Why Can’t I Lose Weight? Part 5… Stress is Making You Fat!


Patty Baiano

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Hidden Culprits that Sabotage Weight Loss – Part 5: The Stress Factor

If I had to choose, I believe that stress is one of the biggest causes of unexplained weight gain (UWG). Let’s define UWG as gaining weight in the absence of any obvious causes such as eating more calories or changing your activity level causing you to burn less calories.

This past year has been particularly stressful for me. My father passed away, I moved my business, my Mother fell ill, all of which cause stress. Three of the top most common traumatic life events that can cause weight gain according to Psychology, Health & Medicine Vol. 14, No. 2, March 2009, 239–249, “Understanding the role of life events in weight loss and weight gain”.

There are several ways in which stress can contribute to weight gain. The first and most obvious is that stress can be a major factor in both insomnia and compulsive eating. We’ve already examined the medical evidence that suggests the link between sleep and weight gain in Part 4 of this series. Another less obvious cause has to do with cortisol, a stress hormone.

Whether we’re stressed because of emotional, environmental factors, teenage kids, the constant, crazy demands at work, or being chased by a saber tooth tiger, our bodies respond the same way—like we’re about to be harmed. To answer this need, the “fight or flight” response is triggered in our bodies, leading to the release of various hormones, specifically the stress hormone—cortisol.

Cortisol signals the body to do two things—increase appetite and store fat. Too much cortisol can slow your metabolism, causing more weight gain than you would normally experience. This also makes dieting more difficult.

If you remain in this state of chronic stress for an extended amount of time, your health becomes at risk. Aside from a host of other dangers, chronic stress can also cause weight gain—which is why cortisol products are marketed as diet aids.

Chronic stress and cortisol can contribute to weight gain in the following ways:

Too much cortisol can slow down your metabolic rate, thus causing you to processes foods slower and store more fat faster. This also makes dieting more difficult.

Additionally, the same stress that causes elevated cortisol can cause emotional swings, compulsive eating adding to weight gain. When stress induced cortisol spikes it also causes you to crave sugar, salt, and fat thus making us gravitate towards the fattening foods with those ingredients in them.

Continued stress on the body’s system can alter blood sugar levels leading to conditions similar to hyperglycemia. Higher cortisol levels can also lower immunity and allow you to get sick more often. When you are not feeling well again you will crave sugar, salt, and fat thus leading to weight gain. It also increases bad cholesterol levels (LDL) adding to more stress on the body and more weight gain.

The bad news is that sometimes the stressors in our lives cannot be controlled; the good news is that there are natural methods of stress management (such as Pilates, yoga, meditation, biofeedback) as well as very effective online stress management course that can support with managing cortisol levels thus assist in achieving your weight loss goals.

Harnessing the effects of stress with this simple and effective online course in stress management is highly recommended before embarking on a weight loss program, especially if you have been struggling with weight loss in spite of reducing calories and increasing activity.

Learn more about the e-Stress Management Program

Best Regards on Your Journey to Health & Fitness!

Patty B

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