Is Stress Making You Fat?

Stress can wreak havoc on our ability to lose fat – whether from your job, kids, relationships, financial woes, diseases, scale weight, lack of sleep, road rage, favorite sports team, or life in general. Stress is defined as any change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain and can be positive or negative, as well as acute or chronic. You can experience it as a result of your environment, body, and thoughts.


While the initial response to acute stress can be temporary loss of appetite, chronic stress leads to the release of the hormone cortisol, which causes weight gain in several ways:

  • Decreased Metabolism – leads to fewer calories burned
  • Increased Craving (Emotional Eating) – results in higher intake of fatty, salty, and sugary food, which adds calories
  • Altered Blood Sugar Levels – causes health risks, like heart attacks and diabetes
  • Excess Abdominal Fat Storage – links to more health issues compared to other areas of stored fat

Cortisol is termed the “stress hormone” because it is secreted in times of physical, emotional, and/or psychological demand. Produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands located at the top of each kidney, cortisol can be altered from its normal cycle, with the highest levels being in the early morning and lowest during the evening. The amount secreted, due to stress, varies from person to person; some being more reactive in stressful situations than others. Although some cortisol is necessary for energy regulation, and mobilization, when too much gets released, it negatively impacts our body.

The diet industry has attempted to capitalize on this craze, by claiming supplements can reduce cortisol levels and increase fat loss. There has been no scientific evidence to support these supplements. The best cortisol inhibitor is aerobic and anaerobic exercise, which burns calories, builds muscle, and leads to fat loss.
Other effective means to minimize its release include:

  • eating well balanced meals
  • getting enough sleep
  • incorporating meditation, relaxation, and deep breathing
  • adding whole grain, high fiber foods
  • avoiding stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes
  • avoiding depressants like alcohol
  • taking vitamins (especially B, C, and D)

Since stress will always be part of our lives, it is important to learn how to cope with it. Too much stress over time, combined with poor managing skills, may cause chemical and physical imbalances, and eventually lead to disease and death. Contact Dan to help identify potential risks associated with stress-induced fat gain or to maximize your workouts while minimizing the amount of cortisol released.

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About Sea Change Fitness & Nutrition

Exercise Physiologist Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist Certified Nutrition Specialist

Posted on November 28, 2011, in Dan's Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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