Your Waistline Is Telling You That You Are Under Chronic Stress… Here Is What To Do About It

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An expanding waistline is actually a very common response to stress, and it signals that you are producing too much cortisol as a response to prolonged stress.  I think of fat accumulation in the central abdominal area not as a marker of being overweight as much as it’s a marker of stress and high cortisol levels.

 So instead of monitoring your eating, maybe what you should be monitoring is your cortisol and stress levels.   Because stress weight gain is different from other forms of weight gain — it typically centers in the abdominal area and is the most stubborn type of weight to release — it doesn’t respond well to dieting — and that’s because dieting doesn’t release stress… in fact, often it increases stress.  Which makes any diet you go on to try to lose stress weight almost impossible to work.

Stress affects your body from head to toe, and can have a tremendous impact on your weight.  Studies show that sress can cause changes in eating patterns and they also suggest that cortisol reactivity is one of the reasons why.   So if you feel sluggish, tired, and your weight just won’t budge?  It could be stress leading to adrenal fatigue.  This super common condition is poorly understood and can literally simply be caused by prolonged stress.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and by supporting your adrenal health, you can normalize your cortisol levels. Stop the focus on weight and instead focus on reducing your body’s stress hormone output. In fact, releasing your weight struggle and embracing your adrenal repair instead may be the best way to stop unhealthy food consumption that is due to stress, which is what is triggering this change in the first place.

If you have been focusing on trying to control your food intake, maybe it’s time to stop beating yourself up over something that is actually being triggered by high levels of stress and high cortisol. I’d like to suggest that weight issues might be actually adrenal issues.



Ask yourself: have you been through a stressful period recently?  Or have you been living under stress for a long period of time — months, years, even decades?  If so, stop thinking weight loss and start thinking adrenal repair.

To help you figure out if some of your unwanted weight change is actually due to adrenal fatigue, I wrote a free book that you can download and read. It has tons of fun things inside like a quiz to help you figure out if you are in adrenal fatigue (and what stage you are in) as well as powerful ways to help you fix it.

If you have been through any kind of stressful situation or big life transition (even fun, positive ones like marriage, a new job, a new baby!) chances are your adrenals could use some TLC. If you start to take care of your adrenal rhythm now, in just a few short months from now you can be fully recovered from Adrenal Fatigue and feel better than you have felt in many many years!

You can actually be in adrenal fatigue from birth? It’s true. Stress in infancy has been shown to cause a steep rise in cortisol levels even in newborns. But did you also know it’s fully reversible, no matter how long you’ve been suffering with stress and living on fumes?  That’s also true, and I will help you get there.

Click the button below to order your free copy of my Adrenal Fatigue eBook… it will be instantly emailed directly to you, to keep forever, and please share this link freely by forwarding this blog post to all your loved ones so they can order theirs:

And if someone forwarded you this article so that you can address chronic stress and adrenal fatigue, join my newsletter list to stay updated on this and other uplifting, holistic health information right here.

Meanwhile, here are 8 things you can do

to start releasing stress weight today:


1.  Work With Your Emotional Eating Style:


What I’ve noticed as a physician examining health outcomes for the past 24+ years, is that most people eat emotionally instead of nutritionally.  Because of this, I have developed a list of the top 7 emotional eating patterns I see over and over again.

If you can develop insight into why you eat the way you do, you can reframe your mind away from eating emotionally and get some tips on working with your eating patterns in a healthier way.

Scan this list and see which emotional eating pattern describes you best:

