There’s lots and lots of reasons we hold on to excess weight that we don’t want (or need). Ugh. So annoying, I know!
I’ve been through a weight loss battle myself for years. And while weight isn’t the most important thing- we want to make sure we are our healthiest, of course- it is true that weight can affect everything from our self esteem to our energy levels and our health. So it’s important that we discuss some of the aspects that can hold us back in our weight loss goals, including some sneaky ones.
And one of those sneaky ones is….cortisol.
What the heck is corisol anyways?! Cortisol is a hormone that plays a big role numerous functions in our body, but particularly in the relationship between stress and weight gain and how well we sleep. Yes, cortisol is a major factor in our everyday lives!
Cortisol is often called the stress hormone. It is also a hormone that leads to weight gain—specifically in the belly area—which is susceptible to this specific type of fat accumulation. I know. Our LEAST favorite place where we want fat to stick. Not only does it create unwanted “muffin top” hangover over the edges of our skinny jeans, and is the cause of us having to delete countless bad belly angle photos, but it’s also terribly dangerous, health-wise. So check this out…
What’s interesting about stress is that sometimes we don’t notice how much it adds up from all kinds of daily life sources that are always just around. It’s not just traffic, for instance, but the traffic and your kids being super loud, AND long lines at the grocery store with the music blaring, and being so busy you forget the gas light has been on for 2 days and you run out of gas and are stranded on the side of the road (this just happened to me a few days ago :( ), and have to attend another obligatory work/school evening function when you’re exhausted…the list goes on and on! And it all adds up.
Also, our blood sugar levels fluctuate as well from our stress, which has such a huge effect on us. There are so many ways that we need to be nourished and pay attention to our lifestyle, beyond what we’re eating. But when it comes to food, what you eat is just as important because what you’re exposed to can affect your blood sugar levels.
All these things combined lead to a chronic stress condition that can lead to higher levels of cortisol. And higher levels of cortisol can turn can turn into extra weight gain.
The adrenal glands are our fight or flight organs—designed to burst us into react mode from thousands of years ago if we ran into a tiger or a bear. You would get into this really high adrenaline alert mode, where you transcend your normal physical limits, and take an action that might be life-saving. It serves a very specific purpose. By the way, did I ever tell you about how I had to run from the wild elephant in Sri Lanka last August? That’s another story. :)
The problem with chronic stress is that it shifts us into more of this fight or flight mode almost all the time. We’re living in this high-stress fight or flight—scared, afraid, and anxious state. It’s very subtle, but that subtle all-the-time-stress is truly exhausting and take a major toll on our bodies and hormones.
When you really tax your adrenals, whose role is to regulate cortisol, they have a harder time doing their job. And when cortisol regulation breaks down, you find your levels shooting up.
With the elevated cortisol levels comes a bunch of other problems—belly fat, sleep issues like insomnia, general tiredness… that’s when the intense sugar or caffeine cravings to help get through the afternoon really kick in. And those things are not great for our weight either, as you know!! (Caffeine has to be processed by your liver and also taxes your adrenals). So it just goes round and round in a vicious cycle.
So what can we do about all this, and still live in the modern world that we do?! Don’t worry. There are solutions! And they include…
What we’re really talking about here has to do with over-stimulation of the nervous system. The nervous system is connected to the endocrine system and the immune system. I’ve even asked my Ayurvedic teachers what the most anti-aging practice is in Ayurveda—which is the sister science to yoga and the oldest medical system in the world.
Both teachers said incorporating an Abhyanga practice—which is a specific type of warm oil massage that you do to yourself daily. This practice of massaging yourself and making contact with the skin soothes your nervous system and adrenals. When your nervous system is soothed, Ayurveda believes you will not age as quickly. Interesting, right? Deepak Chopra and I discuss this in greater length, in our new book Radical Beauty, along with so much other great and useful info. Please get your copy today if you haven’t yet!
When your hormones get out of whack and your immunity drops and inflammation builds, this inevitably leads to accelerated aging. Our bodies were meant to function for survival—reacting for survival and putting ourselves into a safe space. By adding this soothing massage into your life, you will be assisting your nervous system to regulate itself, which helps balance cortisol levels.
I’ve seen a growing interest in meditation- which I think is amazing! As you know, I’m super into meditation and it’s saved me in many ways. It’s made me a calmer, more patient and all around joyful person for sure. I practice Kriya Yoga, taught by Paramahansa Yogananda, morning and evening. Meditation may feel restless at first, which is more than normal. I think it’s true for everyone on the planet when they start out! You may wonder, “Is this doing anything? I’m just sitting here thinking the whole time.” But over time, and especially when you incorporate some techniques, it gets easier and quieter and starts to increase your peace, understanding and creativity throughout all parts of your life. It’s truly life-changing! But again, it is a practice that takes time to cultivate and reap the benefits.
Meditation has been proven scientifically to help reduce cortisol levels as well. Because of it’s ability to help reduce stress, and just because I think people want to feel happier and more blissful in general, meditation ranks really high on the list of (oftentimes number one on the list), of habits that people want to develop. Pranayama yoga breathing techniques can be included, in that, they are also extremely effective in reducing stress cortisol levels.
This growing awareness to feel more at peace and to feel a more natural joyfulness in our life is becoming more prevalent, which I think is amazing. Your meditation practice can definitely help to support this growing peace and joy in your life.
And the best part is that you don’t need anything from the outside. It all can come right from within you. You don’t need anything else.
If you want some basic tools and techniques to get started with a meditation practice, click here!
Adaptogens are another subject I love to talk about because they increase your resistance to stress, anxiety and fatigue. If you haven’t checked out my Fighting the Damaging Effects of Stress with Adaptogens blog, please check it out so you can learn about these amazing plants and herbs that help you body and adrenals deal with stress, and other powerful benefits.
Below is a list of smoothies where I have included some of these adaptogens and where I talk at length about their benefits and how you can add them to your beauty routine.
Check out the list below:
- Chocolate Yellow Maca
- Blueberry Tulsi Smoothie Recipe
- Tropical Ginseng Smoothie
- Strawberry Banana Ashwaganda Smoothie Recipe
- Strawberry Rhubarb Red Maca Smoothie
- Goji Chia Seed Smoothie
These adaptogens have been used for centuries in ancient wisdom traditions like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (which are anchored in the belief that life should flow effortlessly), allowing each one of us to reach our true potential for health, productivity and creativity without all the struggle.
Start incorporating them into your lifestyle to stay aware and stay mindful of the ways they improve your health and help you with stress!
So while we can’t change the outside world and ALL the myriad stressors and events coming at us, we can fortify ourselves from the inside out so we are stronger and more resistant. These are a few powerful ways to nurture yourself that will make a big difference, as well as of course striving to eat the Beauty Detox way with tons of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Progress not perfection! Do your best, every day, and your efforts will certainly add up.
Take care of yourself, because you are amazing and deserve it. Sending you so much love!