Part of my weight gain picture, I haven't talked about is the sheer stress I was under. I am talking extreme stress beyond most people's wildest dreams. During the 28 months, I gained my 400lbs, I witnessed crimes, had been laid off, had already had years worth of 60-70 work weeks sometimes combining up to 4 part time jobs to try and keep a basic apartment and car afloat, was unemployed and almost homeless, moved to a giant shockingly crime-ridden metro city where I didn't know anyone, and had to work a job dealing with actually diagnosed sociopaths [not all of them but enough of them] violent teens, in a residential home which was a job I took believing the 12 dollars an hour would be better then the minimum wages I was making at a part time fast food job, after a teaching job lay-off. This job required constant vigilance, and crisis management. I took it fearing homelessness. Stress kills and I have told friends for years, that my weight is always more stable when I am less stressed, outside of food intake. In my case, I do have the confirmed Pseudo Cushings diagnosis, my body pumps out cortisol like gangbusters.
Years ago, circa 2001, I raised the theory [this was before I read research articles] finding out about cortisol, is that I think the high stress of the American life style, is leading everyone to be fatter! Let's think about this, this isn't the acute stress of dealing with being out in the wild and maybe seeing wolf you have to get away from but having it last for a short duration but a the unrelenting lingering stress of today's modern life: life today is far too complex, and overly fast for the human mind and body to take.
There is little peace, and all but the richest live under the constant pressure to perform lest they lose their livelihood. Life was much different when there was peace, quiet, more close-knit small towns, living from the land, and when people had vast family and long lasting social networks right by them. There is a reason psychological problems are skyrocketing along with obesity. So why wouldn't the hypothalamus be damaged under years of unrelenting stress in some people? Why wouldn't the high serotonin making foods, the so called "comfort foods" in this video be the more attractive? In other words, Americans via their high driving, socially disconnected, crowded, fast, complex lifestyles, oddly combining loads of stress while being more sedentary [driving in traffic] are releasing tons of toxic hormones, and self medicating with bad food, food that may offer temporary solace, but little nutrition in helping in recovery.
After I was disabled I would escape to a small town and far slower life, had to leave that place a few years ago going to a larger town but no where near a huge metro city in size. I discovered that life 30 years behind the times is a far better life. Very few are pointing out the obvious, that the modern American lifestyle stinks, its priorities are misplaced, and is destroying people's health and minds.
I'm glad the academics and medicos are finally picking up this thread to examine it. They have done studies even realizing monkeys put under more chronic stress, obtain more belly fat, get a metabolic syndrome, get fatter and sicker. They are realizing chronic stress, the kind that comes about from modern living is shredding people's well being.
I also believe this is why poor people are fatter, not just due to the bad cheap food but knowing their precarious situation in this world, one mistake, one car break-down, one job lay-off and they can end up on the street. What does that kind of stress do to people? Add to that the rising crime-rates, lack of support and ongoing stress of "making it" among groups of people, and it's not a good mixture.
A study was done in Canada, [the references to Eastern Europe and other studies are very interesting] where they realized in the case of rich children and poor ones eating the same, the poor ones were fatter.
What else but the stress-cortisol connection could explain this?
Experts say the deeper roots of the obesity problem lie at the crossroads between social status and biology. Generally speaking, even if rich kids and poor kids eat exactly the same diet -- from Big Macs and fries to tofu and granola -- the poor kids get fatter.
"I believe that there's much more biology to this than what we've been willing to recognize in the past," says Dr. Goodman.
The centre of this poverty-obesity link is a hormonal pathway known as the HPA axis. This is a loop connecting the hypothalamus, a jellybean-size part of the brain that governs appetite, and the pituitary and adrenal glands, which secrete a variety of hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol helps the liver convert fat into the lightning bursts of energy the body needs to escape danger, a vital function. But it also signals the body to accumulate mounds of fat in the abdomen, building the "apple" shape that is so hazardous to health.
"When you have too much cortisol, you have Cushing's disease, which is an illness that causes central fat deposition," says Dr. Goodman.
Once this fat builds up, it spews a toxic array of chemical signals back to the brain and into the body. "It's a vicious cycle," she says.
Research shows children raised in low socioeconomic settings produce greater amounts of cortisol, a stress hormone.
In a 2001 study, researchers from McGill University measured the hormone levels of 300 children from poor to wealthy families. They found three times as much cortisol in low-income kids compared with rich kids.