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Stress and Weight Loss

Stress greatly impacts our bodies, so it is no surprise that our waistlines are not immune to its effects. But what exactly is happening in our body’s to allow this? In order to make the most of our weight loss efforts, it is important to understand how our bodies respond to stress and the impact it has on body composition.

It has been found that wellness programs targeting stress management in the workplace reduced weight more so than dietary changes. It has also been concluded that those with diet-induced obesity have structural changes in the area of the brain that regulates the body’s hormones, the hypothalamus. Changes within the hypothalamus, rather than the amount of food consumed, causes weight gain after a diet. In order to maintain weight loss, it is critical to support the optimal functioning of the body’s hormones through the hypothalamus.

There are other factors that affect our ability to lose weight and, in turn, our hormones. Sleeping just one hour less per night reduces melatonin and stimulates cortisol production. Cortisol is a hormone released in the body in response to stress. Studies have revealed that those who supplemented with melatonin experienced greater weight loss and an improved lipid profile (blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels) with no change in calorie consumption.

Cortisol, one of our most potent stress hormones, blocks the release of leptin from adipose (fat) tissue. Leptin is a hormone released by our fat tissue which plays a role in appetite and body weight. Blocking leptin leads to an insatiable appetite, a reduction in the rate of fat burning and increased cravings in between and after meals.

Cravings can also be helpful in identifying changes that need to be implemented to achieve weight loss goals. Cravings for cheese, nuts, chips and alcohol indicate a possible dopamine deficiency whereas sugar cravings indicate serotonin deficiency. Both of which are neurotransmitters that influence a healthy weight when at optimum levels. Further investigation into optimizing our body’s amino acid levels (which affect neurotransmitter balance) can help to achieve weight loss goals.

What can we do to change these facts? It appears that what you eat and when you eat can retrain your body’s optimum hormonal and metabolic balance. Retraining the hormones and messengers in your body allows you to cheat without consequences. It takes 8 to 12 weeks to retrain the body. In a normal metabolic state, 40 percent of incoming calories are directed to the muscle, liver and blood. Only 10 to 20 percent is directed there in a stressed metabolic state. The process of retraining hormones ensures that the body is burning fuel, building muscle and storing as little fat as possible.

For over a decade, Dr Patton has run a successful practice with her partners and team at the Mountainview Wellness Centre in South Surrey, chosen as the best Naturopathic Clinic in Surrey and White Rock; to learn more, visit: