Theory No. 47 – Stress and Weight

Everyone has a theory about weight gain. Mine (theory No. 47) relates to the connection between unexplained weight gain and stress.

Good reasons for weight gain include an unnatural and unfettered desire for chocolate cheesecake and a disinclination to do any exercise more vigorous than pressing buttons on a remote control. If someone is doing everything ‘right’; that is exercising regularly and following a sensible low fat diet – and they still look like a heifer … that’s when I trot out Theory No. 47.

When stressed our body releases two hormones from the adrenal glands; adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is released by the bucketload when one finds themself stuck on a median strip in the middle of Victoria Rd, dozens of semi-trailers hurtling past either side. Adrenaline is called the ‘flight or fight’ hormone because it readies the body to respond to danger. Thousands of years ago we would have run away or stayed to fight whatever was stressing us, now all we can do is stand still, feel like a twit and fret on the median strip. Adrenaline is the here-and-now hormone, whereas cortisol hangs around like a bad smell.

The drug cortisone is styled on our bodies home-made cortisol. Cortisone is a very effective anti-inflammatory and often used medically to reduce the swelling and pain of arthritis and other conditons. However, one of the side-effects of long term cortisone treatment is weight gain. Theory 47!! Long-term stress equals long-term high levels of cortisol, equals ‘unexplained’ weight gain. When I put this theory to patients, many of them see a direct connection from when their stress started and the beginning of their weight gain. (Other people lose weight when they are stressed. They may be producing more adrenaline than cortisol (in revision for Theory 48).

Long term stress can come from anywhere, including; relationship problems, stress at work, study or financial strain. If possible remove the stress. If this is not practical then there are several herbs and vitamins which stabilise cortisol levels by assisting the adrenal glands. These include vitamin C, the B vitamins in particular B5 and the herbs Licorice (not the licorice allsorts kind of licorice) and Siberian Gingseng. I would also recommend the calming herb, Kava. Try these natural remedies if Theory 47 applies.