How Stress Can Impact Unwanted Weight (This is Worse than We Thought)


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How Stress Can Affect Your Weight (It’s Worse than We Thought) As a culture, we tend to turn toward “comfort food” staples during times of high stress, but that post-breakup mac n’ cheese binge may be more damaging to your waistline than previously though. For many people, stress can have a direct impact on their weight. Whether it causes weight loss or weight gain can vary from person to person — and even situation to.

Chronic stress can lead to weight gain. The good news is there are simple and effective ways to reduce daily stressors, and consequently, manage. Stress could be one of the culprits. It plays a role in weight gain. While it can make you have less of an appetite at first, long-term “chronic” stress actually boosts your hunger.

Fight and Flight. And you may be especially likely to eat high-calorie foods during times of stress, even when you’re not hungry. To prevent weight gain during stress and reduce the risk of obesity, get a handle on your stress. When you feel less stressed and more in control of your life, you may find it easier to stick to healthy eating and exercise habits.

Stress doesn’t only influence your eating habits. Studies show it can affect your metabolism, too. Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating. Researchers have linked weight gain to stress, and according to an American Psychological Association survey, about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale. It can affect how quickly food moves through the body, which can cause either diarrhea or constipation.

Furthermore, stress can induce muscle spasms in the bowel, which can be painful. Stress can affect digestion and what nutrients the intestines absorb. Gas production related to nutrient absorption may increase. Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you manage them.

Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is the main reason why stress will affect the weight. When people are under stress, the body goes into a “fight or flight” mode where it responds by releasing various hormones, especially cortisol.

With the presence of this hormone in the bloodstream, the craving for food, even the unhealthy ones, becomes strong.

List of related literature:

In the body, stress can lead to aches, pains, sleeplessness, acne, poor eating habits, unhealthy weight gain/loss, back/neck problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches, increased risk for cancer, illness, heart problems, and so on.

“8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise (8 Keys to Mental Health)” by Christina Hibbert, Babette Rothschild
from 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise (8 Keys to Mental Health)
by Christina Hibbert, Babette Rothschild
W. W. Norton, 2016

Stress affects eating in a bidirectional fashion: a subset of stressed individuals (approximately 30%) decrease their food intake and lose weight during or after stress, whereas most stressed individuals increase their food intake [44] and exhibit an intensified preference for higher-fat, energy-dense foods [43,45].

“Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Abdominal Obesity” by Ronald Ross Watson
from Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Abdominal Obesity
by Ronald Ross Watson
Elsevier Science, 2014

It should be noted that being ill can cause stress, and stress can pack on the pounds, too.

“Eat Like a Woman: A 3-Week, 3-Step Program to Finally Drop the Pounds and Feel Better Than Ever” by Staness Jonekos, Marjorie Jenkins
from Eat Like a Woman: A 3-Week, 3-Step Program to Finally Drop the Pounds and Feel Better Than Ever
by Staness Jonekos, Marjorie Jenkins
Harlequin, 2014

On top of the physical impact, the psychological stress is equally burdensome—weight fluctuations can cause feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and frustration and inevitably contribute to a decreased sense of overall wellbeing.

“The Guide to Your Best Body (Enhanced eBook Edition): The Revolutionary 12-Week Plan to Transform Your Body and Stay Fit Forever” by Kris Gethin, Jamie Eason
from The Guide to Your Best Body (Enhanced eBook Edition): The Revolutionary 12-Week Plan to Transform Your Body and Stay Fit Forever
by Kris Gethin, Jamie Eason
Atria Books, 2010

In adults, exposure to stress alone affects eating differently depending on initial weight status.

“The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness” by Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, Ellen J. Langer
from The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Mindfulness
by Amanda Ie, Christelle T. Ngnoumen, Ellen J. Langer
Wiley, 2014

Other studies have suggested a link between stressful life events and higher body weight.

“Stress Consequences: Mental, Neuropsychological and Socioeconomic” by George Fink
from Stress Consequences: Mental, Neuropsychological and Socioeconomic
by George Fink
Elsevier Science, 2010

Effects of stress on weight gain may differ across demographic characteristics and health-related variables such as baseline BMI, or physiological stress levels such as cortisol reactivity, which may lead some individuals to gain more weight than others under stressful circumstances (Harding et al., 2014).

