Stress and Weight Management

It is okay to think that you lose weight under excessive pressure. However, scientific research has continually proved contrary. Rather than weight loss, a standard weight management schedule targets the prevention of weight gain under stress. Stress has extensively invaded our lifestyle and activities on a daily basis. 70% of our everyday activities are carried out in the most stressful way possible. Very little attention is paid to the progressive consequences of continuous stress.

According to the American Institute of Stress, 33% of Americans experience extreme stress, 77% experience stress that affects their physical health and 73% undergo stress that affects their mental health. In this article, you will learn how stressful conditions can cause weight gain and how to manage stress and avoid excessive weight gain.

How Stress Causes Weight Gain

Stress may be physical or emotional. Usually, the effects of physical stress which comes from physical exertion beyond the limits which our bodies can take are easy to notice. A person may experience general weakness, muscle and joint pain, apathy and so on.
However, emotional stress is not so obvious both in its origin and its manifestations. Emotionally stressed persons may be going through a difficult life situation like a divorce, the loss of a loved one or the diagnosis of a terminal illness in themselves or loved ones. This may manifest as sleeplessness, loss of interest in previously interesting
activities and so on.


Irrespective of the nature and manifestation of stress, it has been shown to cause weight gain. There is a hormone in your body called cortisol which is secreted in response to stress. Its role is to help you prepare a response to the stress which could be to fight or flee. When you are no longer stressed, cortisol levels return to normal. However, in individuals undergoing stress for a long duration, cortisol levels remain high. The problems with this is that since cortisol also increases appetite, these persons often indulge in overeating.

Another problem with high levels of cortisol is that the extra calories an individual consumes under its influence are deposited in the trunk mainly. As a result, fat is deposited around the person’s belly. Research has also shown that people burn off less calories when they are under stress than when they are not. The combined effect of higher food consumption and less calorie consumption results in a net increase in weight.

Weight Management Through Stress Control

Apart from the obvious benefits that come with stress management such as general relief and a more positive outlook on life, there are other reasons why you should consider stress management routine. Constant exposure to stress has posed severe health implications for you. The hormonal response which is meant to prepare you to respond to and survive the stress can become problematic if it goes on for too long. This is because the hormones released continue to influence the body leading to undesirable consequences.

For example, cortisol and adrenaline released during stress increase your heart rate, breathing rate, raise your blood pressure and increase glucose release in order to prepare your body for a fight or flight response. However, if normal function is not restored, this can become a problem leading to hypertension, diabetes and other conditions. Also, the weight gain caused by stress can be a secondary cause of obesity, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke and so on. Stress management is therefore critical to a person’s wellbeing.

Regular Exercise. Regular physical exercise has several benefits. It improves blood circulation round your body, increases your depth of respiration which improves your oxygen saturation, strengthens your muscles and bones, and burns off excess calories that would have added to your weight. In addition to these physical benefits, exercise relaxes your mind and makes you feel better about yourself. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise in your daily schedule.

▪ Rest and good sales: The role of good sleep and rest in stress management cannot be overemphasized. Take some time off your regular schedule to deliberately sit down and rest. You can see a movie, read a novel, visit a natural reserve or hang out with family and friends. The essence is to keep your mind off the things that constantly exert pressure on you. You will find yourself refreshed after such moments of rest. Also, learn to have adequate sleep. Train yourself to put your mind to rest when in bed rather than engaging in thoughts capable of inducing stress.


▪ Healthy diet: Given that you are dealing with weight management, you should cut down on processed foods, fried snacks and high-fat diets. Expand your consumption of natural foods like fruits and vegetables while drinking plenty of water. You can keep fruits handy in your home or office and rather than go for processed food when you are stressed, go for fruits.
▪ Cut down unnecessary stress: It is important that you limit those activities
mounting excessive pressure on you. While stress can happen once in a while as a natural consequence of being alive, you should be deliberate about creating a lifestyle that is as free of stress as possible.

In summary, the way your body responds to long-term stress leads to weight gain. Through regular exercise, a healthy eating habit and adequate rest, you can reduce stress and the weight gain associated with it, thereby leading a healthier and more productive life.


Sara Lindberg. (2019). Stress and weight gain: Understanding the Connection. Retrieved from

Eric Patterson. (2020). Stress facts and statistics. Retrieved from

Ann Pietrangelo. (2020). The effects of stress on your body. Retrieved from


Elizabeth Scott. (2021). How stress can cause weight gain. Retrieved from

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