  1. FOOD IS SECURITY:  For some folks, food represents safety and security. So when they are not eating, deep fears of safety and panic may arise. There may be worries about food scarcity and needing to know when and what your next meal will be. If you notice you overeat, it may be an attempt to feel secure and reassured that all is well. You may crave comfort foods such as casseroles and home cooking and baked goods, or foods that remind you of childhood.  One way to provide comfort and a deep contentment to security-type eaters is to include lots and lots and lots of fiber, so that you feel full, satiated, safe and grounded for longer.
  2. FOOD IS PLEASURE:  For some folks, food isn’t about the nutrition, food is about the entire experience… the smell, the feel, the texture, the flavor, the delight in chewing it. Food is pleasurable and even sensual. If this is your style of eating, you may find you are eating because you want the feel of food in your mouth, not because you are hungry. One great idea for pleasure eaters is to enjoy drinking (coffees, teas, water, fresh squeezed juices…) or chewing gum throughout the day to experience that sensual pleasure of having sensations in the mouth without necessarily reaching for food.
  3. FOOD IS POWER: For some folks, eating food is an issue of control or power.  For people who see food as power, diets are particularly offensive because restricting food intake feels like a loss of power or a loss of control… two things these types of eaters hate! One great idea for control-based eaters is to drop the diets and instead focus on choosing easily digestible foods like soups and pureed foods that are easier on your digestive organs (liver, pancreas, stomach) and eating frequent, smaller meals, grazing all throughout the day instead of a few large meals. Focusing on high quality foods and eating them more often, instead of restricting quantity, tends to be kinder than dieting and allows your body to feel healthier.
  4. FOOD IS LOVE: Some folks enjoy food that releases endorphins and provides a rush, similar to falling in love. Any of my blog readers who know how often I blog about eating chocolate will recognize… yep, I’m this type of eater. Romantic foods like oysters, red wine, chocolate… it’s not so much that these eaters care about food, they care about the way the food makes them feel. Dieting feels atrocious for love-seeking eaters and restricting food is equivalent to being dumped by a lover. One great idea for love-seeking eaters is to focus on enjoying the people you are eating with more than the food.  If possible, avoid eating alone (which may lead to over-eating) and instead really focus on making eye contact with the people you are enjoying a meal with, the conversation. Or, focus just as much on creating a lovely place to eat as you do what foods you are eating. Add a fresh flower to your kitchen table, bring your lunch outside to eat in sunshine the middle of a work day, or browse thrift stores for beautiful, vintage glasses and plates to mix and match, or use beautiful cloth napkins as a treat.
  5. FOOD IS JOY: Some people just love to enjoy a wide variety of foods and this is one of their wonderful strengths with eating. Because joyful eaters are so open to food, dieting or any type of food restriction at all feels like a huge loss and may even bring deep sorrow. My favorite recommendation for joy-based eaters is to focus on trying new, unusual or exotic foods to satisfy their cravings, instead of over-eating a large quantity of boring foods. Keep a stash of different spices, hot sauces and healthy seasonings to make each bite taste exciting and invigorating instead of needing larger portions to bring joy. Joy eaters also tend to actually enjoy preparing food, so if you are a joy eater build time into your day to focus on trying new recipes, browsing new cookbooks, and preparing healthy meals from scratch.
  6. FOOD IS ENERGY: High energy people have so much energy output that each bite needs to be calorie dense and their body knows this. Although they get the message to feel bad about eating fats and eating dense protein (after all, eating a light salad seems so much more social acceptable) this leaves them feeling depleted and desperate for a pick-me-up later.  People who are energy eaters need to feel good about their intuitive food choices that make them crave protein. Energy eaters need to honor their bodies by feeding their brain lots of healthy fats (organic whole fat dairy/butter/yogurt or coconut, avocado, fish oil…) and protein (organic, ethically produced meats, organic eggs, organic nuts and nut butters.)
  7. FOOD IS OPTIONAL: Does this sounds familiar: forgetting to eat, not making the time to eat, feeling dizzy because you skipped lunch, reaching for a quick snack and then getting right back to work, forgetting to hydrate? Some folks find it easy to ignore their bodies needs or lose track of time. While sporadic eaters are usually not so bothered by going on a diet, the danger here is that they often don’t take the time to eat healthily so that when they do eat, they are ravenous and don’t make smart food choices, or they don’t even get the needed nutritional building blocks at all. The best thing these eaters can do is to schedule in their eating so that they eat at regular intervals, stay hydrated, and make nutrient dense food choices… instead of not eating all day long and then binging in a drive through on the way home. Another great tip is to carry water with you at all times, so that even if you are not taking the time to properly eat, you stay well hydrated.



2. Consider Grounding While You Eat:


When you are stressed, your muscles become tense, your heart rate is elevated, circulation is constricted, your digestion shuts down, your cortisol surges and your sleep is disrupted.  Long term this leads to pain from muscle tension (and often chronic pain conditions such as chronic tension headaches, tooth grinding, TMJ, restless leg syndrome, fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes) as well as increased risk of heart attack and stroke, inflammatory disorders of the gut, malabsorption, heartburn, reflux, irritable bowel, an increased risk of autoimmune disorders, adrenal fatigue, circadian rhythm disturbance, sex hormone imbalance, even early menopause or menstrual irregularities, insomnia, memory problems, structural brain changes and more.

