Dr. Ross describes the relationship between stress and being overweight.
Stress and weight are very integrally connected and this, again, goes back to the brain. And when you look at what happens in the brain under stress, most of you know about the fight/flight reaction. Well, in the fight/flight reaction, if someone comes up to you and puts a gun to your head and then says, “Your money or your life,” then your body automatically goes and secretes certain hormones. If that stress becomes chronic, the hormone that’s secreted is called cortisol, and cortisol encourages the feeding, stimulates overeating.
So having high levels of cortisol can be one of the factors that promotes overeating, as well, we know that many women who are obese have suffered from either neglect or abuse, either physical, sexual or emotional during childhood, and children who have experienced abuse or neglect also have a hyperactive stress response. So they are like on red alert all the time, which again correlates with increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol also affects the secretion of the hormone insulin from our pancreas and you know insulin goes up whenever your blood sugar goes up from eating. Well, when insulin goes up and you don’t use up all of the calories that you eat then insulin’s job is to store fat. And so, high insulin levels are also associated with high levels of cortisol, or stress, and that promotes fat storage.
About Dr. Ross, M.D., M.P.H.:
Dr. Carolyn Ross, M.D., M.P.H., completed her undergraduate degree in Modern Foreign Languages at Purdue University and worked as a full-time mother of her two older sons before returning to school to complete her pre-med requirements. She then went to the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Ross’s practice experience after medical school helped fuel her interest in understanding what makes people heal as she saw that most of her patients’ medical problems were related to lifestyle habits and the stresses of modern living. In searching for a better way to address these issues, Dr. Ross began to explore complementary and alternative therapies and the use of herbs and supplements for her patients. She then completed a residency in Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University and then set up practice in San Diego, California where she eventually opened three women’s centers where she practiced primary care and office gynecology.