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August 04, 2021 3 min read

How Stress Could Be Making You Gain Weight (And How To Get It Under Control)

In a perfect world, your weight would solely come down to the calories you eat versus the calories you burn through exercise. 


Unfortunately, this isn’t always the full story. Your hormones also play a big part in how your body burns (and keeps) fat, and things like chronic stress can really mess them up. 


If you’re wondering whether stress is making you gain weight, the answer could be .. maybe. 


Here’s how stress could be part of the reason you’re gaining weight, and what to do to get it under control. 

Stress And Weight Gain

Unfortunately, being stressed out is just a part of life for many of us. In an era of WFH, financial stress, and the need to balance a million things at once, burnout and fatigue are all too common. 


But stress can actually change the way your body metabolizes foods you eat, leading to weight gain. 


When you’re stressed out, your body starts releasing more of your “stress hormone”cortisol. Under normal circumstances, this hormone contributes to our “fight or flight” response by keeping our glucose (blood sugar) circulating in our bloodstream. This gives our bodies easy access to blood sugar to be used for quick and easily accessible energy.  


But our bodies can’t tell the difference between a predator chasing us or a pressing deadline - it responds to stress the same exact way. So when you’re experiencing chronic stress, as is the case with many of us trying to balance work, families, personal life,and fitness, we’re not using the sugar in our blood the way that we should. Instead of using that extra energy to literally run away from dangerous threats, as the “fight or flight” response intended, we’re just sitting with the stress and letting it change our metabolism. 


That means that our body then startsstoring the extra calories as fat, especially around your middle. It also becomes a lot more reluctant to get rid of it, which can make it hard tolose weight even if you’re doing everything else right! 


Stress also makes you crave more calorie-dense “comfort foods,” is linked tohigh blood pressure, and can affect your mental health - none of which is ideal when you’re trying to be the best you that you can be! 

How To Manage Your Stress Better 

So if you’re eating right, working out often, and still not seeing any results, it’s definitely worth taking a look at your stress levels. 


Here are some ways to deal with your stress so that it doesn’t get in the way of your fitness goals: 


  • Focus on getting better sleep. If you’re constantly on the move and feeling like 24 hours in a day isn’t enough to get everything done, it can be easy to put your sleep on the back burner. Unfortunately, this usually ends up contributing to your elevated stress levels and doesn’t help your health in the long run. 

  • Use exercise as an outlet. When your stress leaves you feeling like a tightly wound ball of anxious nerves, expend some of that energy by moving your body. Regular exercise is a great tool for your mental health since it’s a good way to burn calories andnaturally lower your cortisol levels. Even better, try taking your workouts outdoors:spending time out in nature instead of in the gym can actually help lower those cortisol levels and might be a good change of pace that you need to feel better. 

  • Talk it out. Sometimes, you just need to let it all out. Talking it out with your friends, family, or even a mental health professional can give you an outlet for your stress rather than holding it all in and letting it simmer until it explodes. 

  • Separate your work life from your personal life. This is even more important now than ever since so many of us are working remotely and the lines between “work time” and “personal time” are becoming increasingly blurred. Block out schedules of time in your routine dedicated solely to working, then shut it all down once it’s time to clock off and use your free time to pursue your social life and personal interests. 
  • Conclusion

    We put a lot of focus on our diet and physical activity, but you definitely can’t neglect your mental health needs on your quest to be the happiest and healthiest you can be. 

    If you’re one of the many, many people who’s constantly overworked and overstressed, take a walk, get some good sleep, and talk it out - your fitness goals could depend on it!


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