“Handbook of Obesity Treatment, Second Edition” by Thomas A. Wadden, George A. Bray
from Handbook of Obesity Treatment, Second Edition
by Thomas A. Wadden, George A. Bray
Guilford Publications, 2019

For example, the wrong job or a dysfunctional relationship can cause stress that will cause weight gain.

“Visualization for Weight Loss: The Gabriel Method Guide to Using Your Mind to Transform Your Body” by Jon Gabriel
from Visualization for Weight Loss: The Gabriel Method Guide to Using Your Mind to Transform Your Body
by Jon Gabriel
Hay House, 2015

In Part I, we’ll delve into the ways in which your body—including your health, weight, appetite, and comfort levels—is affected by stress.

“Don't Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle: How to Break free of Negativity and Drama” by Doreen Virtue
from Don’t Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle: How to Break free of Negativity and Drama
by Doreen Virtue
Hay House, 2015

Stress affects weight gain in complex ways.

“Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days” by Dr. Mike Dow
from Heal Your Drained Brain: Naturally Relieve Anxiety, Combat Insomnia, and Balance Your Brain in Just 14 Days
by Dr. Mike Dow
Hay House, 2018

Alexia Lewis RD

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Heath Coach who believes life is better with science, humor, and beautiful, delicious, healthy food.

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  • I tried number one and immediate weight gain I cant seem to tolerate it. When I mix it up I get better results. I hate cooking. I was overweight in 2017 despite running 17km. It took two years of counsellor for me to eat 1200 calories. Now I have the same issue again. I’ve gained weight during quarantine despite lots of walking a run and an hour of housework daily up almost 7 pounds, I’m disgusted and mu joints are not thanking me and I counted my calories. My neoghboues horrible and I had major setback with health over the weight gain. It did not help me. My life depends on me being healthy again

  • I was in depression for 9 years n before 9 years i was 50kg but in 9 years i became 86kg n whenever im in tension i gain ma weight ��

  • Thank you for this video. I’m working on reducing stress and my relationship with food and my body. This video is a good example of the Dao Te Ching philosophy of letting go. Which is something else I’ve been thinking of.

  • Please can you talk about diet, Leto and fasting to help with emphysema? Does a low carb diet reduce CO2? Could autophagy help heal the lungs and trigger stem cell activation?

    Why does lung capacity decline and breathlessness increase despite quitting smoking? I am desperate to help my mum. I wonder if you have any tips, research and advise?

  • I have no clue how I found you two, since at 60, I’m constantly watching anti-aging videos, lol! However, I am thankful!!! I deal with alot of repressed stress. In 2008, my husband had worked for the USPS for 30 years. It use to be oltimers were respected…today not so much. We spent the last 4 years dealing with 2 law suits just to protect him so he could make it to retirement at the age of 55. We had 2 years to recoup from that when we were in a severe motorcycle accident. My husband broke his ribs in 1u places, 6 away from his spine and had to have the left side banded to help him breathe. It broke his collar bone and collapsed his lung. He’s suffered with chronic pain since. I was injured…just not as severely. Then, in June of 2018 he was diagnised with stage 3 colon cancer. He only has one more chemo treatment left, yeah! I’m a real estate appraiser but with all the stress I’ve struggled to concentrate. It has aged both of us! I wish we lived near you two so you could help fiqure out why he is still in chronic pain. Wishful thinking… Basically, writing this is my stress reliever today. Thanks so much for all you do…it”s a service to all of us readers.

  • My elderly mom is a recent BK amputee (cancer drug caused PAD). She is in prosthetic rehab now. Do you have any exercises that would be good for her? She is petite and doesn’t have much strength. Thanks!

