Hormones have a shitty reputation these days.
Try talking about them at a dinner party and watch all of the men clear the room. Relax, guys — you have them too.
Besides helping out all your organs with their jobs, your hormones are also dealing with the stuff going on outside your body. The time of day it is, what you’re eating, your emotional reaction to bad news — all of these things are measured by your endocrine system, which responds and releases hormones to do all kinds of, you know, regulatory stuff. Hormones also control whether your ass gets fat or fit.
Clearly, we need to respect those little bitches.
Fight or Flight
It’s freakin’ tough on your hormones these days, considering that external variables in your life aren’t the same as they were 10,000 years ago. When you’re gearing up for fight or flight (which meant running from a saber-toothed tiger back in the day), cortisol seeks to control your body’s reaction to the danger. Trouble is, there are no more tigers chasing you — it’s just your shitty boss yelling at you again.
Cortisol on its own is not such a bad dude. Like human growth hormone (HGH), leptin and ghrelin, cortisol is one of the key players in a system of checks and balances that makes sure your metabolism functions properly. But when you get stressed out, that all goes to shit. In high amounts, cortisol will compete with progesterone for receptors on your cells. When you overproduce cortisol, you threaten your healthy progesterone activity, which gets your estrogen out of whack.Hello, crazy.
If your spiky cortisol levels aren’t enough, your bad sleep habits are messing other shit up, too. Enter leptin and ghrelin. These two ebb and flow before and after meals and have earned the nickname “the hunger hormones” because of it. When they’re all good, ghrelin and leptin peak before meals, signaling hunger, and decline after you’ve eaten, signaling fullness.
You can see how dumb it is to mess with them, huh?
Like cortisol, chronically-elevated leptin levels go hand-in-hand with obesity, overeating and inflammation-related diseases. Even though leptin is an appetite-inhibitor, obese people often have high leptin levels in the bloodstream. A stressed-out bod learns to be leptin-resistant in the same way a person can be insulin-resistant. If you’re resistant to the hormone that tells you when you’re full, that’s a big freakin’ problem, princess.
Good Ol’ Ghrelin
Remember ghrelin? High ghrelin levels are linked with a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep has a direct impact on your food cravings, specifically for carbohydrates. Studies have repeatedly shown that getting less than six hours of sleep for as little as three nights in a row can increase carbohydrate consumption 45 percent. (So yes, there’s a reason your ass wolfed down seven donuts for breakfast.) Forty-five percent more carbohydrates a day, cravings from your wacky periods and free radicals zipping around doing damage? Here we have the perfect recipe for weight gain, girls.
You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: Chill the F out. Tell your boss you’ll work remotely one day a week. Take evening walks with your fam. Enroll in a yoga class. Try meditation, listen to calmer music and watch less TV. Sleep more. Your to-do list can wait, so get a manicure with your friends. They don’t call it “laughing your ass off” for nothing, babe.
Jennifer St. Germain, Contributing Writer
A long-time health and fitness writer, Jennifer recently moved back to Los Angeles after spending two years writing and teaching English in Japan. She now writes for several publications on a variety of topics, but veganism and animal rights are her favorite subjects. When she isn’t writing, you can find her drinking a little too much organic coffee, playing with her dogs or photographing her third favorite subject – jellyfish.