Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cortisol, Stress, and Buried Alive

Picking up the pieces of my life...
I can't really go into the details, but I've been under a lot of stress over the last several months. So much so that I started biting my nails again, a habit I gave up more than a year ago. It is, of course, the reason why I have been unable to get the weight off. Why is that you ask? The reasons are twofold:

1. I am a stress eater. When I'm stressed out, I self-medicate with food. I didn't actually realize that I had been doing this until it was the middle of June and I had put back on 8 of the 10 lbs that I lost since starting the Redbook Experiment. My workouts were just as intense and frequent, but my stress eating was out of control.

2. Stress effects cortisol levels. This is something that my friend Shan reminded me of. I was griping about how hard I was working and how I was counting every calorie to try to fix the mess I made from stress-eating in June only to have minimal to no results, when she pointed out that I was/am stressed out. I felt kinda stupid and had one of those "duh" moments.

It's the truth.
I'm very stressed out. I'm dealing with something right now that I can't give details on, but can be compared to being buried. I feel like I have been living life buried underground, only I had grown accustomed to it and adapted. Recently, I discovered that I don't have to buried. I caught  glimpse of my life above ground, and now have to begin working to dig out of this grave. Hopefully with this new revelation, some of the stress I feel of the "unknown" will be lifted. One can only hope. (sorry for being so cryptic)

Meanwhile my cortisol levels are off the chart, therefore making it more difficult for me to focus, my blood sugar is all wonky, and [sigh] I gain weight (especially in the belly).

Perhaps you're one of those who thinks I'm making up excuses for my laziness and lack of self-control, but to you I say, "Screw you. You don't know what I'm dealing with. And as far as laziness is concerned, if you could see how hard I work--for the past few weeks I've been running stairs for 45 minutes 3x a week  (a workout provided by Padma Lakshmi via the Jan. issue REDBOOK, which is workout that is the bane of my existence, yet showed the most results) and training for another 5K too."

Whew. What a mouthful. In anycase, here are the results of my weigh-ins over the last several weeks. (Remember how I'm still in the Xocai weight loss challenge? Two weeks left.)

Thursday, June 30th
Weight: 171.2 (This is always about 4-5 lbs more than what my scale says, b/c I weigh myself at the beginning of the day in my skivvies. The Xocai weigh-ins are at 8pm and I can't show up in my undies to weigh-in. That'd be AWKWARD.)
Waist: 36" (This is different than where I was measuring for The Redbook Experiment. I had always measured at the smallest part of my waist, and the Xocai rep measures us around the bellybutton, which is slightly wider than where I measure.)

Thursday, July 7th
Weight: 169.4
Waist: 34 and 3/4"
Total Results: - 1.8 lbs and - 1.25" off the waist

Thursday, July14th
Weight: 170.4
Waist: Forgot to get this measured
Total Results: - .8 lbs.

Thursday July 21th
Skipped Weigh-in

Thursday July 28th
Weight: 169.2
Waist: 32 and 1/2"
Total Results: - 2 lbs. and - 3.5" off my waist.

It seems as though I'm losing way more in inches than lbs. I'm sort of OK with that.
I'd rather have both. =)
I have 2 more weigh-ins. I hope to lose at least another 5 lbs and 2-3 more inches. We'll see. I'm reigning in the stress-eating. I just hope the cortisol cooperates too. 


  1. I am in the same place...overwhelming stress, no self control and I love the "screw you" comment - most people have not a clue about how it is.

    How do you measure cortisol?

    Thanks for this post, its nice knowing I'm not the only one.

  2. I have a very scientific way of measuring cortisol. I count the number of times I ate out during the week. If it's 0-1, then I'm fine. If it's 2-5, that's a tad high, and if it's 5+ then I KNOW I'm uber stressed and something's wrong outside of my regular stress.

    I'm just kidding. I don't know how to measure it. As far as I know you can only measure it by getting a blood or urine test. As far as at home remedies...[shrug] the fast food test doesn't seem that far off.

  3. I love your stinkin' guts. Since I don't have a magic wand, that's what I've got to offer. It's hard to see people you love struggle. So I'll love your guts, listen a lot and keep you away from peanut M&Ms :)

  4. Thanks, Shan! So far, I've managed to get things under control for the past 2-3 weeks. Hopefully the scale will be forgiving. And keep me away from Chinese food to. No "off-button" for Chinese food either.

  5. okay, i'm not doubting the stress sabotage--I totally agree with it. But maybe the xochai diet isn't that great either? your numbers seemed better before you started it.

    Last spring I was dieting and a certain person acted like it was sooo easy to lose weight that I got mad and said outloud. "I'll show him. I'll work really hard and hardly lose anything." A month later I had lost 1/2 a pound, even though I was doing cardio an hour a day and keeping my calories below 1800--which is uber hard for me.

    I realized that maybe I had subconsiously sabotaged myself. So for 45 minutes I said outloud in a super happy voice, "I eat healthy, drink water and exercise every day and the weight is just melting off."

    I'm not lying- I lost 3 pounds in the next 3 days.

    It might seem kooky, but try a couple of positive affirmations, maybe one to deal with the stress and one for the melting pounds off. It worked for me.

  6. You may be right about that, GW. I only have one week left of the Xocai diet, and then we'll see if there's something to that. I did lose another 1.5 lbs this week, which was incredible since I've been under SO MUCH stress, but I'm still skeptical.

    And I will definitely need to stay positive. Negativity gets me nowhere in life or on the scale.


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