How Stress Can Lead To Weight Gain

June 26, 2018

If you have been gaining weight even though you try to eat healthy and get regular exercise the cause of your weight gain could be stress. Multiple studies have shown that your body’s response to chronic stress can lead to a hormonal imbalance that can cause you to gain weight, especially in the midsection. And this is a big problem, especially for women. According to the American Psychiatric Association women suffer from higher rates of stress than men. And as women get older their stress increases.

What Causes So Much Stress?

Modern life is stressful for most people. But women have additional stress from their relationships with a spouse, their children, family members, and friends. On top of that they suffer from work stress and the stress of trying to manage their health. Add in the natural hormonal imbalances that occur during and after menopause and it’s no wonder why women report higher rates of stress.

Stress And Weight

When you are under severe stress it triggers a “fight or flight” response in your body. Your body releases adrenaline and cortisol in order to give you the energy needed to get away from the threat. Cortisol is a hormone that slows your metabolism. When you’re in a true emergency situation adrenaline and cortisol combine to give you a burst of energy and to slow down your metabolism so that you don’t burn up all the fuel in your body. But when you’re stressed out because you have had a bad day at work, or because you’ve had a fight with a loved one, cortisol still floods your system and slows down your metabolism. If you’re stressed frequently that means your metabolism is always acting slower than it should be. And that can cause weight gain.

Stress is also more likely to cause cravings for sugary, fatty, or starchy foods. When you’ve had a stressful day do you go home and make a salad? Most people don’t. They reach for the chips or chocolate instead. Over time all those stress snacks add up and make you gain weight.

How To Fight Stress Induced Weight Gain

So what can you do to slow down this stress induced weight gain? It would be great if you could just eliminate the sources of stress in your life but that’s just not possible. So instead you need to find healthier ways to manage stress and keep your body from going into that “fight or flight” mode and releasing excess cortisol into your system. There are many ways that you can do that like:


Regular exercise is one of the best ways to control stress. Physical exercise will burn calories and help get rid of that excess cortisol. It also builds up your muscles, and the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn when you’re doing normal everyday tasks. That will boost your metabolism and help you lose weight. If you’re trying to maintain your weight you should be getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 5-6 days per week. If you are trying to lose weight you should be getting 60 minutes of exercise 5-6 days per week. Try to find a physical exercise that you enjoy doing and start making it part of your daily routine. Going for a walk on your lunch hour is a great way to burn calories and get rid of stress. So is going for a bike ride after dinner or taking a swimming class.


Another great way to manage stress is to meditate. Just ten minutes of meditation each day can dramatically lower your stress levels. And if sitting still and trying to keep your mind still isn’t something you think you can do there are other ways to get the benefits of meditation like making art, coloring, or knitting. Making time to lower your daily stress levels can have a huge impact on your mental and physical health.