How Stress Can Cause You To Gain Weight


A little-known fact: stress can cause you to gain weight.

We often think that a life constantly in high gear equates with getting more things done and represents an “active lifestyle”. This may be true for some. But for others, especially those with a “slow metabolism” a high-stress lifestyle can unwantedly increase weight and the potential for obesity.

How does stress cause you to gain weight?

Stress causes your body to release a chemical called cortisol. Cortisol is natural and fine in small amounts. In fact, it’s inevitable that you produce it during any given day. Usually other natural hormones your body produces balances cortisol out.

However, if you suffer from chronic stress and anxiety your cortisol levels may be too high over a long period of time.

The problem with too much cortisol—the stress chemical.

Heightened levels of cortisol cause inflammation. Excess inflammation in the body can cause you to gain weight.

The sleep connection – how stress disrupts sleep and also contributes to weight gain.

Stress also disrupts sleep. Getting 7 to 8 hours of regular sleep is essential for hormonal balance—a healthy flux of melatonin and serotonin that lead that regulate sleeping, dreaming, and moods.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your hormonal balance is upset and, in turn, cortisol can take prominence when other healthy hormones are lacking that would normally counterbalance stress.

That leads to more stress, more inflammation in the body, and unnecessary weight gain due primarily to this hormonal imbalance.

Stress causes you to become hungry—or at least “think” you are hungry.

You might cover up your anxiety and stress by eating, when you aren’t necessarily truly hungry. Instead you have an uncomfortable empty feeling in your stomach and seek to rid yourself of that feeling by having a snack, or “filling up”. But are you truly hungry in these moments?

Anxiety and stress are often felt first in the gut, what Eastern cultures call “the second brain”. So it makes sense that you might confuse those feelings with hunger or try to get rid of them by eating something.

In those moments it may help to drink some water and check in with your body. Are you really hungry? Is your mouth watering at the thought of food? Then eat! If not, try to sooth yourself with meditation, conscious breathing, or just lying down for five minutes until your emotions stabilize.

In addition, stress and anxiety kicks in your adreneline. Adreneline makes your blood sugar drop an may be the root of cravings for rich or sugary foods.