Getting grounded immediately begins to get you out of “fight or flight”mode and calms you down, deepening breathing and oxygenation, decreasing muscle tension, decreasing cortisol output and more. Medical studies back this up… for example, one study published in 2004 in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, found that subjects who slept grounded had a complete normalization of their cortisol patterns, suggesting a profound recovery from stress.

More on that here:

As if that wasn’t enough, grounding also has a positive impact on your digestion by boosting your vagal tone, which supports the function of your entire digestive tract, from your esophagus to your colon and everything in between!

Because of the scientific evidence that grounding supports our digestion, I ran a study of my own patients because I wondered if, by boosting our digestion and metabolism through touching the earth, we would see a change in weight over time. So I personally enrolled a dozen overweight patients into an informal private study on grounding and weight loss. I followed them for 10 weeks, measuring weight, energy, mood, sleep, and pain, with weekly weigh-ins and assessments.  Their instructions were to touch the earth outside directly for 15 minutes a day, and that was it. I told them not to change their diet at all. I wanted them to eat everything they had eaten before in the same quantities and in the same fashion. I told them not to start new activities or to change their exercise or activity level at all.

What happened? Most of the patients lost a clinically significant amount of weight: 60% of them losing between 4 and 15 pounds in the 10 week study period, doing nothing more then adding in daily grounding for just 15 minutes a day.

How to do it?  Start grounding for 15 minutes a day — ideally while eating one meal a day outside.

Hop over here to watch a video I created for you to explain why adding grounding to your daily routine is the quickest way to heal your digestion.  In this post I also share tons of ideas on how to eat grounded outside — just pick one each day and watch your weight self correct effortlessly:

If it’s unrealistic that you can head outside to eat one of your meals each day, you can easily eat grounded indoors by simply sitting on an organic grounding mat — keep it on your kitchen chair to sit on, stand on the mat if you stand to eat, or keep it under foot at your sofa or computer desk if you eat while you multitask.  Find your organic grounding mat here.



3.  Focus On Your Health, Not Your Weight:


Medical studies suggest that older people in excellent physical health — called the “well-derly” — actually have higher  BMI’s than expected, showing that BMI and body weight is not necessarily correlated with longevity. Presented March 3, 2017 at the 10th Future of Genomic Medicine Conference, a study on people 80 years old and older (who are free of all common chronic diseases and are in excellent health) looked at why they stayed so healthy for so long and continue to be disease free into their 9th decade and beyond.

Part of an ongoing study called the Healthspan Project (which I will absolutely keep you updated on because I am all about positive, uplifting health guidance!) researchers looked at healthy elders and analyzed them for genetic markers of disease as well as lifestyle choices..

What they found is that the elderly who were supremely healthy had the exact same rates of genetic markers that would predict disease as the rest of the population.   The healthy elderly participants had the same rates of genetic risk factors for diabetes, cancers and stroke as the general population, yet remained disease free.  And when looking at why, the results were just as surprising, because when compared with the general population, the smoking rates were actually higher for men (61% smokers as opposed to 54% in general population) and equivalent for women (42% vs 43%.).

What was a common indicator among the well-derby was they exercised more  (67% exercised compared to 44% of the general population) but their BMI was not uniformly lower — there were many wellderly with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher.

Studies like these are so important, because it’s not just longevity but actually healthspan — how long someone lives in optimal health — that give us the most important clues on how to support our innate health potential.

This study tells us that even if we have higher BMI’s than we want, or have made unhealthy lifestyle choices in the past (like smoking) we can still find that our health is resilient for an entire lifetime.  Activity level is more important than a BMI score.  So focusing on feeling your best by strengthening your muscles, improving cardiovascular fitness, lung capacity, bone density and more, through physical activity is likely more important than focusing on weight and dieting.



4. Instead Of Reducing Calories, Reduce Gut Inflammation:


Eating foods that are inflammatory to your gut lining can cause leaky gut syndrome, and you might find new food sensitivities develop to foods that you had no problem eating before, and ultimately this can even result in hypothyroidism.

The main culprits?  Gluten, dairy, sugar.

