How Stress Affects Weight

It is true: Stress affects weight.

So many people get upset with themselves because they do everything by the book when it comes to weight loss, and don’t see results. They put so much effort into exercising every day, logging their foods, not eating too much and still, their weight either goes up or gets stuck in the same place. Can you relate? I know I can!

There was even a time in my life that I almost gave up on trying to lose weight because I thought that there was something wrong with me. I thought that my metabolism had been shot down somehow because, even if I ate a minimal amount of calories, I still wouldn’t lose weight.

The more you stress about it, the more weight you will gain. 

Stress is our adrenaline-boosting hormone. It acts as a defense mechanism in our bodies by making us act quickly when in danger, or to reach a due date or to hurry so that we can pick up our kids from school on time. The problem happens when we stress or worry for too long because then our stress hormones keep on being released, causing many different side effects in the body such as making us prone to diseases (as I explained on my last blog post), and gaining weight. But how?


When under stress:

  1. Adrenaline is released by our brain.
  2. The adrenaline makes us move fast to reach a goal.
  3. To replenish the energy used by the adrenaline, our brains tell our adrenal glands to release cortisol.
  4.  When stressing out for too long or for many different reasons, our adrenal glands keep releasing cortisol, which can cause adrenal fatigue.
  5. Cortisol acts as a defense mechanism, promoting fat storage and accumulating fat around our organs (visceral fat around our bellies) which causes our cholesterol and insulin levels to go up, increasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  6. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, promoting lean muscle tissue break down to be used as energy, which causes our testosterone levels to go down and,  over time, decreases our metabolism (the amount of energy – calories – that we burn when doing any type of activity), as well as our BMR (basal metabolic rate — calories used while at rest, to keep vital functions going, such as breathing and keeping warm).
  7. Our fat cells contain a hormone called leptin.
  8. Leptin send signals to our brain letting it know that we have enough energy stored in our bodies. When the brain and the fat cells communicate effectively, we shouldn’t be hungry while having extra fat to burn.
  9. Stress causes leptin sensitivity: our brain doesn’t communicate well with our fat cells, and our hunger goes up.
  10. When we are under stress, we crave comfort foods, which are usually high in fat and contain more calories: calories that our bodies will not be able to burn due to everything listed above.

This is why the more we stress about our weight (or anything else), the more weight we gain – especially when it becomes an obsession because then, people start making mistakes to “fix” their metabolism, as the common ones I listed and explained below:

How people usually try to fix their slow metabolism, to lose weight:

  • Drinking coffee, energy drinks, and other stimulants.
  • Exercising more, especially cardio and HIIT exercises.

These things lead to more stress in the body!

You see, stimulants alone make our brains release cortisol. They increase stress in the body, even when we are not under actual stress, and the fight or flight hormones kick in, making us retain fat.

When we exercise too much while under stress, especially with cardio exercises and HIIT, we burn out our adrenal glands. Our adrenal glands are ALREADY burned out by the stress, and the more we exercise, the more we make them work, causing our bodies extreme exhaustion, chronic stress, and adrenal fatigue. And do we stop exercising? No, because we want to lose weight, right?? :/

This is why the more you exercise under chronic stress, the more weight you can gain!

Every time you are under stress, your body needs to slow down. You need to nurture your body during stressful situations.

Stop and think: are under a lot of stress in your life right now? If so, take care of yourself, your mind, and your body! Remember that exercising too much and doing/eating/drinking things that can stimulate your body isn’t healthy while you are under stress!

Here are 6 things that you can do to help you with your stress level and that may kick-start your weight loss:

  1. Stop using stimulants such as caffeine, guarana, mate, sodas, etc
  2. Don’t exercise too much (cardio and/or high-intensity workouts) for at least 1 month. Instead, go for long walks, focus on the nature around you; focus on breathing, living, distressing!
  3. Sleep between 7 and 9 hours (when we sleep, our brains release hormones that can heal our bodies),
  4. Take naps if you feel that you need to (without feeling guilty!),
  5. Take vitamin B, C, D, calcium, and magnesium (I recommend magnesium malate because it also helps with chronic stress and supports nerve cell grown and communication). These vitamins help reduce cortisol levels and food cravings. **
  6. Take adaptogens. They are natural substances that help the brain adapt to stress more effectively. Adaptogens also exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. I recommend Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea. These herbs have different functions and act in different parts of the brain. They can be taken together. **

Always focus on releasing stress before weight or anything else.

Stress is the number one killer in America, making people prone to so many diseases by compromising our immune system. Look at your weight as the consequence of something bigger, not as the problem. (If you haven’t yet, please make sure you read my last post about “How Stress Can Make You Sick”).

Make sure to print my “Current Life Status Circle” to check your current level of stress!


I hope that I was able to help you with this post and as always, CHOOSE TO BE HEALTHY!

Wishing you a life full of smiles,





Gabi Brandao.
Disease Prevention Advocate, Blogger, Author, Speaker, Certified Holistic Health and Wellness Coach by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, Board Certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, and Licensed Medical Massage Practitioner by the Virginia Board of Nursing

**ALWAYS check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen and before taking new medications, vitamins, and/or herbs – especially if you are already taking medications.

25 comentários sobre “How Stress Affects Weight

  1. Eliz disse:

    Very good article. I don’t take any vitamins and I know I should but what you said about magnesium reducing food cravings is a very aha moment for me. I will look into this for sure! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wander With Ola disse:

    It was said that one of the things to do to help with our stress level is to “stop using stimulants such as caffeine”? How about morning cup(s) of coffee? I can’t imagine getting through the day without one!

  3. Blair villanueva disse:

    Stress also affects weight gain and it is true. Ive noticed these to my colleagues and for a short period of three months their weight drastically change. The more stressful they are, the more they eat a lot, and no exercise.

  4. Louise disse:

    Wow, I had no idea that exercising when under stress could be a negative thing. I tend to think (as I’m sure a lot of people do) that the more vigorous the exercise, the better, even when stressed. Thanks for writing such an eye-opening article!

  5. Mayuri Saxena disse:

    Stress can affect us in no many ways and weight gain/ loss is one of them. Even I tend to gain weight when I am stressed out but sometimes I can’t help but move towards food in stress.

  6. Adepoju Grace disse:

    This was very insightful. To think that so much exercise will help weight loss! I think that with weight loss, little is much.

  7. Anjali W disse:

    I always thought the more the stress is the more weak you look! I had never realized that it actually increases weight! Thanks for sharing these advices! Will keep them in mind.

    • Conscious Health Writer disse:

      You are very welcome. I hope that you can get your stress under control! I write a lot about stress management and disease prevention, so stay tuned to learn more. Good luck 🙂

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