Stress, our invisible twin

Last night, I watched the documentary Stress: Killer of a Portrait. If you have an access to Netflix, you will be able to find this documentary by Robert Sapoltsky, a neurobiologist. It amazed me how stress is really affecting the longevity and quality of the human life.
According to the excerpt from the documentary:

“All of us have a personal relationship with stress. But only few of us know it operates within us.”

I found this link on YouTube: complete video of the documentary Stress: Killers of a portrait

When we think of stress, we often think of adrenaline or the flight or fight hormone. Back in our ancestral age, this is the same hormonal response our body reacts in response to any threat from any danger such as wild animals trying to prey on us.


This is also the same hormonal response we get during the feeling of excitement such as driving cars fast, riding roller coaster, doing some stunts, bungee jumping, etc. In short, adrenaline’s primary purpose is our survival. The human body is a smart, complex system. Our body is an ultimate survival machine. It protects us from being eaten or being starved to death. Remember, way back then during the Paleolithic era or during the war, food scarcity was a very huge problem.

People can react to a stressor in different ways. For instance, if an individual perceives the stressor as a challenge to his/her control of a situation, norepinephrine, the “fight ” hormone is predominantly released. And, if the stress arousal increases and a possible loss of control is felt by the individual, then epinephrine, another “flight/anxiety” hormone is released.

When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, the individual becomes more distressed and feels defeated. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain. What follows is a cascade of hormonal pathways resulting in the final release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex of the kidney.

The brain has the ability to selectively activate the fight, flight, or defeat responses. This usually occurs in day to day living when an individual perceives his/her hassles as a challenge to control or a loss of control. Although the stress pathways work together, they each can uniquely affect the function of bodily processes. For instance, the “fight” or “flight” stress responses cause the heart to beat faster and harder as well as release more free fatty acids (disassembled triglycerides) into the blood. The “defeat” response stress pathway can lead to enhanced lipogenesis (fat creation), visceral obesity (deep abdominal obesity), breakdown of tissues, and suppression of the immune system.

If you read all my previous blogs, I endlessly mentioned about the importance of the first law of thermodynamics which is calories in = calories out. However, this law only applies to the total body weight but not necessarily to it’s subcomponents. So you may be wandering if what’s going on? This is the reason why I am writing this blog because since our body is a complex system, there are constant biochemical changes that happens in our body and stress is one of those factor/s that affects our body composition.

In the modern days where there are no more wild beasts trying to hunt us, there are no more famine because in fact accessible to food is so convenient that we could eat as much as we like, anytime we want but our body is not capable of distinguishing the difference between old age stress and modern stress. See, stress is our invisible twin. It’s a part of reality. We experience it everyday such as traffic jams, irritating coworkers, bills to pay, love life, etc.

Whilst stress is inevitable, the best way to respond to stress is to change our attitude. Easier said than done right? Well, when there’s life, there is hope. When there is a will, there is always a way. There are many things and unfortuitous events that are happening in our lives that are both in our control and not in our control. Since, there is nothing we can do about the latter, we need to focus on the former.


The keyword there is “control.” Our modern lives consists of everyday multitasking to the extent that we are tend to neglect to value the quality of living. We need to linearly stick this word in our head like a sticky note. Instead of worrying about the things that we cannot control and have our body release the defeat stress response, it makes more sense to activate our flight/ fight response to win a specific scenario plus it’s good for fat loss. Since when we are stress, your body breaks down it’s stored fatty acids to provide immediate energy supply. If we are able to manage our attitude/ stress response, we can voluntarily activate our stored fatty acids in the abdomen thus it’d improve our feeling of well-being because we were able to fulfill something. Be reactive to stress, you lose control and you will also tell your body to store body fat(in the abdomen) because our body thinks that you are in danger so it’s reaction would be bias on storing fats because you might be in a potentially dangerous scenario. Our environment have changed(modernized) but our genetic and metabolic response were still the same in terms of stress. There are many events that happens independently to each other but they are often synergistically interconnected within each other. Change your attitude into a positive attitude and you are also more likely to manage your body composition as well. Personally, whenever I feel frustrated, angry or rejected, I tend to use that energy(flight/fight response) into a positive, more productive energy such as lifting weights(or exercise) or doing other productive things. To some people(or probably to many), they often eat their way out of stress to the point that they often end up losing their control(defeat response).


Share and enjoy.

  1. January 8th, 2012
  2. January 29th, 2012
  3. January 31st, 2012

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