Stress and Weight Loss

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If you have been struggling with your weight and are certain that what you are putting in your mouth is not adding up to what is showing up on the scale or on your body, you may be right. Our body and mind are not separate. Stress can wreak havoc on our body, and cause to hang on to fat despite our best efforts to the contrary. 

Stress and weight loss: Cortisol 

The higher the level of cortisol people have , the greater the body weight, B.M.I. and waist circumference. Higher cortisol levels are  also associated with persistence of obesity over time.

Cortisol is the flight or fight hormone that is released when our brain believes we are in danger. You can learn more about this here. It can be triggered when we are under stress which causes us to perceive fear and anger and  may sometimes manifest as anxiety or panic. Cortisol works in conjunction with other brain, neuroendocrine and inflammatory systems in our body, when  we are under stress to try and restore it to homeostasis. Among other things, cortisol has a hand in controlling  our blood sugar and our appetite.  Along with other hormonal changes induced by stress, cortisol can lead to weight gain by:

  • slowing down our metabolism
  • increasing our fat storage
  • increasing fat production
  • increasing cravings for bad food

Stress and Weight loss: Chronic Stress

It's important to note that when your body is under constant stress, the system become taxed by responding as if it is constantly under danger.

We believe stress is related to almost every major illness and disease out there. Mental illness, heart disease, stomach ailments, cancer, auto immune disease, and pretty much anything else you can think about is impacted by stress because your body can't function the way it is supposed to. Our brain is also impacted by chronic stress and it's pathways change to be more sensitive and reactive. This is because resources are being diverted from the things they normally do. For example, your body is not able to function to appropriately  fight off disease ( immune function) because it has been in overdrive (fighting perceived danger) when you are under chronic stress.  Chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on your weight as well.

When you are chronically stressed you may be more likely to:

  • 1) have no time for exercise
  • 2) get less sleep
  • 3) grab unhealthy food on the run
  • 4) spend less time preparing and meal planning good nutritious food

Stress and Weight Loss: What to do?

If you have tried to lose weight and have not been successful, it may make sense , especially if you are a women, to consider the benefit of seeking the advice of a doctor who understands the impact of hormones on your weight, as well as adding a protocol of stress management into your diet regimen. 

It's important to understand why you aren't losing weight and to not be hard on yourself because this will not help you. 

You may be able to successfully lose weight by breaking the cycle of chronic stress and shifting your body into more balance.

Additionally there are many added benefits to this approach. A stress management inventory requires you to :

  • take stock of things in your life that aren't working and to work on replacing them with healthier habits and patterns
  • learn to prioritize yourself and practice self care
  • add in mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga or other ones that may be more attractive to you
  • get rid of toxic relationships
  • practice healthy eating and sleeping habits
  • look at the possible impact of your workplace on your weight

A recent study in January of 2019 in Sweden, found a relationship between women's weight gain and the stress level in their place of work. Women who had stressful and demanding jobs were at increased risk of significant weight gain although men were not found to have any such risk. 

Leave stress and weight loss for other pages about stress

Stress in your body

Stress management

Holiday stress

Stress reduction game

Definition of stress

Work stress

Stress and anxiety

main cause of stress

 Stress and hives

Dealing with stress



Stress awareness day: This is what long-term stress could be doing to your health. (2017, Nov 01). Kildare Nationalist Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1958417883?accountid=13217

Bakalar, N. (2017, Mar 07). Weight: Stress is linked to obesity: Science desk]. New York Times Retrieved from http://nclive.org/cgi-bin/nclsm?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1874617225?accountid=13217

Klingberg, S., Mehlig, K., Johansson, I., Lindahl, B., Winkvist, A., & Lissner, L. (2018). Occupational stress is associated with major long-term weight gain in a Swedish population-based cohort. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 1-8.