Fitness & Sports

This is the 'stress hormone' that's making you gain weight

Testosterone, estrogen, and leptin are just a few of the hormones that our bodies naturally produce. These hormones allow us to grow muscle, regulate our reproductive systems, and boost our metabolisms so we can lose weight. However, the stress generated by deployment cycles and our hectic schedules causes the human body to also produce a complex stress hormone, called cortisol.

This vital hormone is created by the adrenal glands, which are located just above your kidneys.

Cortisol dictates how your body manages the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that you intake during meals. It lowers the amount of inflammation in your body and is one of the contributing factors to the sympathetic nervous system's "fight or flight" response.

Experiencing chronic stress makes for increased levels of this powerful hormone. Having too much cortisol results in mood swings, "brain fog," interrupted sleep patterns, and increased visceral fat (fat stored within the abdominal cavity).

But don't worry — getting rid of those extra layers on your tummy doesn't have to be difficult.


The infamous pinch test.

If you think your body is having trouble regulating cortisol production, you can go to your doctor and request a saliva test that monitors stress and hormone levels. Even if you don't have stress-induced love handles, this might be a test worth taking. After all, having too little cortisol can also have negative affects on the body. Low cortisol may result in lowered blood pressure, a loss of appetite, and general fatigue.

Home tests are available, but a doctor can better explain the all the details.

Maintaining a healthy cortisol level is as easy as working out a few times per week, improving your social life, and finding time to relax whenever possible. Our bodies weren't designed to endure constant stress, but the occasionally worry sits with us just fine.