Stress – We all have it, but does it effect your weight loss? We are all aware of the psychological effects of it, but what you may not know, is the physiological effects that stress can have. If not dealt with, in the long term, stress can cause damage to the immune system, cardiovascular and other systems via neural and endocrine mechanisms. Stress causes a hormone called cortisol to be released. Cortisol can have a number of negative effects on the body which include increased blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of heart disease.

How Stress Affects Your Food Choices

It’s believed that stress can have an effect on your weight loss by influencing your decision making when it comes to food due to the higher amount of cortisol in your body. In a study published in the Journal Physiology and Behavior, researchers took 29 females who were lightly obese but still healthy. They found that cortisol increased in all dieters which proves that dieting can be stressful, however, researchers found that those who made bad food choices tended to have higher cortisol levels. Stress and Weight Gain

Not only can stress have an affect on your weight loss, but it can also cause you to gain unwanted weight. So, we know that stress increases cortisol, and cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for a fast release of energy which then stimulates insulin, and this all can lead to an increase in your appetite, and the more you eat, the more calories you have to utilize before it gets stored as fat.

Stress Causes You to Overeat

In the short-term stress can curb hunger, but if it persists it can lead to an increased appetite. As mentioned above cortisol can increase appetite, force you to make bad food choices and eventually lead to weight gain.

Stress can Increase Abdominal Fat

Again cortisol is the culprit. According to a study there is a strong link between cortisol and fat distribution around your stomach due to the fact that stress and cortisol can influence the re-activity of your adrenal-cotical system.

Stress Causes You to Crave High Fat, Sugary Foods

Not only does stress impair your food judgment, it also increases your cravings for junk food high in fats and sugars, this is usually due to the high amount of cortisol as well as insulin, some researchers believe that the hormone ghrelin also plays a role. When you ingest fat and sugary foods there is a feedback effect that inhibits brain activity especially the part that produces stress and other stress related emotions, these kind of foods serve as comfort foods due to the fact that the can help counteract stress.

So, Cotrisol In a Nutshell

For the avid fitness fanatic, cortisol is their worst enemy as it can prevent fat loss and even muscle gain. However, this only happens if cortisol levels get out of control. When cortisol levels become elevated for long periods of time, your body may become insulin resistant and hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin in the blood) may be a result. These can lead to weight gain and the degradation of muscle mass which slow down the metabolism and set the stage for a variety of health problems. Over and above this, as cortisol levels increase, so do ghrelin levels (ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates appetite). This hunger may then drive us to overeat and therefore, further weight gain may ensue. Elevated stress hormones also put our bodies into a catabolic state. This is essentially the destructive phase of cell life which can lead to the loss of muscle mass, bone loss, immune system depression and even brain shrinkage.



This sounds simple enough, but you would be surprised how many people don’t take the time to sit down, read a good book, listen to music or even just spend some time socializing with friends. Try to take at least half an hour every day to do something you really enjoy.


Physical activity helps to increase the production of your brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters, called endorphins. It can also help improve your mood and boost self-confidence which will lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety.


Getting a good night’s sleep allows us to tackle the day’s stress more easily. When we are tired, we tend to become more impatient and are more easily agitated, which can increase stress levels. Most adults require an average of 8 hours sleep per night. This may vary slightly either up or down but is dependent on the quality of sleep. The better your sleep quality, the quicker you should be able to recover and de-stress.


Take anti-stress supplements like B vitamins, minerals like calcium and zinc as well as anti-oxidants like beta carotene, vitamin C and selenium. These supplements will not only help lower cortisol levels but will also help decrease the effects of stress on the body by improving the immune system.

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