All three are highly inflammatory to the body… gluten being the most inflammatory directly to the lining of the gut.  When you consume gluten, dairy and sugar while you are repairing adrenal fatigue… even if these foods would not normally bother you in any way… the small amount of sub-clinical inflammation that it triggers is enough for your body to increase the amount of antibodies it makes in response to the increased inflammation.

Blood markers for inflammation goes up, the body is on high alert for irritants, and you might find yourself getting heartburn when you normally wouldn’t, sensitive stomach to foods that normally don’t bother you, constipation or irritable bowel worse than ever, skin rashes and eczema and hives that you don’t normally have, even seasonal allergies getting worse by the year instead of better as your body is on higher alert than ever before!

All of this inflammatory response sets you up for easily triggering an autoimmune reaction — the antibodies circulating begin to attack your normal tissues, and in this case, where your energy levels are crashing, your body feels stuck in fight-or-flight mode, your food intake might be causing more cortisol to be required and your nutritional building blocks are absent, then the body wants to decrease it’s own metabolism in order to preserve energy for the long haul.

This results in the body using it’s own immunity to attack the thyroid.  Autoimmune hypothyroid is the number one form of thyroid disease.  Even if your thyroid labs appear within normal limits, if you have symptoms of hypothroidism with normal lab values, this is called subclinical hypothyroidism and is a real thing.  And because it’s real, you can actually heal from it.

Did you know that just the act of removing gluten from triggering gut inflammation can be enough to turn an early hypothyroid situation around? It’s true. Because it stops the cascade of inflaming the gut which produces antibodies which attack the thyroid.

And we can go even further than that… we can decrease all triggers (gluten, sugar, dairy) at least temporarily, while we are healing the adrenal glands, and we can restore balance to the gut lining by supplementing with probiotics, digestive enzymes and drinking aloe vera juice (shown to significantly help heal the gut lining!) and we can eat adrenal and thyroid supportive foods to help facilitate repair.

Now is also a good time, if you feel concerned about hypothyroid or if you are already being treated for it, to remember to get your TSH, thyroid antibodies, and reverse T3 checked and have any Rx thyroid medications optimized.

Symptoms of hypothyroid go right along with symptoms for adrenal fatigue because they are so interrelated.  Do these sound like you? Fatigue, weight gain, thinning hair, dry skin, constipation, depressed mood, and feeling cold all the time?  If so, double check your thyroid function by getting your thyroid labs taken with your local physician.

Then read on to discover the best supplements to heal your gut inflammation and feel better more quickly…



5.  Take Supportive Supplements:


We can exponentially support the speed of our body’s recover from gut issues and adrenal fatigue with high quality supplements. Most important during the repair process are herbs that directly support the adrenal glands, like ashwagandha and holy basil.

Although it’s absolutely possible to repair your adrenals without taking supplements, it’s super helpful to support your healing process nutritionally.  Contraindications to starting adrenal supportive supplements are anyone currently taking prescription sedatives, drugs that treat Bipolar Disorder, participants who are pregnant, and participants on immunosuppressants… for those folks, ask your physician before starting on supplements.

But for the vast majority of us, adding on supplements that boost our adrenal gland function, boost our thyroid function, and help calm and repair our digestion and gut lining are all very good ideas because they will exponentially speed repair and restore us to our innate health and energy levels more quickly!

My favorite adrenal supportive ingredients:

1. Ashwagandha: used for thousands of years in India, this ancient herb has a calming, anti-inflammatory, and immune boosting effect. Many medical studies prove the safety and statistical efficacy of this herb, which is why it is my top choice for adrenal repair.

2. Rhodiola: this herb is anxiolytic (decreases anxiety) increases mental clarity and boosts immunity

3. Holy Basil: this herb has been in use for over 5,000 years and is renowned for increasing energy, stabilizing mood, decreasing blood glucose levels and stabilizing blood sugar.

4.  Probiotics: shown in medical studies to decrease cortisol levels (read more about that here) and support mood (as I wrote about here) probiotics are a big help in restoring balance to the gut and decreasing whole body inflammation

5. Digestive enzymes: taken along with meals this helps the digestive process become easier and less inflammatory, less bloating, gas, pain and other symptoms of irritable bowel

6. Aloe vera juice: medically shown to help speed repair of the gut lining, I recommend drinking a beverage with aloe vera juice in it daily (at least 4 oz a day… add to any fruit juice or smoothie if you don’t want to drink it solo!)

