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Stress & Weight Gain

Is stress affecting your weight?

Have you ever gained weight during a stressful period of your life? Did you notice you were putting on the kilograms around your stomach? If so, there might have been a more complex reason behind this.

Weight gain during times of stress can be attributed to changes in the body’s hormone balances. Even if you are already physically active, having chronic high stress for long periods of time can prevent you from losing weight and even add weight on.


One particular hormone that affects our weight during stressful periods is cortisol. Cortisol also known as the stress hormone, is secreted into the body by a process known as ‘diurnal variation’, meaning that the levels in the bloodstream vary upon the time of day (highest in the early morning and lowest around midnight). Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy release, and stimulates insulin release which is needed for the maintenance of blood sugar levels.

With stress comes higher levels of cortisol. Increased cortisol levels promote higher insulin levels causing your blood sugar levels to. This increases our bodies feeling for food, with the end result being an increase in appetite and therefore over eating. It is not predictable whether you will or will not increase your cortisol levels and increase weight when stressed.

Along with increased appetite, having high cortisol levels encourages your body to store fat, especially visceral fat. This is particularly dangerous because it surrounds the vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels paving the way for heart disease and diabetes. This increase in visceral fat is why people who gain weight during stressful periods of their life often notice in around their midsection.

Risk Of Weight Gain

If weight is gained during a time of stress the lingering effects need to be solved. With increased weight comes the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack or stroke. Exercise is the best method for lowering cortisol levels that have risen in response to stress and with exercise you will be burning calories that will help to stimulate weight loss.

So, if you have been stressed lately and noticing an increase in weight especially around the stomach, come in and speak to one of our exercise physiologist who will design an exercise program specific to you to help decrease weight, stabilise cortisol levels and improve your overall health and fitness.

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