Updated on July 7th, 2023 at 05:11 pm

Obesity and stress are often directly related. Stress and anxiety cause weight gain because they increase the body’s production of cortisol, which causes the body to store fat. It’s important to take care of all aspects of this problem in order for you to feel less stressed and anxious, as well as your weight.

What does stress do to the body?

Stress has the power to interrupt the proper function of nearly every system in the body. It can cause a number of physical reactions.

When we are faced with stress, whether it be a lack of money, a busy schedule, poor diet or other negative conditions, the body begins to produce the stress hormone cortisol, which prepares us for “fight or flight.” This stress and anxiety response is what gives us the heightened awareness and energy we need to deal with dangerous events in our lives.

image of stress and gaining weight - Extra Large LivingUnfortunately, in today’s society, stress is inevitable. Constantly being faced with deadlines, errands at the last minute and having to be “on” 24/7 can overwhelm and exhaust us.

Stress actually causes the body to hold onto fat, as it becomes depleted of certain hormones needed to break down fatty acids. It can also cause an increase in appetite, which may result in overeating and unhealthy habits. Eating is often used as a way of managing stress. Eating emotionally leads to weight gain and can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

People who experience chronic stress and anxiety often turn to comfort foods, which causes belly fat. High cortisol levels lead to excess fat, sugar cravings, and high calorie food intake.

What are the symptoms of stress?

Stress affects all parts of our lives. We feel stressed when we’re worried about something or someone. Emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, and guilt can also cause us to become stressed. Stress can make us irritable, angry, sad, and depressed.

Physical symptoms of stress include headaches, backaches, stomach aches, dizziness, fatigue, muscle tension, and insomnia.Feeling overwhelmed, like you are loosing control or need to take charge. You feel bad about yourself. You avoid others. You feel lonely, worthless, and hopeless.

You may be having physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, chest pain, frequent colds and infections, loss of sexual desire, and trouble sleeping. Your body feels tense and aches, pains, and tight muscles.

You may also experience cognitive symptoms such as nervousness, ringing in the ears, cold or sweating hands and feet, dry mouth, clamped jaws, and grinding teeth. Stress causes behavioral changes in people. These changes may include: Changes in appetite (either not eating or eating too many things). Procrastination and avoidance of responsibilities. Increased alcohol, drug, or cigarette use.

Can stress cause you to lose weight?

image of weight scale - Extra Large LivingEveryone has different levels of sensitivity to stress depending on hereditary, previous experiences, and personal factors. But stress doesn’t always cause weight gain.

Some people lose their appetites and end up losing weight. Stress levels also affect people’s energy levels, patience, ability to sleep well at nights, and their overall mood.

Stress and unhealthy behaviors

  • The number of calories people eat when they’re stressed compared to their usual calorie intake. After being exposed to a stress, people eat 50 percent more than usual two hours after exposure, and 20 percent more three hours after exposure.
  • How long a person is stressed for. For example, for a few days after a major life event such as a divorce or a loss of employment, the person gains weight because they are comfort eating and not sleeping well.
  • How much physical activity a person does when they are stressed compared to how much physical activity they usually do. In one study, when people experienced stress, they reduced the amount of physical activity by about 30%.
  • The types of food a person eats when they are stressed. When people are stressed, they eat more carbohydrates and less fruits and vegetables than usual. This makes them gain weight in the long run because refined sugars can cause insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels. Unfortunately, in today’s society stress is unavoidable. Constantly being faced deadlines, errands at the last minute and having to “be” on 24/7 can overwhelm & exhaust us.
  • Stressed out people tend to have higher cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When your body produces more cortisol, you get hungry faster. This makes you want to eat more.
  • Cortisol also increases insulin resistance, so your body needs more insulin to process carbs.
  •  Stressed out women tend to be more emotional than men. Women who are stressed often feel depressed and anxious. They may overeat and become overweight.
  • Stressed out men tend to drink more alcohol. Men who are stressed often feel angry and irritable. They may overeat, which leads to weight gain.
  • Stressed out men often smoke cigarettes. Smoking can make people feel better temporarily, but it causes many health problems over time.
  • Stressed out women tend not to exercise as much as other women. Women who are stressed are more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Stressed out children tend to eat junk foods, like chips and cookies. Children who are stressed are more prone to obesity.
  • Stressed out teens tend to skip meals. Teens who are stressed are more susceptible to depression
  • Stressed out men tend to drink more alcohol. Men who are stressed often feel angry and irritable. They may overeat, which leads to weight gain.

