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Stress and Weight Gain


Hormonal Imbalances

Chronic stress, or poorly managed stress, may lead to elevated cortisol levels that stimulate your appetite, with the end result being weight gain or difficulty losing unwanted pounds.

Levels of “the stress hormone,” cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. Because increased levels of the hormone also help cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods. This can lead to overeating and making poor choices.

There was a study done at Yale which concluded that “stress may cause excess abdominal fat in otherwise slender women.”

It doesn’t matter if someone is overweight or not. If we become depleted and burdened by chronic stress we will develop belly fat. The more sensitive we become to cortisol and it’s release the more belly fat we will accumulate. 

Cortisol affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally-around the organs. Cortisol exposure increases visceral fat. Belly fat not only adds pounds but increases your risk for heart attack.

It was also found in the study that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress.

Prolonged, chronic stress can lead to hormonal changes that may increase your appetite and cause cravings for higher-calorie comfort foods.

Sleep Deprivation affects Weight

Sleep is a powerful factor influencing weight gain or loss.

Disturbed sleep is a common issue in people dealing with chronic stress. Not getting our precious zzz’s erodes our willpower and ability to resist temptation. Lack of sleep may disrupt the functioning of ghrelin and leptin brain chemicals that control appetite. When these are imbalanced we don’t feel full or satisfied.

It’s common to crave carbs when we are tired or grumpy from lack of sleep. Sugar, Carbs, Caffeine and Salt provide energy to help us feel more awake.

Sleep deprivation leads to increased calorie intake and weight gain.


Six Tips to Manage Stress and Reduce Weight

  1. Make exercise a priority. Exercising is a critical component of stress reduction and weight management
  2. Make better choices by eating healthier comfort foods
  3. Chew each bite 20 times and be aware of what you are eating.
  4. Keep a food journal or track your food on an App
  5. The body doesn’t know the difference between hunger and thirst. Drink more water

Incorporate stress-relief strategies into your day (see our blog post on Ninja Mind Tricks for Stress)

Wishing You Well,

Dr. Purcell
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Dr. Andrea Purcell

A trusted and well-respected Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Purcell has been in private practice for over twenty years. Dr. Purcell is a published author and has a women’s specialty practice for hormone balancing, weight loss, mystery illness, and gastro-intestinal concerns. Dr. Purcell assists her patients by identifying the underlying cause of disease and removing obstacles that impede the body's natural ability to heal. