You have too much cortisol
Your metabolism is how your body turns calories into energy, so when you say you have a “slow metabolism,” you really mean your body is hanging onto calories, causing unwanted weight gain. But what causes this to happen? For some people, it could be too much cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.” Normal amounts of cortisol can help you burn fat if it’s working in tandem with other chemicals in your body. But if you have too much cortisol—like if you’re really stressed out for a long time—your body may think you’re under duress and could need extra energy. which is why it clings to calories. This also happens if you have a medical condition called Cushing’s Syndrome, a disorder of the adrenal glands and they release too much cortisol into the bloodstream. “Increases in cortisol causes an increased availably of all fuel substrates (carbs, fats, and proteins) by mobilization of glucose, free fatty acids, and amino acids from the body’s reserves,” explains Roger Adams, PhD, personal trainer, doctor of nutrition, and owner of eatrightfitness.com. “While this may lead to a loss in lean tissue (muscle), it also seems to increase appetite and fat mass, which can be a dangerous combination.” These are other signs stress is making you sick.
Your insulin levels are too high
This is a bit of a chicken-or-egg problem: Being overweight is a cause of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and having type 2 diabetes is linked with problems losing weight. According to Dr. Adams, insulin helps the body use glucose for energy. “If a person is pre-diabetic, or insulin resistant, the cells fail to respond to inulin,” he says. “This then results in higher than normal amounts of glucose in the blood, which in turn may signal the pancreas to produce even more insulin.” The result? Elevated insulin and blood sugar levels, which may progress to type 2 diabetes. A study from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center found that among women who were asked to eat the same high-calorie meal, those who had reported being stressed out had higher levels of insulin. They burned 104 fewer calories—which could add up to 11 pounds a year! Here are some simple steps to cut down on sugar cravings.
Your thyroid is out of whack
Your thyroid gland, located at the base of your neck, helps regulate thyroid hormones, which greatly affect your body’s metabolism. So if you don’t make enough of the hormone (a condition known as “underactive thyroid” or “hypothyroidism”) your metabolism will slow down. According to the Office of Women’s Health, a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the most common cause of hypothyroidism in this country is Hashimoto’s disease. “Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune thyroid disease that affects the thyroid gland,” explains Shane LeBeau, MD, endocrinologist at University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC). “Patients who have this disease produce antibodies that attack the thyroid gland—and if their immune system damages their thyroid glands sufficiently, they may become hypothyroid and require [synthetic] thyroid hormone.” As for how exactly the thyroid controls metabolism, Dr. LeBeau says that’s less clear. “What we do know is that thyroid hormone increases the body’s consumption of oxygen, which is used to determine what one’s ‘basal metabolic rate’ is,” he says, referring to the body’s baseline metabolism. “Therefore, patients who are hypothyroid consume less oxygen and in turn have a lower basal metabolic rate. I personally tell patients I see in my clinic that thyroid hormone is necessary for all of our organ systems to operate smoothly.” These are other silent signs you could have a thyroid problem.