Can Stress Make You Fat?


We all stress out from time to time. Short-term stress can actually diminish your appetite, but long-term stress is a completely different story. When the stress builds and doesn’t let up, your brain takes over to put the brakes on anxiety at the expense of your waistline.

It’s All in Your Head – Until It Ends Up in You Mid-Section, Hips and Thighs

Stress affects your entire body, but it all begins in the brain. When stress starts the hypothalamus pumps out corticotropin-releasing hormones. These hormones suppress your appetite. Next, the brain tells the adrenal glands to start pumping out adrenaline. This too suppresses appetite so the body can focus on flight or fight in the face of stress.

If you manage the stress and move on you’re fine. But the American Psychological Association has found that many people in the U.S. hold on to their stress.  That’s when the eating problems begin. The adrenal glands switch off the adrenaline and start producing cortisol, an appetite-inducing hormone.

Researchers aren’t sure if it’s the elevated cortisol, higher insulin levels, the hunger hormone ghrelin or a combination of the three, but during periods of prolonged stress cravings for sugary and/or fatty foods increase. The body also stores more fat when it feels stressed, and cortisol ushers the calories to your stomach where fat reserves are more easily converted into energy.

But there is a reason behind the junk food binge eating. Sugary, fatty foods hinder the part of your brain that produces stress. It essentially cuts stress hormones off so you can find relief. Thus the name “comfort food”

Some people are more prone to stress-induced eating and subsequent weight gain. Research studies suggest that the following factors increase the possibility of stressed-based binge eating:

Gender – A few studies found women were more likely to use food to cope with stress.

High Insulin – When insulin levels are high so are your chances of stress-related weight gain.

High Cortisol – The amount of cortisol produced during periods of stress varies. People that produce high cortisol levels will have a bigger appetite.

Stress-related eating is particularly problematic if you don’t recognize that it’s happening and don’t try to curb it.

How to Curb Stressed-Based Binge Eating

gregg-mcbride-diet-food-diaryKeep a food diary and note what emotions you are feeling and what is happening when you have urges for junk food. This will give you a better idea of whether stress is the catalyst.

When you start to feel stressed handle it right away instead of ignoring it. Try to redirect your stress into something positive like exercising when you feel overwhelmed. Not only will this help take your mind off of the stressor, but it will also help you feel as if you accomplished something that’s constructive. 

Stock up on healthy snacks and keep junk food out of reach. Your body will be craving comfort, but it’s better to satisfy hunger with a nutritious snack rather than cookies. The team at Pure Plates understands that salty and sweet cravings crop up, which is why we have a complete selection of healthy