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Is Stress Your Weight Loss Block?

January 04, 2018

Do you jump from diet to diet, counting calories and exercising until you’re blue in the face without results?

Does your thyroid check out normal and yet you still can’t lose weight?

If so, you could need to evaluate the role stress plays in your life. The evidence is in: Too much stress is not only bad for your health; it can also make you gain weight.

If this sounds like you, do your best to stay positive. Stress is one factor in your life that you have control over!

Research from the University of Kentucky finds practicing stress management is perhaps even more important than diet changes for weight loss.

In their study, people who were taught stress management therapies lost significant weight (up to 17 pounds) after 7 weeks as compared to those who only learned new eating habits.

The Role of Stress in Weight Gain

It’s shocking to see just how much stress affects your weight and appetite. Here’s what happens when your body is under stress:

  • The body’s fight or flight reaction kicks in, causing stress hormones like adrenaline, CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone), and cortisol to saturate the tissues.
  • As the body processes these hormones, it reacts by retaining weight in order to protect the organs. A clear example of this is cortisol-related weight gain around the stomach (visceral deep belly fat).
  • Your appetite surges, as your body believes it needs more calories to handle the threat. Unless your stressor is a physical one like a fight or intense exercise goal, you really don’t need those extra calories.
  • You may respond by overeating (sometimes out of mental exhaustion) on junk foods or high calorie “comfort” foods, serious weight gain triggers.
  • Over time, metabolism crawls to a halt, requiring new approaches to help stimulate it.

Fight Stress Related Weight Gain, Naturally

Start with these tips to get stress related weight gain under control.

Ease anxiety.

Don’t allow your stress to build up to a crisis level. Take frequent breaks if you work long hours.

Ask for help from family, colleagues or friends if your “to do” list is over capacity. If you have kids, have them participate in daily chores.

Exercise early in the day.

Early morning exercise gives your metabolism a jump start and can decrease stress for the whole day.

Exercise releases endorphins, “feel good” hormones, which help to elevate mood.

Regular exercise also balances levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that influence weight.

Practice mindful eating.

Take a few minutes to think before putting food in your mouth. Are you really hungry or are you feeling stressed out or upset?

Are your food choices contributing to your health (like fresh, whole foods) or your stress (junk foods, sweets, unhealthy fats)?

Make healthy choices and don’t eat when you’re under stress. Eat slowly and mindfully. This will improve your digestion and boost your metabolism.

Get regular, deep sleep.

Your body needs sleep to recover from the effects of stress. Not getting enough sleep increases your appetite and causes your body to hang on to fat in the stomach area.

Avoid late night projects or computer time in the evening. Try these Relaxing Rituals To Reduce Stress Before Bedtime.

Use stress relieving herbs.

St. John’s wort is a specific herb to curb stress-related weight gain. St. John’s wort helps to balance cortisol, improve mood, and decrease emotional eating.

Other good herbs to try: Stress Daily Tonic, Skullcap, Ashwagandha, Turmeric and Holy Basil (Tulsi).

Relax and Get The Weight Off

If you feel like you’ve tried everything and you’re still not losing weight, stress could be your block.

Start today to change the way you handle stress. You may find you feel better and the weight finally starts to come off.

A good stress relief plan could make all the difference in your healthy weight loss program.



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  • Exercising to relax. (2011, Feb.). Retrieved from Harvard Men’s Health Watch,
  • Kalish, N. (2014, June). 7 ways to beat stress fat. Retrieved from Prevention,
  • Sass, C. (2014, July). 5 ways to beat stress-induced weight gain. Retrieved from Health,