How Too Much Stress Can Make It Harder for You to Lose Weight


After a long and stressful day at work often nothing seems to set the mind better than digging into a sugary, high calorie snack. A fight with your spouse, managing an unruly teenage son or any other stressful event can trigger the same kind of response. The “fight or flight” response that is triggered in us under conditions of stress can cause many hormonal changes in the body which can alter how we feel and lead to emotional eating.

Stress and weight loss

There are many reasons why subjecting ourselves to chronic stress can make it much harder to prevent weight gain and lose weight. Cortisol a hormone that is released during stressful conditions is linked to a greater risk of weight gain because it slows metabolism in the body. So even if you’re not eating more calories than you normally would, cortisol can slow down the rate at which calories are burned and greatly hamper your weight loss efforts. Small increases in cortisol have some positive effects such as heightened memory, a boost in immunity, bursts of energy but in the long run prolonged stress can lead to impaired memory function, higher blood pressure and a host of other ugly conditions.

Stress is a dieter’s worst nightmare. Stress can cause cravings for foods that are especially salty, spicy, sugary or fatty which are often found in high carbohydrate, highly processed foods such as candies, processed snacks and fast food. These foods may cause quick boosts in blood sugar levels and mood but just as quickly you’re blood sugar levels will drop causing tiredness and further cravings. Such a roller coaster ride of emotions and the resultant snacking is definitely not ideal for any dieter.

Stress is also known to cause greater deposits of fat around the abdomen. Thus not only can you gain weight, you’re body fat may be redistributed in a very undesirable way. More fat around the stomach (visceral fat) is linked to a greater risk of a variety of ailments such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Studies have proved the link between stress and difficulties losing weight. A study published in the American journal of epidemiology examined stress, eating habits and weight gain among a group of 1355 men and women over a period of 9 years. It was found that the risk of weight gain increased under stressful conditions especially for people with high Body Mass Indexes (BMI).

Greater stress in our lives whether it is from meeting the challenges of our careers or maintaining relationships often go hand in hand with other habits that making losing weight a much hard task. Spending more stressful hours at work results in less time and motivation for exercise or sport and consequently less calories get burnt. All those excess calories go straight to your waistline. Staying late at work often results in unhealthy snacking in the office or eating out at nearby fast food chains. All in all stress can result in a very unhealthy lifestyle of overeating and avoidance of physical activity.

Managing Stress

When you’re trying to lose weight, its of the utmost importance to keep your stress levels under control. Instead of letting your emotions pull you into a downward spiral of overeating and weight gain its important to learn proper stress management techniques. It is often hardest to motivate yourself to go the gym when you’re stressed (and much easier to just laze in front of the tv) but getting active ups the production of feel good endorphins and eases tension. Other ways to relieve stress include meditation, taking an aromatic bath, practicing deep breathing, listening to soothing music and even sex.

Next time you feel stressed, avoid the box of cookies or the tub of high fat ice cream and indulge in something healthier instead. If stress has been a recurring factor in your life for a long time you may be in the habit of stocking up on snacks in anticipation of stressful events. It’s best to avoid this habit, clear your office desk and kitchen pantry of any stores of fatty snacks and start anew. Stress and emotional eating can make losing weight a much more difficult endeavor if it goes unchecked so learn to calm those nerves!

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