If you’ve been on a low-carb or paleo diet and are still struggling to lose weight, you may need to look to lifestyle changes to reduce stress in your life. Because the diet is so effective at healing and slimming us, we can often forget that other elements of the lifestyle have a big impact in supporting or thwarting the effort we put into our diet.
Now, our lives have essentially reversed. We experience long periods of low level stress: traffic, office work, over stimulation from the TV, chronic low-level sleep deprivation…and so on. With occasional short periods of peace: yoga, meditation, or an enjoyable book.
Even what we do to relax can stimulate our stress response: action movies, video games, arguments on Facebook, sugary snacks. All of this stimulates the same stress response as a bear chasing us; the same adrenaline surge, heart racing, and release of cortisol. Our bodies don’t have a “high” and a “low” stress setting so the low level chronic stress we experience day to day is the equivalent to our body as having our lives constantly endangered.When everything is working normally, in reaction to a stressor, our body immediately releases CRH which causes the sense of panic and heightens awareness and reaction time. After the first few seconds, our bodies release cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol allows us to expend huge amounts of energy as needed. It can literally burn our muscles for energy. It also initially acts as an antagonist for insulin. So temporarily our cells ignore signals from insulin, dump fat into our blood stream, and break down our muscles for protein for the liver to turn into sugar. This is great if it happens every once in a while in a life-threatening situation. It means we are flooded with the energy we need to get away from and then our appetite is stimulated afterwards so that we eat enough to recover depleted energy stores.
If this happens constantly, however, our cells are constantly being told to ignore insulin which leads to higher insulin resistance. Simultaneously, our muscles are being broken down and the liver is converting the protein to sugar which is then pushed into the blood stream. As sugar is toxic in the blood and our bodies aren’t burning it (sitting in a car in a traffic jam) we have to pump out more insulin to overcome the signals from the cortisol and push the sugar back into our cells to get it out of the blood. This excess insulin continues to increase the cells’ resistance and to block the cells from releasing fat. Remember that the higher our insulin resistance, the more insulin our bodies have to produce to get the sugar out of the blood, and then the more insulin in our bodies encourage our cells to store not to release energy.
After the initial period of stress, cortisol’s function changes. It stimulates appetite and signals the body to replenish energy stores (fat!). If we had just expended a lot of energy trying to escape a bear, this would make sense. But if instead all that happened was our body increasing insulin levels to get the energy back out of our blood stream then we are hit with a double whammy for increased insulin resistance and fat storage.
Life is stressful, how can I take something off my plate?
Modern life is definitely not like the times when we would have had to worry about being chased by the bear. Nor should it be! Modern life doesn’t have to be better or worse, just different. We need to learn to work within our modern constraints to find the best solution for our primal bodies. That might mean a mindfulness class, yoga, turning off the TV earlier, or changing jobs for a better commute.
Take back ownership over your health, weight, and well-being!
Source: Rx Primal Blog