2. High Cortisol: Persistently elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are very detrimental to your health as well as to your body composition. If you suffer from a mood disorder such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or exhaustion, or if you have a digestive issue such as irritable bowel syndrome, you can bet your body is cranking up your cortisol. Not only does it increase your appetite and cravings, it causes a loss of muscle mass, libido and bone density, and also contributes to depression and memory loss. In other words, chronic stress makes us soft, flabby and much older than we truly are! Study after study shows that stress causes abdominal fat – even in people who are otherwise thin. Researchers at Yale University, for example, found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. More results published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000 established a link between cortisol and increased storage of abdominal fat.
Hormone Diet Solution: Sleep enough and eat at the right times. You must sleep at least 7.5 to 9 hours per night. Sleep deprivation makes us wake up with higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which fuels appetite and increases our cravings, particularly for sugary and carb-laden treats, even when we have eaten enough. Not only does poor sleep pack on pounds, good sleep actually helps you to lose weight by influencing the hormones that control your appetite and increase your metabolism. A 2004 study at the University of Chicago was the first to show sleep as a major regulator of appetite-controlling hormones – it boosts leptin, the hormone that tells you to put down the fork. In the same year, researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine found that subjects who had only five hours of sleep per night experienced an increase in their BMI, regardless of diet and exercise. Also, if your blood sugar levels are on a rollercoaster all day, you can bet your cortisol is as well. You can reduce the stress associated with blood sugar imbalance by eating a high protein breakfast within one hour of rising and avoiding more than a 3-4 hour gap between meals or snacks.