Can Stress Make Us Gain Weight?

Can Stress Make Us Gain Weight?

Stress CAN Make us gain weight. It’s not entirely because we stress eat. There’s more to that story.

According to Yale News, stress can cause excess abdominal fat due to the release and overload of cortisol, the primary stress hormone. This natural stress hormone is responsible for regulating our metabolism, which is why it’s essential to stick to a general wellness guide to lower high levels of cortisol.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone naturally produced by our body. It’s created by the adrenal glands on our kidneys, and it’s released when we’re stressed. The release of cortisol sends our body into flight-or-fight mode, which temporarily pauses our regular body functions, slowing down our metabolism.

While the flight-or-fight mode is essential for our survival, it will become harmful in excess amounts.

How Cortisol Leads To Weight Gain

Cortisol Increases Our Appetite

Cortisol stimulates our fat and carbohydrate metabolism, which creates a surge of energy in our bodies. While the process is necessary for survival situations, it can increase our appetite. 

Cortisol Lead To Craving Junk Food

Elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for salty, sweet, and fatty foods. That means we’re more likely to indulge in ice cream and deep-fried foods rather than a healthy, well-balanced meal.

An Excess of Cortisol Can Lower Testosterone

While testosterone is known as the male sex hormone, both men and women produce it. However, testosterone levels and their functions are incredibly different froom one another. 

That being said, when our body produces less testosterone, it can cause a decrease in muscle mass and slows down the number of calories our bodies burn.

Is This Slow Down Harmful?

Yes! Our metabolism is responsible for converting the food we consume into energy. When there are changes to how our metabolic system works, it can lead to potential problems.

The American Psychological Association says several physical and mental health issues stem from stress and changes to our system's natural rhythm. These issues include:

  • Weight Gain
  • Fatigue
  • Health Issues (ex.) Type 2 Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
  • Depression
  • Compromised or Reduced Effectiveness of Immune System

  • Not to mention, the weight gained resulting from spikes in cortisol is commonly around the abdomen. Excess fat accumulation around our waist area contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases, which is why some may know belly fat by its nickname, “Toxic Fat.”


    While decreasing our stress levels can feel like a challenge, we can still manage the effects caused by excess cortisol. Practicing mindfulness, yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, and so many other tools and techniques can help us calm down. We have to find what works for ourselves and utilize it.

    Self-discipline is also essential. It can help us stay on track and make better choices. After all, reaching for some fresh fruit when sugar cravings strike instead of highly-processed sugar-packed snacks.

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