Hormones play a large role in determining how you look. High levels of testosterone will give you a square jaw, big muscles, and more body hair. High estrogen levels will give you soft facial features and little hair. High levels of a stress hormone called cortisol can also transform the way you look. Cortisol is a hormone released into your body when you’re mentally stressed. In high amounts, it will really damage your physical appearance.

High cortisol levels can do the following to your body:

1.Make your skin look old

2.Give you wrinkles, pimples, rashes, and dark circles and bags under your eyes

3.Contribute to hair loss

Your appearance will resemble that of a worn-out, haggard person.

Cortisol can further transform your body’s appearance. Instead of equally distributing fat around the entire body (which is naturally how it’s supposed to be), your body will tend to store fat only around the midsection area. This will give your body an apple shape.

More Problems with Cortisol:

1.     Even with the aid of the best trainer, fat loss becomes nearly impossible. The fat just never seems to come off. (Compare Example A to Example B above.)

2.     Cortisol decreases muscle mass, thus making your body appear less firm. You will look soft and weak.

3.     Also important, but not as imminent: high cortisol levels dramatically increase your chances of a stroke, heart attack, causes immune suppression (you get sick very frequently and easily), ulcer development (hole in stomach), cancer development, and uncontrollable, consistent headaches and muscle tension.

4.     Cortisol decreases testosterone (the stuff that makes a man a man), decreases sex drive, decreases Growth Hormone (the stuff responsible for muscle repair), and increases depression and anxiety.

There are TWO important facts to consider when trying to understand how mental stress affects you and how cortisol makes you look uglier:

1.     The Central Nervous System (CNS), which is responsible for regulating stress, can’t tell the difference between a physical stress (running away from a serial killer) and a mental stress (dealing with boss you don’t like). It responds to stressors all the same: by releasing a massive dump of cortisol into your body. Thus, it is important to understand that both physical and mental stress trigger cortisol production.

2.     The CNS has a slow recovery process. Your CNS doesn’t handle repeated stressors very well if it isn’t given a few weeks to a few months to recover between stressors. It hasn’t evolved to do so. Ideally, your CNS has evolved for this:

(a)   You’re chased by a huge mountain lion for a few minutes.

(b)  You escape the mountain lion.

(c)   Nothing happens for a few months.

(d)  Repeat

The above structure is a totally healthy pattern—one that your CNS can easily regulate. The key variable is it has enough time to recover from stressful episodes.

    However, this is what typically happens in today’s corporate/office environment:

(a)   At the beginning of month, you’re stressed out about finishing work projects on time. Your CNS is taxed. Remember, your CNS can’t tell the difference between mental and physical stress; it reacts exactly the same to either kind of stress. A huge amount of cortisol is dumped in your body. Cortisol is fucked up and in excessive amounts will really FUCK YOU UP.

(b)  By the middle of the month, you’re still stressed out about finishing projects on time and your CNS has not recovered. Plus, something with the computer system breaks and sets you back. Your CNS is taxed again! More cortisol is released, adding to the large amount of cortisol already in your body.

(c)   At the end of the month, you get into several arguments with some coworkers. Your CNS is taxed even more, and it wasn’t even given enough time to recover from the stress that has been accumulating since the beginning of the month. You realize that another month has already gone by and you haven’t done anything enjoyable; the only thing you’ve done is work (a synopsis of the last couple of years of your life). This stresses you out so your CNS is taxed again, still without being given enough time to recover from the all previous stressors. Now there is a massive amount of cortisol in your body at ALL times.

(d)  Having to pay your mortgage causes you—and you CNS—even more stress.

(e)   Lay-offs happen. You don’t know, but you might be laid off. Although you don’t enjoy your job, you still need that paycheck to pay the bills. Screwed if you do. Screwed if you don’t. More cortisol is released!!! You were overburdened before, but now you’re in Armageddon mode.

You get the picture. And that’s just all in a one month period. Add a couple of years to that pattern and you’ll be looking really fucked up. I haven’t even included the stress of having kids, bad relationships, or countless other things that can go wrong during the month (car problems, injury, death of a loved one, etc.). Just the stuff I’ve listed above is more than enough to deplete your body’s ability to regulate stress and cause an excess of cortisol in your body at all times. Pretty soon, you’ll begin to exhibit the following symptoms:

·        Difficulty getting up in the morning

·        Craving for fast foods and sugars

·        General lack of energy throughout the day

·        Decreased sex drive

·        Decreased ability to handle stress

·        Mild/major depression

·        Less enjoyment or happiness with life

          Increased fat around midsection

·        Decreased tolerance

·        Decreased productivity

·        Everyday tasks seem to require more and more effort

·        No amount of sleep seems to give you enough energy

·        You look nowhere as good as you used to look before this stressful job

Here is what you need to take away from this:

