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Why was it easier to keep weight off compared to as we got older? Especially around the middle. It could all be down to stress, rather than genes.  
When you constantly feel stressed, your brain tells your body to secrete higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. Our bodies need an optimal level of cortisol to function, accomplish the things we want to do and maintain focus. At elevated levels, cortisol increases your appetite, cravings for sugar, increases muscle tension and chronic pain, increases blood pressure, and raises your risk for many serious health conditions.
When body tissues are exposed to high levels of cortisol for extended periods of time, some cellular and tissue alterations may occur. High levels of cortisol cause fat stores and excess circulating fat to be relocated and deposited deep in the abdomen, which left unchecked can develop into or enhance obesity. 
 
When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, we become more distressed and feel defeated and the stress cortisol is released. 
 
The brain has the ability to selectively activate the freeze, fight, flight, or defeat responses. The “defeat” response stress pathway can lead to enhanced fat creation, deep abdominal area obesity and suppression of the immune system. 
 
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is at a  peak secretion in the early morning, which then tapers out in the late afternoon and evening. 
Cortisol controls our energy by selecting the right type and amount of either carbohydrate, fat or protein that is needed by the body. 
 
Cortisol can change our body’s protein into sugars in the liver. Move fat from storage deposits in the body to fat cell deposits deep in the abdomen and even cause more fat cells to grow. Cortisol directly effects fat storage by a specific enzyme located in fat tissues, especially gut fat and fat cells in the belly have four times more cortisol receptors. Fat surrounding the stomach and intestines and gut tyre fat tissue release more of this enzyme. 
 
 This may also increase cortisol’s fat accumulating and fat cell size enlarging effect. 
Cortisol increase appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain
Premenopausal women who secrete more cortisol during and after stress choose to consume more foods high in sugar and fat. 
 
Cortisol stimulates appetite and cravings for food that is high in fat and/or sugar. also through appetite chemicals in our body.  
 
Appetite enhancers our body makes
Cortisol
CRH (corticotrophin releasing hormone), 
leptin, and 
neuropeptide Y (NPY). 
 
High levels of cortisol cause fat stores 
enhance obesity. 
hypertension (high blood pressure), 
hyperlipidemia (elevated lipids), and 
hyperglycemia (elevated glucose)
type II diabetes mellitus
cerebrovascular disease 
muscle tension
muscle pain
Popular ‘mindful’ exercise programs such as yoga and Tai Chi are also recommended to reduce stress hormones. Meditation,swimming, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, and visualization are methods that can be effective in decreasing stress-induced symptoms. Also, eating right and getting enough rest and sleep should be incorporated in a stress management plan for life.
 
Do’s
Promote calm without drowsiness
Maintain a positive mood with sharp mental focus
Manage healthy stress hormone levels
Support your brain and adrenals in dealing with stress
Enhance your energy, endurance and vigor
Eat organic and control food portions
Avoid processed foods, white flour and reduce salt and sugar intakes
Drink 8 glasses of pure water daily
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Do not cook in plastic or tin foil, aluminum, or store foods long term in these containers.
Balance hormones including cortisol, thyroid and reproductive hormones. Have your levels checked. Herbal formulas can help a great deal here.
do not use chemicals in the house to clean. Use Vinegar, borax and baking soda where possible.
Use natural henna-like hair dyes and natural make-ups or sunblocks. 
 
Diet: Eat Clean references that you may find helpful
 
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/clean-eating-recipes
http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/food-health/food-and-health-news/what-is-clean-eating/