Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

Stress is one of the most common issues in today’s fast-paced society.
Stressed man with head in his hands

Stress is one of the most common issues in today’s fast-paced society. Stressors may include family responsibilities, relationships, school, work, or finances. Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but prolonged exposure can impact your physical and mental well-being. This article will explore the connection between stress and weight and include tips on managing stress and maintaining a healthy weight.

Stress and Hormones

Stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that has been shown to increase appetite and lead to overeating. It can cause the body to store more fat, especially in the abdominal area. Cortisol can also lower your metabolism, causing weight gain, even in people who are otherwise physically active and eat a healthy diet.

Stress can also increase insulin levels which contributes to fat storage. Learning healthy ways to cope with stress will help to reduce spikes in your hormones and maintain a healthy weight. 

Stress Eating

Stress eating is a common problem for many people. People may use food as a coping mechanism, leading to overeating and weight gain. When people feel stressed, they tend to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods or foods that comfort them. These foods are typically high in calories, which can lead to weight gain. If you find yourself eating due to stress, pause before eating and see if you are physically hungry or eating to fill an emotional need.

Some people may have a decreased appetite during periods of high stress, causing rapid weight loss. Weight loss associated with stress may occur from skipping meals or experiencing digestive problems. 

Gaining or losing weight depends on genetics and how your body reacts to stress. 

Managing Stress and Weight

Use these tips to help manage stress and prevent weight gain.

  1. Pay Attention to What You Eat 

Mindful eating involves paying attention to hunger and fullness cues and eating only when you are hungry. Being mindful of what you eat will help reduce stress eating and prevent overeating.

  1. Exercise 

Exercise reduces stress and improves overall health. You can start small and build up your physical activity. Aim for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Regular exercise can help manage weight, reduce cortisol levels, and improve your overall mood.

  1. Sleep 

Chronic stress can lead to a lack of sleep, which increases cortisol levels and may lead to weight gain. Most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation can alter other hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. Getting enough quality sleep can help reduce stress and prevent weight gain.

  1. Practice Stress Management 

Develop healthy coping strategies such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness. Find activities you enjoy, like journaling, yoga, or walking. Getting outside and enjoying nature can help to relieve stress. Talk with people you trust about your concerns or speak to a therapist. 

Too much stress can interfere with your hormones, sleep, physical activity, and mood, which can contribute to weight gain. Developing healthy habits and coping strategies can help manage stress and prevent weight gain. Reducing stress can improve your overall health and well-being.

© 2023 WellDoc, Inc.

The information we provide at is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.

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