The CNS has NOT evolved enough to be able to sustain the LONG HOURS of LOW CONTROL, HIGH DEMAND office work that is typically seen in today’s corporate environment, especially in middle-management type positions. This is one of the biggest reasons why burn out is so prevalent in today’s corporate environment. Burn out refers to a person hating their job and/or losing their interest in it. In 2010, according to one survey, 25% of people working in a corporate office setting reported being on the verge of a mental break down; 33% of people reported being absolutely miserable in life because of their work. The reasons given were the following: hours were too long, lack of meaningful work, office politics, and not enough control or say about what goes on. 72% of people in America are way too heavy (if your body fat is over 15% for a male you’re considered overweight). Some people would blame bad nutrition, but cortisol (which is a byproduct of work-related stress) is the real culprit. Cortisol causes you to want starchy and sugary foods. It stimulates those unhealthy cravings. The more cortisol you have in your body, the more you want that shitty food. And the more you consume of that shitty food, the more weight you gain. It’s a pretty simple concept, really.

(Picture aboveMost people laugh at Milton from the movie “Office Space”. However, most people are just like Milton and don’t want to admit it.

Look, I’m not preaching any way of life. In fact, I support a hard-working, structured, non-hedonistic way of life. However, science shows that ideally, for optimum health, people should be living like this (videos below), because this is how people have evolved to live:

Science shows that our current life conditions (i.e., demanding work environments, jobs that involve sitting all day, fast food diets, etc.) are destructive to our health. We simply have not evolved to live like that. Having such an unnatural lifestyle will cause serious health problems. Just imagine a flower trying to grow out of concrete in order to reach some sunshine at the top. What happens is the flower is forced to grow out of the cracks in the concrete. Result: the flower ends up looking crooked, mangled, and deformed. Office work is the concrete. You are the flower.

And that’s the story behind how cortisol works, when it’s produced in your body, and how it makes you look different.

       Don't take my word for it. Hear what the guys with the Phds have to say:

Other Notes:

1.     Cortisol is actually caused by physical effort as well. However, the amount of cortisol produced via physical effort is a small, negligible fraction of the amount of cortisol produced by mental stress. Long distance, long duration cardio and aerobics tend to produce the most cortisol in your body (among physical stressors, that is).

2.     Don’t let a trainer sell you on the idea that working out is a one-stop shop for decreasing stress. This is simply not the case. In fact, many studies show that working out actually increases stress (and therefore cortisol) levels. For instance, if a person that doesn’t like to lift weights is forced to lift weights, that person’s cortisol level would jump through the roof during every training session. The lesson: don’t do a certain type of exercise, no matter how beneficial, unless you enjoy that type of exercise. You have to find the type of exercise the suits you best—find something you like. Having said that, long distance running (running for more than 30 minutes at a time) seems to increase Cortisol levels the most, compared to all other forms of exercise, such as lifting weights.

3.     Cortisol isn’t actually produced by stress. Rather, it is produced by a peripheral gland called the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. Here is how it actually all works:

(a)   You go into work and see the boss you absolutely hate and can’t stand. I mean that guy really rattles your nerves. The perception is made.

(b)  The hypothalamus (a part of the brain) is triggered and releases a hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH).

(c)   CRH travels to the pituitary gland (located at the base of brain) and triggers the release of a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone(ACTH)into the blood stream

(d)  ACTH then travels to the adrenal gland which releases cortisol, the stress hormone we’ve been talking about the whole time.

4.     Basically, without cortisol you would be a living zombie. Your body would have no way to trigger alertness. You need cortisol in small amounts. However, cortisol in moderate to high amounts is bad for your health and impairs your quality of life.

5.     It sounds like I’m bashing corporate America/office work. I kind of am, simply because I’ve seen corporate America rob so many people of their vitality and youth over and over again. Corporate work seems to have a way of sucking the soul out of most people’s bodies, even the most motivated. People simply have not evolved to live like that.

Look, I just want people to know that life doesn't have to be like that. Life is SO short. If working a 9 to 5 (more like 7 to 6) office job isn't you, then get the fuck out. You don't have to do that in order to make a living or to get the things you want. You might lose a little money upfront, but at least you'll be standing up for what you believe in and being true to yourself (something most of us claim to do, but very few actually do).

Also, is 60 to 70 thousand dollars (what most people earn) really worth it in exchange for living a shitty life you never dreamed of? Stop fighting over pennies. Stop being petty. You set your standards too low. You're discouraging yourself from growing into a better person.

        "We all make choices, but in the end, our choices end up making us."