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Why Stress Causes Weight Gain

Life + Stress = Weight Gain

A stress-free life is unfortunately just a fairy tale. Also unfortunate is the fact that chronic stress can lead to weight gain. This happens for a variety of reasons, one being that stress makes you hungry.

As we evolved, stressful situations required great physical energy, like running from a saber-toothed tiger. Then and now, a stressful situation triggers a shot of adrenaline followed by a surge of cortisol, which signals your body to replenish the calories you used. However, editing the last few PowerPoint slides before your big presentation doesn't burn nearly as many calories as sprinting away from a dangerous man-eating animal. In stressful moments, we often tend to reach for foods high in sugar and fat that prompt the brain to release pleasure chemicals. If your stress is chronic, this high-calorie food response can become habitual, leading to pounds gained.

For the second and more physical reason stress causes weight gain,


The production of cortisol interferes with the production of testosterone, the hormone responsible for building and maintaining muscle mass. A decrease in muscle mass leads to a slower metabolism, since a pound of muscle requires more energy (read: calories) to maintain than a pound of body fat. The good news is that exercise combats stress. Movement tricks your body into believing that you're really running away from that scary tiger. Exercise gets the blood flowing, which helps flush the cortisol from your body. Studies have shown that walking just under 20 minutes, three times a week can lower cortisol levels by 13 percent. Now doesn't a lunchtime stroll sound appealing?


bairdlet bairdlet 8 years
Whenever I was at a period in my life that I felt really happy and fulfilled, it seemed like I would lose weight like crazy and would have to work to keep it on. During the times when I've felt unhappy and like I was drifting, I'd put mad weight on. You have to wonder the part that hormones play in all this.
lindssaurussss lindssaurussss 8 years
have opposite. i loose alot of weight. i looked sick because i was stressed for months. now im not and gained 10lbs.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I also lose weight when I'm very stressed; probably because I try to deal with the stress by working out harder and more intensely.
miss-malone miss-malone 8 years
For me, life + stress = weight loss.
lawchick lawchick 8 years
I have a very streeful job, snack all the time, and haven't gained weight. It's like the stress and anxiety rev up my metabolism. Yay. LOL
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 8 years
I had a super stressful job for two years and gained about 18 pounds. I was laid off two months ago and have lost 15 pounds since then. I'm sure a lot of the gain was due to the physiological aspects of stress, thus manifesting to external factors. My office definitely had a "culture of snacking"...since everyone was always stressed out, there was comfort food everywhere: chips, candies, cookies, anything. We'd sometimes start drinking at our desk at about 4 pm, then go to happy hour for another two hours of drinks. Not working there has definitely been the biggest boost to my health and overall sanity.
tyffi tyffi 8 years
I always lose weight while stress. No way to gain even a gramm.
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
I can't lose weight when I'm super stressed. My body just can't handle it all. I just gain. Pack it all on. Stress will get to you. Kind of like last week on the Biggest Loser, Bob kept telling Nicole to relax and not to stress... she gained 5 pounds. Ooops.
Allytta Allytta 8 years
i loose weight from stress, so do all my friends. one was looking anorexic and eating like a maniac. her boyfriend told her to relax, cause she was loosing her boobs.
appolgurl appolgurl 8 years running from a sabertooth tiger. lol
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