One of the most popular pieces of weight loss advice still passed around in conversation is the simple and familiar “just eat less, move more.”
Seems easy enough, right? The less you eat, the less you should weigh over time.
Is it as simple as that or is there more? Spoiler alert: It’s not.
If you’ve stalled in your weight loss, this information may be for you.
Your individual health is unique. How your body responds to the changes you make isn’t simply influenced by “Calories In, Calories Out” math. Your body is influenced by a combination of factors including your health history, environment, lifestyle, and even genes. Health is not one size fits all.
Learn more a biomarker that could be influencing your ability to lose weight.
Spotlight on: Cortisol
Cortisol – What is it?
It’s a hormone! Your body produces it.
What should your levels be?
Your cortisol levels actually fluctuate throughout the day, with the highest levels in the a.m., decreasing gradually throughout the day and reaching a low point in the late evening.
While there will be variation throughout the day, your overall target optimal range is between 2.3 mcg/dL and 19.5 mcg/dL.
What could be impacting your levels?
Stress is the primary factor – emotional and physical. Cortisol is even commonly referred to as the “stress hormone” because your body produces cortisol in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations.
Cortisol plays a central role in glucose metabolism and in the body’s response to stress, from arguments at home, rushing to work, and even a “why did I read the comments” Facebook rage. While a little spike of cortisol is good – and natural – in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often.
As explained by our Medical Director Dr. Murdoc Khaleghi, “Cortisol response is an evolutionary response to an acute stress like having to run from a tiger: Our blood sugar increases to provide energy, and blood is devoted away from our brain and gut and towards our muscles. While helpful acutely, chronically this can lead to elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, be neurotoxic, contribute to ulcers, etc.”
So if you’re spending your days generally freaking out and causing your cortisol levels to be consistently high, the constant influx of insulin over time can cause the body to become more resistant to insulin. When insulin levels go up, we store fat. Thus, too many frequent bursts of cortisol can result in insulin resistance, which impacts your ability to metabolize glucose, storing unwanted fat and belly fat.
Related Marker: HbA1c
Because cortisol can elevate and make blood sugar vary from moment to moment, including when it is being tested, Dr. Khaleghi suggests examining the biomarker HbA1c alongside cortisol testing.
“To remove some of this variation, you can instead test the amount of sugar molecules that have gotten attached to red blood cells, as a measure of average blood sugar. Since blood cells take approximately 120 days to recycle, HbA1c is a measure of average blood sugar over the previous four months.”
Suggestions to positively impact your cortisol levels
- Decrease stress and increase relaxation. You could try a brief, 10-minute meditation in the am when cortisol levels are highest. Don’t underestimate the power of a small moment – a few minutes to get mindful and take a step back could make all the difference on how you jump back into a stressful situation. To get helpful tips on ways to manage stress from arguments, check out Feel an Argument Coming On? Here are 4 Ways to Help Manage Physiological Arousal.
- Avoid over-training and other states of body depletion. Elevated cortisol levels lead to a perpetual catabolic state where muscle is broken down, and fat is stored.
- Get adequate sleep Smooth out your sleep/wake cycle. Setting up a regular bedtime and wake-up time is key. Learn how to make the most of your sleep time with these tips from WellnessFX and WellnessFX Practitioner, Ben Greenfield.
- Avoid caffeinated products. As we just mentioned, getting adequate sleep is important, so easing up on the stimulants can help prevent ruining your sleep rhythm. Related reading: Have you tried these 7 tricks to help you drink more water every day?
Want to Learn More?
In addition to affecting your weight and belly fat, there are many of your body’s normal processes which can be interrupted and negatively impacted by frequent bursts of cortisol. Check out 4 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Cortisol.
Health is not one size fits all, and your body is so much more than calories in/calories out math. It’s all connected.
Your hormones play a key role in controlling your weight. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but just one important biomarker we’ve highlighted today. Let us know in the comments if you want us to dig more into weight loss and your biochemistry!
How WellnessFX Can Help
Insist on seeing the whole picture through regularly asking questions and regularly tracking your health beyond the scale. Then you’ll have the data you need to make informed decisions, which can put you on track to not just better weight loss management, but anything from higher energy and libido, to even better sleep.
WellnessFX Performance, Premium and Women’s Health can test cortisol, the key biomarker mentioned in this post. Or you can create a custom package and add it to a testing panel of your choice. We recommend checking out the full testing menu to see what package fits your needs best.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.