  • Good day, old bean! Great to see a keto-r from this side of the pond.
    I have a request for you, can you dive a bit deeper and go into some of the cultural differences with UK produce? For example, all the US Keto bods go on about Kerygold as it’s ‘grassfed’, but aren’t most, if not all, of our butters? How much of our meat is already ‘grass-fed’? We’re told Canola oil is the antichrist and that ‘canola oil is rapeseed oil’, but I’m not sure that’s true, Rapeseed Oil seems to range from the good to the ugly so what’s the deal on top range/cold-pressed organic rapeseed oil? And is the rapeseed oil you find in most shop-bought mayos just as dangerous as canola oil? Are pasture-raised and free-range eggs the same thing? Why is Doctor Berg such a corporate sell-out?

    (OK, one of those you don’t have to answer!)

  • Thanks doc.
    What do you think about EPHEDRINE ARSAN?
    I think
    It is very easy way for to lose weight. I am feeling wonderful.
    I did in 130kg two years ago
    I am in 92-95kg now

  • Thank you guys stress isn’t even the word for what’s going on with me so my partner passed away 4 months again I am bipolar and I’m transgender and once he passed away I started my transition right away and now with the holidays coming and being on testosterone and on no meds for the bipolar well let’s just say crazy is how I am my stress level is so high I can’t handle anything else I’m in pt 3 times a week and I freak out if any appointment that I have anywhere gets canceled and that happened Friday and Monday
    So thank you I have been feeling physically in pain and I know it mental that’s cause it thanks for sharing

  • I just subscribed to your videos. I am a big proponent of low carb eating! But as you know people eat because of stress and other emotions so, I hope you don’t mind, but I think you might like the book, The Secret Language of Feelings where I talk about the “feel bad and then distract cycle”. Here is a link where you can learn more about it,

  • I’m a 55 year old woman who needs to increase upper body strength after a minor injury to my right rotator cuff. Any suggestions for doing this safely.

  • Hey elisa
    Thank you for the video. I went into recovery 9 months ago and have gained 60+ pounds. Wayyyyy over my set point but my hunger has still not decreased. I believe it is because I’m so stressed about my weight keep increasing. How do I stop this horrible cycle of me stressing myself out about my weight then keep gaining more weight and stressing even more. Please help��

  • I have lately been having this thing were I just randomnly shake for a few seconds for basically no reason. Now I kinda think its from stress.

  • Love your videos! Just one problem: your intro is much louder than your speaking, so it always gives me a little startle, especially on headphones. Just a minor inconvenience but wanted to meantion it if anyone else has the same problem.:)

  • Hi Elisa, I watched many of your videos. May I ask how long appropriately did it take you to stabilise your weight from the beginning of your recovery? Sorry if I missed that part from your videos but really want to know to get some reference point. Thanks!

  • I can definitely relate. I am close to a year into recovery and I haven’t actually relapsed however whenever I think about dieting again, even if it’s just a thought, I have the urge to binge and sometimes overeat afterwards

  • I have a 4 & 2 year old, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to help my stress ���� I infrared sauna 3x a week, yoga every morning, etc etc and I’m still stressed. Still don’t get sufficient sleep ��

  • Thank you for this!! This is exactly what I’ve been going through. I’ve been focusing on mental and stress but the drs and family only care about my weight gain getting too high when I’m trying to heal my body and mind.

  • Hi Elisa! I love your videos and you have given me a baseline on how to approach recovery in a way that no other channel (or article or counselor) has been able to before. I desperately need more help and do not have insurance to allow me outpatient or inpatient treatment. I was wondering how I can get more info about what you charge..? I would be so thrilled to work with you. ��

  • So, you had a daughter who was as stressed as you felt giving that speech nearly everyday as a kid? She was likely emotionally sensitive (and likely still is, since temperament is pervasive throughout the life span). I’m a mental health counselor and I specialize in treating emotionally sensitive folks (extremely so, likely way more than your daughter); I’ve never had a client who was severely emotionally sensitive who didn’t also suffer from chronic stomach issues. Often, they’ve gone to GI doctors and testing and all sorts of things. The body is a fascinating thing and, in my opinion, the brain is the most interesting part!

  • i am your new subscriber.������ but weight loss is my worst symptom,, because I a’m also underweight ������ my all reports are normal,,��

  • You’re popular now! I am a relatively new viewer and you have been entertaining, teaching and helping me move again! You entertain which makes exercise so much less painful!