What happens if you don’t deal with stress?

If you don’t deal with stressful situations, it will eventually lead to health problems. If you ignore stress, it will eventually lead you to unhealthy behaviors. If you ignore stress, it can lead to:

  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Alcoholism
  • Insomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Poor self-image
  • Unhealthy habits
  • Stressful situations include:
  • Loss of job
  • Death of spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marriage
  • Moving
  • Financial difficulties
  • Illness
  • Relationship problems
  • Family problems
  • Children leaving home
  • Heart Attack
  • Rapid Breathing
  • Shortness of breath

For people who are overweight, they have to change their lifestyle to include healthy behaviors. They need to include more physical activity. Exercising regularly can help fight against gaining weight. Two specific exercises to help reduce stress and burn excess calories include:

  • Aerobic exercise – increases heart rate and breathing patterns
  • Strength training exercises – help stabilize blood sugar levels in the long term.

Physiological Reactions to Stress

When you’re stressed out, your body thinks you’re in danger, so it slows down your metabolism. The body wants to keep all its energy stores as long as possible. Cortisol, produced by your adrenal glands, causes your body to store fats.

If exercise makes you anxious, then cut back on it. If you stress about working out several times a week, then you may get a better result by working out a little less frequently and using mindful eating. Let’s get to the bottom of the causes of stress and how to combat one or more stressors that cause weight gain.

What is stressing you?

What is experienced as stress is very different for each individual. Some common causes of long-term stress are shift work, sleep problems, time pressure, relationship problems, bullying, loneliness, and financial worries. The feeling of not being able to influence their situation and not being enough is perceived as stressful.

Fatigue syndrome

For the most part, the stress symptoms have been denied and repressed for a long time before “walking into the wall.” A certain personality type is considered to be at increased risk of developing fatigue syndrome. These are often ambitious, perfectionist, and emotionally committed people.

People who have difficulty delegating and find it difficult to say no to employees and family members are also at greater risk of exhaustion. Women working in health care, care, and school are overrepresented.

Balance work-leisure

A high tempo is usually not harmful, but everyone needs some time to recharge their batteries every once in a while. It’s important to have a good balance between work (or study) and leisure.

If privacy doesn’t work, you don’t work at work and vice-versa. Many people suffer from sleep deprivation, and some go to bed late. It can be nice for mental relaxation, meditation, and yoga to help you relax before bedtime. A good benchmark is to think that you divide your day as follows: 1/3 work, 1/3 leisure, and 1/3 sleep.

What can I fix myself?

Start writing a list of things that you think you are doing too much. Create a list of things you would like to do more. Ask yourself the question:

  • What makes me feel good?
  • What or who is draining my energy?
  • How can I change my life to have more time for what I want to do?

Wasting thoughts and time on things you can not influence is a habit you can change. But it takes time to change habits. Signals that indicate that you may need to improve your mental health and the balance of your life:

  • Tense muscles (pain in shoulders, neck, head).
  • Sugar cravings and snacking on unhealthy foods lead to stress related weight gain.
  • Sleeping problems.
  • Constant fatigue.
  • Skipping Meals
  • Eating a lot of fast food.
  • Often depressed.
  • Increased alcohol intake.
  • Anxiety disorders

Different things work for different people. Try different methods until you find something that suits you. Here are some suggestions to try:

  • Exercise.
  • Micro breaks.
  • Power-naps.
  • Abdominal breathing.
  • Muscle relaxation.
  • Mental training.
  • Conscious presence

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