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Cortisol (stress hormone) inhibiting weight loss!

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I have had a lightbulb moment of sorts. I have High Functioning Asperger's, and anxiety literally runs my life. If my body was an engine and it needed fuel -> anxiety would be the fuel. I am in a constant state of fight/flight, incessantly worrying over EVERY LITTLE thing. I cannot explain this state to a lot of people because they just say "well stop stressing!" but it's not as simple, this is some ingrained anxiety that doesn't 'go away.'

I have been trying for a month to stay on my healthy lifestyle. I am eating 1500 cal/day of healthy food, with Curves exercise 3x/week and farm chores 7 days/week as I have horses.  Burn meter reads 2400 if I am just doing farm stuff, and goes up to 2700 when I add Curves.

I lost 4 lbs initially after 2 weeks (Jan 30). But I have lost nothing since then, despite having a 700 - 1000 cal deficit every day, healthy eating, etc etc. By the book I am doing "everything right."

I was browsing around last night and came upon an article about cortisol, the stress hormone, which (1) can cause weight gain <especially around the middle> and (2) will inhibit weight loss even if you're doing everything right because it believes the body needs those reserves.

So I looked up more information and I am convinced that is what is happening to me. I gained a SURGE of weight last spring because of some very unfavorable anxiety situations, and with that surge of weight came hideous stretch marks all over my stomach.

I have not left that anxiety state, so my body is constantly in fight/flight and I believe it is holding onto my fat reserves because it thinks something awful is happening. I wish we could explain to our bodies that there aren't any lions or dangers.

As many of you know from reading my other posts, I'm unemployed and struggling to stay afloat (money-wise). Additionally, I live in a province with a 2000 person wait list for a doctor and an inability to get into a clinic. At that, inability to pay for said possible prescription to help with anxiety.

I have heard St John's wort can help with anxiety/depression, but that it will goof up birth control pills (which I am on).

I need to get ahold of this anxiety, soon, otherwise I am NOT going to lose weight and I am going to become so frustrated.

But I am stressing now about the fact that I am too stressed to lose weight ... it's like a revolving door.

Hot baths, candles, yoga exercises, etc do not help. I have tried. It's a deeper plaguing anxiety..... :(


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I am so, so glad that I read your post.

One of my friends suffers from debilitating stress and anxiety. I have never seen anyone worry or stress out like she does. She's a perfectionist on top of this. It's to the point where our coworkers and supervisors comment on her inability to simply do something without it turning into an ordeal where she has to work nights, weekends and/or take the work home with her. She will spend hours drafting a single email, sweating bullets the whole time. Trying to plan a trip out of town with her (even a simple overnight) makes her break down and say that no one can talk to her about the trip until it's completely planned. Picking a hotel or campground will put her to tears.

None of her anxiety medications seem to be helping. And reading your post makes me wonder if it might not be something other than just ordinary anxiety.  It affects every aspect of her life.

And you mentioned cortisol, the stress hormone, making you gain weight in your stomach, and that's so her. She's very small, everywhere but her belly - people ask if she's pregnant.

I'm so sorry that you're having a difficult time being seen by a doctor and treated for Asperger's. I wish you all the best with your anxiety and with finding a job.

You mentioned that you live in a province with a 2000 wait list to see a doctor. Where do you live?

Jamibunch, your friend sounds much like me. It's possible she has Asperger's as well, since a key component of the disorder is plaguing anxiety.

I live in New Brunswick, Canada. Despite our claims for universal health care, it's pretty impossible to get a doctor and if you don't have health benefits it is impossible fill prescriptions because they cost full price.

I think that's my biggest fear associated with the health care plan that they're proposing here in the state. My husband and I are healthy, but my mother is not. She has Chrone's disease, and when she sick...well, it's frightening enough even being able to immediately see her doctors. I can't imagine if she had to wait, or pay full price for the plethora of medicines she's on.

I was with her one day last week when she was at the Pharmacy to get her Endicort prescription filled. She was a few days (two days) early, and the insurance wouldn't okay it until two days later. For the 11 pills that she needed it was going to be over $100. Her doctor told us that a month's supply of the medicine without insurance was over $800. Who can afford that? People shouldn't have to chose between their medicine and their food.

I don't think we need health care reform. I think we need to set some caps on what the drug companies can clear as a profit margin. I know that R&D costs a lost of money, and so does getting the medicine approved for use, but something has to give when people like my parents (hard working middle middle class people) can't afford their medicine.


//rant off. I know this is a weight loss forum and not a political forum. I just get frustrated sometimes.

People shouldn't have to chose between their medicine and their food.

You think that isn't happening in the States in far greater numbers? I know this isn't a political forum, but have a serious look at the other top developed countries in the world and see how they run their health care. It is a RIGHT, not a priviledge. Rant off.

7sitka7 have you gone to a walk-in clinic to see a dr, if you don't have a personal physician? Those are always available and are paid for by your health insurance. Those dr's will also help you, or refer you to someone to at least get the ball rolling. They also often have samples they can give you, and they will point you in the right direction for subsidies if you cannot afford your medications.

I see you say you can't get into a clinic?? WHY is that? You may have to wait for quite awhile but you will be seen that day. If worst comes to worst, go to the Emerg.  

I was out East this summer and we did notice the high unemployment out there. I myself live in the city in Canada that has the highest unemployment rate in the country! Although still employed, it sure makes for anxiety, so I can certainly see where yours is coming from. 

