Why Stress makes us fat


Stress can contribute to weight gain through several interconnected mechanisms, which include: 

Hormonal Changes

Stress triggers the release of cortisol which is a hormone that can increase our appetite and lead to overeating if it is produced in excess. Cortisol also causes our bodies to store fat, particularly in the abdominal area, which can increase our risk for chronic disease.

Cravings for high-calorie foods

Stress often causes us to crave foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt. These comfort foods can provide temporary relief from stress but also contribute to weight gain if we eat too many of them.

Disrupted eating patterns

Stress can disrupt our normal eating patterns, leading to irregular meal timings, skipping meals, or emotional eating. This can cause us to consume more calories than needed which can contribute to weight gain over time.

Reduced physical activity

High levels of stress can lower our motivation and our energy levels, which can cause us to decrease our physical activity. A consistently sedentary lifestyle is a significant risk factor for weight gain and obesity.

Poor sleep

Stress can also disrupt our sleeping patterns. Inadequate or poor-quality sleep can affect the hormones that regulate our appetite, which can lead to increased hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.

Metabolic changes

Chronic stress can lead to long-term changes in our metabolism and can cause conditions such as insulin resistance and inflammation, which can contribute to weight gain and metabolic disorders.

It’s important to approach weight management holistically and therefore it is important to address diet, physical activity, and emotional wellbeing when managing stress. Strategies like regular exercise, mindfulness practices, adequate sleep, meaningful social connections, and healthy coping mechanisms can all contribute to a healthier mindset which can help us to make healthy lifestyle choices which can help to alleviate the impact of stress on weight gain and overall wellbeing.

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 16 May 2024 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am.