7. L-glutamine: this one is a game changer. Not only does glutamine help repair the gut lining, but it also has the wonderful side effect of decreasing sugar cravings, carb cravings, even alcohol cravings! Right at a time when we are wanting to decrease our sugar consumption and switch from simple carbs like wheat and sugar over to more nutrient dense foods like healthy fats and proteins, taking an L-glutamine supplement can be a life saver. Here is a good article that guides you through the use of L- glutamine to decrease sugar cravings.

I’ve put all of these supplements, in the brands I trust and have found work the best, into one protocol that combines all of these awesome healing plan, waiting for you in my online dispensary here:

Adrenal Recovery Protocol




6.  Realize how much this affects how you feel:


The least understood thing about adrenal fatigue is that it has not just caused you to burn out of your cortisol, but it has also actually robbed you of the sex hormones that help you stay balanced and young and vibrant too.

In fact, did you know that repairing your adrenals is absolutely going to improve your mood, your metabolism and muscle tone, your hair and skin, even your boost your sex drive?  That’s because cortisol is made out of the same precursors that the sex hormones (like estrogen and testosterone) are made from.

So as your body uses more and more of the precursors trying to keep up with outputting more and more cortisol into your body, it literally steals these precursors away from your estrogen and testosterone production.  As a result, when your adrenals are strained and your cortisol has been over-produced for any length of time, your sex hormones decrease, your sex drive disappears, your skin and hair lose luster, your mood plummets, your muscle mass decreases and more — this goes for men and women alike.

Basically, adrenal fatigue makes you feel aged.

It accelerates the lowering of sex hormones, plummets mood, worsens PMS, hastens menopause and andropause, robs you of restorative sleep, and dampens your mood.

So being very very diligent about implementing the repair work outlined in this article can truly make such a difference that you feel ten years younger again. Or maybe even… better than you’ve ever felt before!  If you want to take a fun quiz to determine if you are in adrenal fatigue (and what stage of adrenal fatigue you would fit into) click the button below to take a free adrenal fatigue quiz I created for you:

Free Adrenal Fatigue Quiz



7. Keep track of your progress:


To help track your progress, print out this monthly mood and energy tracker to keep track of your improvement over the next few months. It is really crucial to track your sleep and daily rhythms so that you can see concrete evidence of change.  It’s too hard to contrast how you will feel in a few weeks with how you feel right now if you don’t have evidence in front of you of the changes. Tracking your progress will encourage you to keep on going!

On top of that, using a tracker helps remind you to stay in the new patterns that are so essential to this work, and keeps your targeted activity changes and sleep goals on your radar.  Just click the link below and print out as many copies as you need — one copy per month — and let’s begin tracking your healing progress today!

Free Printable Energy Tracker



8.  Join My Online Class That Just Started Today


The next thing I recommend you do — for tons more support on uplifting, natural ways to lose weight — is to join my Weight Release & Reset online class, which starts today!

Hop over here for more information and to reserve your spot.

“I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Weight Reset emails and videos! I looked forward to each and every day. Your class gave me so much hope!” – C.C.

“This was AWESOME!! I loved all the information — the medical studies to back it up and the daily reminders. Plus — I love that you can do this at your own pace. Thank you!” C.W.

“I was surprised at how many different things can affect your weight and when you talked about them in the class… it was like a bell went off.  I would definitely recommend the class to others” – S.G.

Together, we go over the 5 pillars of sustainable, feel-good weight loss.  One pillar a day for 5 days.  Simple and sweet.  I’ve based this course directly off of the medical literature and my 20 years of experience helping to support my patients with their weight loss goals, holistically and easily and with no stress.

You’d be surprised that your body naturally knows what weight is the perfect one for you, and it can sustain it at this perfect weight effortlessly once you naturally align your metabolism. I’ll show you how in a very non-threatening, supportive, uplifting way.  It’s not about being rigid or militant or hard on yourself, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. The harder you are on yourself, the harder it is to align with your healthiest version of you.

Release that struggle by understanding the things that sabotage weight loss and once you do, the weight releases, naturally.

Class starts today so of course today is the last day for you to sign up.  Snag your spot here and let me support you:

To your resilient, natural health!

xoxox, Laura Koniver MD