  • I can’t thank you enough Bob and Brad! I use your neck exercises everyday! Takes away the pain! Thank you, thank you thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • How long would you say it took you to get over the fatigue symptom once you started exercising? And did you ever experience heart flutters sometimes after exercise?

  • No complaints from me hearing about chin tucks again after “7 billion” times:) I do them every day now. I actually feel a pain under my shoulder blades and my rib cage when I do them. Not a bad pain but the good kind of pain you feel when doing a stretch. I think this is telling me that my previous poor posture has been causing some of my back pain. Anyhow, thanks for another helpful and fun video.

  • I worked in a physical therapy clinic and I loved it and having full access to pilates machines was the cherry on top! You guys make me miss it so much. Keep up the good work, these videos are priceless.

  • Hey it’s licorice root tea. No sugar.. drink for a couple of weeks then have a break from it. Some laxative effect if over consumption.

  • I was losing weight too, because I had no appetite at all. But once, I am able to control my mind, the appetite came back. It felt so blessed the first time I could eat well. It is surprising how much we never feel grateful when we can eat with a great appetite.

  • I love you guys. Great sensible advice for an aging male body.

    Snacking on nuts is also fine.
    However microwaving nuts sounds like a bad idea. Microwaves kill all the good stuff in anything.

  • I hardly eat anything and just can’t lose weight despite eating nothing but steamed veggies, raw nuts, a little dairy. I don’t have hives, rather, acne, despite being 59. My brain is foggy, I’m fatigued whether I sleep well or not. Every Sunday, I get a “neck” headache. Despite putting in 60+ hours, I’m just barely managing check to check. This is due to budget cuts. I do the jobs of three people, but my chances of getting a job that will pay the bills if I quit my current one is about 0%. I used to have hobbies, exercise 3-4 x per week, have a social life. All of that is gone. Nkw, I just try to survive.

  • Do you have book recommendations on adrenal fatigue that do not focus mainly on the dietary part of healing it but more what is in tune with everything you said here?

    Also, you are very much appreciated.:)

  • I cut back my exercise I gained 7 pounds on 1800 calories was walking an hour and a half daily and running 30 minutes as well. It was beyond frustrating. I assume the stress of training contributes. I’m sticking to 30-60 minutes or I really overdo it on the butter. I’ll see how it goes. Just tracking intake food it’s not the best but it’s a start.

  • I’m fatigue but eat enough I used to restrict and I’m a little unbiased towards some foods but IM SOOOO HUNGRY even if I eat sufficiently PLS HELP IM SO SCARED I don’t want to gain weight but I want to feel full and free I workout everyday and don’t let that get overdone but I’m so hungry should I just eat? Or rest? Or not eat? I’m scared to eat till I’m full because I could eat a camel!!! I stored up all this hunger and now it’s exploding pls help!!! I can’t sleep at night due to hunger either ��

  • I hear about the 4-7-8 breathing technique a lot. But I don’t like holding my breath for a count of 7. I feel like I’m suffocating.

  • I only just made it to 1600 calories for the past 2 days. Today,I am really struggling with gastroparesis and don’t think I’ll manage to make it to 1,000.
    I am getting too stressed by the prospect of having to force feed myself.
    Should I just eat what I can and start again tomorrow?
    I am so worried,though,because I had managed to use the bathroom these past 2 days and thought maybe my thyroid was firing-up…
    I am so lost and quite honestly,for me lapsing into Anorectic behaviours seems less stressful.
    Can I have one bad day,or will it freak my body out even more?

  • Can you have a question Elisa? i’ve dealed with ed for half a year and i start recovery now (it’s so hard but i won’t relapse TT), how long my recovery will take?

  • Absolutely love love love you guys! Thank you for the time and effort that you put into your videos. I watch them every day. The other day you had a backbuddy massaging tool that looked amazing. I pulled it up on Amazon and it’s kind of pricey. I was recently laid off so the pricing of someone high for me right now, but I think it would be extremely beneficial, helping alleviate the pain and stress I’m experiencing right now. Are you guys still doing giveaways or do you have any promo codes to make it more affordable? Thank you and I look forward to seeing your upcoming videos.

