Have you ever wondered if stress can make you gain weight? If you are struggling to lose weight or you find that no matter what you do, you can’t lose weight, stress could be one of the culprits. While some stress can be a good thing—it motivates you to accomplish tasks—too much stress is not healthy. It can wreak havoc on both body and mind. It may be causing you to gain weight for a variety of reasons, whether it leads you to overeat, consume unhealthy foods, or produce high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
Are you an emotional eater? When you are stressed, you may find yourself reaching into the cabinets or the refrigerator for an emotional boost. For a chronically stressed individual, this can add up to quite a lot of calories. Food cues may be playing a role as well. An emotion, such as sadness, boredom, or anger—can trigger you to go grab a snack whether you’re truly hungry or not. If you struggle with psychological hunger, you may notice the scale moving in the opposite direction you want it to go.
Choosing Unhealthy Foods
When you’re stressed and stretched thin, you may not have time to plan and cook healthy meals. You may be more prone to grab the first readily available food item. Oftentimes, that’s not the healthiest option. You may even be skipping meals, which isn’t good for you either. Not only can this lead to a drop in energy that leaves you feeling sluggish, it can lower your metabolism and eventually lead to weight gain if it becomes a habit. Once you do eat again, you may be so ravenous that you overconsume.
When you’re stressed, your body reacts by giving you the energy you need to remove yourself from a risky or dangerous situation. Adrenaline and cortisol are released, which causes glucose to flood your bloodstream. But once the adrenaline wears off, your blood sugar drops—which leaves cortisol left to do the job of replenishing your energy. In search of energy, cortisol stimulates your appetite. Oftentimes, this presents itself as a sugar craving. Too much sugar is often stored as fat in the abdomen region, which is notoriously hard to lose. Additionally, cortisol may cause your metabolism to slow.
Stress leads to a combination of hormonal and psychological factors that may make losing weight or maintaining weight loss increasingly difficult. By making stress management a priority, you can work against these hormonal and psychological factors. Focus on a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising for stress management.