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Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?

When you feel stressed out, what is your go-to stress-busting technique?

For lots of us, it is to turn to the unhealthy habits that comfort us and stop our weight loss diet for the day. These could be things like alcohol, high-fat foods, and calorie-dense snacks.

It is oh-too-easy for us to reach for a glass (or bottle) of wine or order a takeaway when we’re having a hard time.

But what if we told you, it is not your fault you’re reaching for those things in times of stress and there could be other reasons you’re gaining weight related to your stress?

Fight or Flight

When we are stressed, our body releases the hormone, cortisol.

Stressed Businesswoman

With our body in a high-stress state, cortisol stimulates glucose to be released into your bloodstream to create adrenaline in your body, to help give you the energy to escape whatever is causing your stress – your fight or flight response.

However, once your adrenaline wears off, your cortisol kicks in to tell you that you are hungry and your cravings for sugary, high-energy foods tend to begin, and we reach for the chocolate and sweets.


And if that isn’t bad enough, cortisol also slows down your metabolism.

If you are stressed a lot, which, frankly, who isn’t?, you could find that your metabolism slows. Because your metabolism is responsible for converting the food you eat into energy, a slowing of it could cause issues.

This includes things like:

  • Weight Gain
  • Fatigue and Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Weakened Immune System

To make things worse, the weight we tend to gain as a result of stress and cortisol is often stored around our waistline and organs – the most dangerous place to store fat!

Bad Habits

Additionally, we are stressed a lot, which can lead to frequent bouts of overeating, which in turn become habits, which leads to weight gain on a larger scale and eventually, obesity.

And if your stress is causing you to have poorer quality sleep, it makes it harder to make sensible, healthy decisions.

With it easier than ever to access the foods we find such comfort in, we find it could be easier to nip to the supermarket or local drive-through to get high-calorie foods than to stop and cook a healthy, balanced meal when we are tired and stressed out.

Tips to Ease Stress in a Healthy Way

But what can we do, if we are highly stressed, to help keep our weight loss on track and keep away from the bad habits we want to turn to?

Exercise is a great way to bust stress.

It could be a gym class or just a 15-minute walk in the fresh air, but regularly incorporating movement into your day can significantly reduce stress levels.
Find Comfort In Healthier Foods
Not all comfort foods need to be high-calorie or carb-heavy. You can try things like salty popcorn, nuts, or dark chocolate to see if it takes the urges away for comfort food and your negative mood.

Try Mindful Eating

When you are stressed and find yourself thoughtlessly strolling to the fridge or cupboards. STOP. Before you reach into either, think: “Am I Hungry?” – in truth, unless your tummy is rumbling, or empty, you’re likely eating due to a response to stress and don’t need to eat.

Drink Some Water

You’ve probably heard us say it a million times, but keep hydrated. Your body can so often mistake thirst for hunger and cravings. So if you’re feeling the need for something sweet, try drinking a glass of water, waiting 15 minutes, and then reassess how you feel.

Try Stress-Relief

Whether it’s a massage, reading, yoga or taking deep breaths, find what works for you to release a bit of your stress. Make sure you take time to incorporate these relieving tactics each week, even if just for 10 minutes, as they could make all the difference to your healthy lifestyle and weight loss diet.

And if you want more structured, medical support with your weight loss and healthy lifestyle, or your stress and/or stress-related weight gain is causing you to distress it may be time to seek professional health.

Speak to our weight loss doctors here at Garrow Wellness Center. They have years of experience in all causes of weight gain and are here to support you in getting back to the healthiest and happiest you can be!