  • Hey guys, love your channel. I Share helpful videos with my clients. The Yogi bear quote is “I’m smarter than the average bear.”
    Keep the videos coming!

  • There are many components to reducing panic attacks naturally. One place I discovered that succeeds in merging these is the Trevs Panic Fixer (check it out on google) without a doubt the most helpful resource that I’ve heard of. look at the amazing info.

  • These guys are great! Kind of like the “Car Talk” for the human body. You should subscribe and listen every day as I do. Even if the area of focus for the video is not a problem for you now, it’s usually a good tip for avoiding problems in the future. They really are the most famous Physical Therapists on the internet…

  • Another great video and dry humor! Thanks.
    a few notes on the 8 Silent Signs (and with time stamps some actions that you can take)

    1 Weight gain

    2:35 snack on nuts, raw almonds

    2 Breaking out in hives

    3 fuzzy brain

    4:50 4-7-8 breathing

    4 headaches

    7:00 chin tucks (pigeon neck movements)

    7:30 neck massages

    9:20 drink ginger tea

    5 hair falling out

    9:50 aerobic activity… walking and other movement

    6 a cold that doesn’t quit

    11:50 get more sleep

    7 acne pops up

    12:30 say NO, take action on getting things done

    Another stress reduction tool (later in the day?): Drink licorice root tea. Also peppermint tea. Liquorice and mint tea pigs combines the two.

  • Fabulous video Dr Dan! In my life I encounter stressors often. My ‘nothing very much’ described superbly by Dr Anna is pottering in the garden with the chickens! There’s also been a correlation between weight plateau despite carb dodging at times of chronic stress. Really helpful video and now I want supervision with Dr Anna!

  • You make great videos. I have been suffering from golfer’s elbow from my typing job for months and found you through that.

    Do you have an opinion on meditation? I have been meditating 10 minutes every day for 15 months. I cannot say whether there are any hard benefits, but I feel like it had made me much more calm. I believe there is also a lot of research on the matter.

  • Yes, I’m stressed. Long term stress from extended family & there’s a big event coming up that I’m a part of. I’ve been doing the keto diet for about 4 months and have lost some weight, but not as much as I read other’s have lost. It’s also melting from some areas more than others. Frustrating, but I’m not giving up.

  • Thanks for watching guys! Hope you enjoyed the video and found it helpful �� if you are new to the channel consider subscribing and if you have any questions don’t hesitate and just leave a comment below and I will get back to you for sure.

    Check out my Patreon page if you want to support the channel and help me create more and better videos on anxiety and mental health whilst getting some awesome benefits in return. Here is the link:

  • I just mentioned this yesterday as I am going back to school and this week sleep deprivation really got me, genuinely the one thing that scares me about the commitment of school: not the work, not the time, the sleep deprivation that makes my cortisol go berserk:(

  • I’m looking for your small group online sessions. I got a 404 not found when I clicked on the link e-mailed to me to verify my address. Are you still doing the small group?

  • RE your comment on salt and blood pressure, are you familiar with the research which suggests high salt is not causal to high blood pressure? And that too low a salt intake, such as current FDA recommendations, is actually more detrimental to health than too high salt intake? Here is a thorough but accessible video on it /watch?v=0bNdhM4vt4I&spfreload=10

  • I agree Micro Wave Yikes, no good kills goodness. I soak my raw almonds in water for 24 hrs rinse every 6 hrs. You’ll find a foamy slime, thats what makes them hard to digest in the gut. The in the dehydrator for 12 or more hours. MUCH MUCH better way to prepare any nuts.

  • This video is sliiiick! Great content. And loved the extra content from Anna Pinkerton. Thought she came across really brilliantly. Well done!!!!

  • I guess im super stressed ��.. I’ve been having the headaches and the sour stomach pretty frequently these days.. Dumb exams spiking my cortisol��

  • Hey! Great video! Question for you I’ve been losing around 1 pound a day doing keto with intermittent fasting (20.4 fasting). Is this safe? Is it too quick?

  • Oh no Bob no Microwave! Totally kill the nutrients lol Walnuts are good fats for the Brain, and you two are dearly loved this is a fact. Also Menopause creates drama with Cortisol and the joints.