you can properly assimilate nutrients was addressed as well as some healthy ways to remove metabolic waste prior to starting a fat loss routine.

In part two of this series I’ll be going into detail on how stress can activate your fat storing switches and keep you stuck in a weight loss plateau.

I’m going to come right out of the gate and tell you that stress is probably the most common reason why people don’t lose body fat. The problem is most people don’t fully realize the different types of stress and how they affect the body so it goes overlooked.

Whenever I talk about stress to my personal training clients there’s typically a misconception that I’m talking solely about mental-emotional stress. That can certainly be a piece of the puzzle but there’s way more to it.

The first thing you need to understand is there are different types of stress that the body encounters. The first type of stress is mental-emotional stress like being overwhelmed with issues at work, home, etc.

This is the most obvious form of stress which we typically can spot in our lives. It can certainly be a problem from a weight loss standpoint but I won’t go into a lot of detail on this area. If you’re dealing with excessive mental-emotional stress you have to do the best you can to create balance in your life.

Taking time for yourself to relax, practicing deep breathing, mediation, yoga, leisurely walks, or whatever works for you to take your mind off of life’s worries is essential. It just has to be a priority in your life to offset the stress which is often times out of our control.

The second type of stress is physiological stress which is the hidden variety that we don’t think about as having an impact on weight loss. With physiological stress there are several different factors which can trigger an adrenal imbalance. I’ll review the most common and then explain exactly how stress activates your fat storing switches.

Factors That Create Physiological Stress Which Activate The Fat Storing Switches

Not getting enough sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep your body sees it as physiological stress. Getting deep sleep or REM sleep is essential for the release of powerful fat burning hormones like growth hormone. It’s also essential time for detoxification and the breakdown of metabolic waste.

Bottom line is if you’re not getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep you’re handcuffing your ability to lose weight. Cortisol levels will increase due to the stress and your fat storing switches will be activated.

Digestive imbalances in the GI tract

I’ve gone into a lot of detail on this in previous posts and videos. See my video on foods that are hidden fat loss blockers for more information. As a review, when you’ve disrupted the balance of microflora in your GI tract with eating too many processed and refined foods, sugars, grains, etc, your body has to deal with the acidosis and inflammation that follows.

How does it do it? You guessed it, by releasing cortisol to deal with the stress and inflammation. Fat storing switches activated.

The GI tract becomes a breeding ground for overgrowth of yeast, fungus, and you become more susceptible to parasitic infections. At the same time your body becomes unable to fully assimilate nutrients and you start literally starving yourself at the cellular level.

Left unchecked, you can start passing toxins and metabolic waste through the GI tract into your bloodstream, further creating more stress and hormonal imbalances.

Consuming processed and refined foods

This ties right back into the digestive imbalances in the GI tract. You simply cannot create the right environment in your GI tract by consuming things like Lean Cuisines, diet sodas, and the like.

It doesn’t matter how low-calorie something might be. You need to stop thinking about calories and start focusing on supporting your metabolism and getting your body the nutrients that it needs.

Hormonal imbalances
This could be an entire article all on itself. For the purpose of this discussion just understand that the entire endocrine system is an integrated with hormone levels from one gland affecting all the others. You eat an unhealthy diet and develop pancreatic hormone imbalances like insulin resistance and it’s going to affect the adrenals and so forth.

Prolonged calorie restrictive diets
Here’s the area where most dieters screw up. Restricting calories to signal your body to call on fat reserves for fuel certainly works, but only for a short period of time. Do it for too long and you kick in a primal famine response. Most everyone knows about the “starvation response” where your body holds onto fat when calories are restricted too much for too long. But do you know what’s really happening?

When the primal famine response is turned on your body sees it as stress. A series of hormonal changes occur to deal with the lack of available energy. Thyroid hormone decreases to slow down the metabolism, cortisol increases from the adrenals to provide emergency energy, growth hormone decreases, testosterone decreases, and the list goes on.

You get into what’s called a “catabolic state” where muscle tissue can start to breakdown and everything revolves around holding onto vital energy reserves (fat) for survival. It’s the exact opposite of what you want happening.

The key to dieting is having frequent re-feeds or breaks where the metabolism and hormonal balances can be boosted back up which allows the body to start tapping into fat again. When you’re stuck in a weight loss plateau, the worst thing you can do is further restrict calories, which is what most people try doing. I’ll provide more detail on exactly how to do this in a future article.

Over-training, excessive exercise without adequate recovery
More common with athletes or those obsessed with exercise. When you don’t allow enough time for recovery the body sees it as stress and once again drives more cortisol from the adrenals. Fat storing switches will be turned on.

Calorie restrictive dieting combined with excessive exercise is one of the leading causes of metabolic slowdown in women who try to starve themselves and do marathon cardio sessions to lose weight. It works for a little while but then the catabolic state starts to break down muscle tissue leading to a “skinny fat” appearance.

Not all medications create a stress response in the body but a lot of them taken over a long period of time can lead to an acidic state in the body resulting in stress and inflammation. Many medications like steroidal types and anti-depressants can affect hormonal balances which promote weight gain or difficulty losing weight. I’ll discuss this in more detail in a future article but just know medications can be a piece of the puzzle.

Excessive toxins (alcohol-tobacco)
This should be obvious but toxins in the body are nothing more than stressors. They create an acidic state resulting in inflammation and increased cortisol production. You simply won’t be very good at losing fat if you have an excess of toxins in your body.

Excessive caffeine (over-stimulation of adrenals)

Another big reason why the adrenals get over-taxed and produce too much cortisol. Coffee is not necessarily a bad thing but too much caffeine will over-stimulate the adrenals resulting in a cortisol imbalance. A cup or two a day is not going to have that much impact. But if you’re drinking more than that you’ll need to take a hard look at cutting back if you want to lose weight.

Infection (parasitic, H-pylori, candida, gum disease, mouth infection, etc)
Hidden infections can pose a real problem with weight loss. The reason is simple. Infections are dealt with by your body with hormonal changes to fight invaders at the cellular level. This is stress, plain and simple. Your body under stress will look to store more fat to deal with the increased toxins and metabolic waste.

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So as you can see there are numerous factors which can promote stress in your body. What they all have in common is they activate the fat storing switches. If you’re stuck in a weight loss plateau you need to drill down and look for possible hidden physiological stressors. No amount of further dieting or increased exercise will help. In fact, as you’ve learned, it can make it worse!

A body in balance is a body that loses fat, plain and simple. You need to take a holistic approach with weight loss by first focusing on eating a diet of whole, natural foods, getting plenty of rest, having balance, and doing regular physical activity.

There may be specific areas that need to be addressed like hormonal balances but many times they can be corrected with the protocol I just laid out.

There are no shortcuts to having the lean, strong, toned, healthy body you desire. A foundation of health must be laid if you expect to see long-term lasting results.

Remember this takes time so be patient with yourself. The length of time will depend on the amount of detoxification and tissue regeneration that needs to take place. The principals that work however will always stay the same.

Going down this road alone can be a tough thing which is why a coach and a mentor can be so valuable. If you’re struggling with weight loss I’m here to help.

It’s what we do everyday at Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Our specialty is on weight loss and body transformation using Primal Blueprint diet strategies, burst training, and holistic approaches to renew health.

I’d be happy to help in any way so don’t hesitate to contact me for assistance. As we continue this series on “Uncovering Hidden Weight Loss Obstacles” I’ll be addressing the issue of water consumption and hydration next.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. You can receive a free no-obligations consultation and trial of his Charleston personal training programs to experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Fat Loss.