Can Stress Lead To Weight Gain In Women?

can stress lead to weight gain 2

Do you ever feel as if everything is happening at once? Times when you want to pull your hair out from all the work that has to be done? It doesn’t help when these tense times in our life seem to coincide with changes to our bodies, such as gaining weight.

But does stress really lead to weight gain? According to science, there IS a connection between weight gain and stress, and the problem has to do with hormones.

Specifically, during acute physical stress, the level of human growth hormone (HGH) increases by a level that can double to tenfold. Because of its insulin-antagonistic effect, HGH may affect weight in patients with metabolic syndrome.

Fortunately, there are ways to manage weight gain from stress. Here you will learn how hormones affect weight gain, which behaviours contribute to weight gain, and how you can lose weight caused by stress.

can stress lead to weight gain

Does stress actually make you gain weight?

Stress triggers your body’s “fight or flight” reaction, which releases adrenaline – a hormone, to defend yourself against a perceived threat. Your body also releases sugar into the blood at this time, so you have the energy to defeat any threat. 

However, after your adrenaline and blood sugar levels fall, your cortisol levels rise, which boosts your energy. When cortisol levels are high, the body releases insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. Unfortunately, cortisol can also trigger your appetite and sugar cravings. If you indulge your cravings, you gain weight.

What hormones can cause weight gain?

People with a higher body mass experience higher cortisol levels in response to stress. Interestingly, cortisol not only makes you hungry but also slows down your metabolism. Studies show that women who experienced stressful episodes the day before tend to burn fewer calories.

Studies also show that cortisol may contribute to the loss of muscle mass. Muscle consumes fuel more rapidly than fat, thus burning more calories, which is why when you are under stress, it tries to hold on to fat to save more energy. Losing muscle mass can complicate weight management.

Cortisol can increase other hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, which play a role in determining how hungry you feel. It’s important to take the steps necessary to stay healthy during these times by eating enough healthy foods and skipping the bad stuff.

How stress leads to weight gain?

Not only can stress raise your cortisol levels, but failing to manage it properly can cause unhealthy habits that could contribute to weight gain. Some unhealthy behaviours to avoid include:

Not exercising: Studies show that weight gain is about nutrition more than not exercising. However, not exercising can cause other stressors, affecting your hormone levels and your overall well-being.

Red light therapy: For those interested in exploring alternative approaches to weight management, incorporating practices like red light therapy, such as the one provided by Vital Red Light, could potentially be beneficial.

Increasing alcohol consumption: Having a cocktail may be one of your favourite ways to unwind considering that alcohol also releases dopamine, the happy hormone. However, most people know that the effects of alcohol are short-lived.

Emotional eating: Often, people turn to food to cope with difficult emotions. For example, people eat high-calorie foods, which gives them a pleasurable feeling, thus, a dopamine rush.

Insufficient sleep: Sleep is crucial not only for your overall health but also for recharging your body. According to health experts, it may also affect your circadian rhythm, which regulates hormone release.

Binge eating: When individuals binge, they consume large amounts of food quickly, even when they are not hungry, and this often leads to weight gain. Overeating is common, but it can also lead to eating disorders. Those who are suffering from this condition should seek medical advice.

Consuming fast food: When people are short on time, fast food is an option for satisfying a craving or a quick meal. The problem is that fast food is generally unhealthy. Even though it tastes delicious, fast food is high in fat, salt, and sugar.

Skipping meals: Skip a meal, and your metabolism will slow down, leading to weight gain or making losing weight more difficult. According to experts, the body goes into survival mode when you skip meals or go for a prolonged period without food. It makes your cells and body crave food, which leads to overeating.

How to get rid of extra weight gained from stress?

Cook your meals: You can make healthier comfort food by cooking yourself and changing a few ingredients when making your favourite recipe.

Keep a journal: Use a journal to track your mood and the food that you eat. This can be a physical book, an app, or an excel sheet. By seeing the information, it can help you reach your goal of better eating habits.

Snack with a healthy mindset: When you eat, often, you focus on the feeling food gives you. If you are eating ice cream, you will probably be happy because of the taste. Experts advise you to track how you feel after eating.

Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated can help you avoid confusion between hunger and thirst and reduce snacking, researchers say.

Exercise more: When your body is under stress, it holds onto fat to conserve energy. Exercise expends energy that burns calories. In addition, exercise can improve your cardiovascular health and increase your endorphin levels, which can help you cope with stress and pain.

Make sleep a priority: A good night’s sleep helps your metabolism. Eat your last meal early, take time to wind down, try to sleep the whole night regularly.

Assess your mental health: expert opinion suggests that actively taking care of your mental health can help you deal with stress, both now and in the future. Take care of yourself to prevent yourself from getting caught in a weight gain cycle triggered by stress. It is up to you how you handle stress. Choose whether you prefer to spend more time alone or put some distance between the emotion, trigger, and reaction.

MORE – 5 Natural Weight Loss Tips and Tricks That Never Fail

MORE – How Stress Can Make You Gain Weight


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