About the Cortisol....I've heard of that too, but don't know much about it. Not sure if it's a test or something, or if it accepted by the medical community as being a reason for sudden weight gain. Perhaps it calls for more research on our parts?

If things get really bad, I go bury my nose in my horses neck. Sounds like you can do the same. Nothing like that horse smell to get rid of tension!



Iris - in the new city I live in (well I live 20 mins outside the city but anyway...) instead of walk-in clinics they have 'phone ahead' clinics! They are ridiculous! You have a certain time (say 12-1 pm) to call and book an appointment for that afternoon. However, AS SOON as 12 pm hits, the phone lines are BUSY. Busy busy busy everytime you call, and by 1 pm you are out of luck!

Every clinic in this dang city is "phone ahead". My old city had walk-in clinics that, while a hassle to wait, I could get in. but these phone ahead ones are ridiculous.

I'm so sorry to hear that this troubles you so much -- I wish you all the best!

As far as the weight-loss goes, I can see how that Cortisol thing might be related to your weight...however, my guess is that if Cortisol does affect weight, it is very minimal. I can't say for sure, and then again I don't know if anybody has done enough studies to say for sure. Nevertheless, weight-loss help or not, I think it's important for you to search for something that will help with your anxiety.

How about a different perspective? Is it possible you are not eating enough? A lot of people seem to lose better at a 500 calorie deficit. Also, is it possible you are plateuing? Could it be that you are eating more than you think? Is there any chance you may have gained some muscle mass?

My point: there are many, many factors that come into play regarding weight loss or, in your case, the lack of weight loss. I don't think it's smart to put all the blame onto a claim about Cortisol that you read in an article, especially if you don't have the means to find out if you really do have too much Cortisol. In my opinion, the best thing to do is, first of all, try not to be so worried about the Cortisol -- you said it yourself, it's making you MORE anxious!! Second, write a list like the questions I posted above about what could possibly be inhibiting your weight loss, and go from there. Explore the possibilities. Maybe try something new...a new exercise, a new plan, a different calorie goal. Last but not least, come up with solutions for fixing whatever it is on the list that you think might be the culprit and do try to look for ways to ease your anxiety!

Oh, one more thing! You mentioned you are on Birth Control? I have heard that it can cause weight gain. You might want to look into that. Again, though, I wouldn't advise blaming things that may be out of your control unless you really, truly have made sure that nothing you might be doing could prevent you from losing weight.

I googled "Asperger's syndrome cortisol" and all the articles said that people with Asperger's had very low cortisol levels.

I know that cortisol affects the ratio of torso to extremity fat, but I've never heard of it affecting basal metabolism and how much total fat that you gain. I think you may have overestimated your activity level. 2700 cal sounds appropriate for a construction worker that is training for a triathlon when she gets off work.

Do you have a hump of fat high on your back? If your stomach stretch marks are due to excess cortisol, you could have Cushing's disease, unrelated to your Asperger's, and very serious. You really need to see a Dr.

My activity level is set to "light activity", and it goes to 2300 on a "normal" day. Curves is about 300, the horses (2x/day) adds up to about 300...so I don't see how I could have "overestimated."

We are driving 1 1/2 hrs to a walk-in clinic today, hopefully to get my anxiety med...wish us luck...

I live outside Fredericton, New Brunswick and I know they have a few walk in clinics.  I don't know what city you live in but I find it odd that they wouldn't have at least 1 walk in clinic.

We have "phone ahead" clinics. I'm driving up to your area today to get to a walk-in.


But here it's all phone-ahead.

Original Post by 7sitka7:

We have "phone ahead" clinics. I'm driving up to your area today to get to a walk-in.


But here it's all phone-ahead.

Well good luck at the clinic.

Hey! Isn't it "Family Day" today in NB? It is in Ont and it's a Stat which means nothing will be open.  Hopefully, you were able to get in! Please check in!


Original Post by iris2822:

Hey! Isn't it "Family Day" today in NB? It is in Ont and it's a Stat which means nothing will be open.  Hopefully, you were able to get in! Please check in!


No we don't have Family Day in NB.  I thought it was only Ontario and Alberta who have that holiday.

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Just wanted to let you know I am over 50 and seeing a hormore doctore (non-conventional MD).  I have a similiar temperment and have had lots of stress over the years.  It was found that my cortisol was below any normal range, as well as my DHEA.  You could take DHEA over the counter, and that helped.  She assured me no weight loss could take place if those hormones are out of balance.  Unfortunately a fat free diet doesn't help hormones.  I have reduced grains, especially wheat, and added more protein and fat, at my doctor's instruction.  So I am eating 2 whole eggs for breakfast a couple of times a week cooked in extra virgin coconut oil, which I akso add to smoothies.  I sometimes eat it spread on an organic banana.  This has helped my moods and given me lots of energy.  It's hard to break from the status-quo, low fat diet.  But I am finding it effective.  I have been over-exercising and under-eating for years.  It made my mind foggy, my body lethargic and messed me up.  Add lots and lots of veggies, especially green veggies to your diet, and go head and add raw nuts, fatty fish and up to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil a day.  Stay at a calorie deficit, but make it small and see how that goes for you.  I know this is an old post, but if you are anything like me, you still don't have any satisfactory answers. 

Sounds just like Cushing's syndrome.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cushing%27s_synd rome


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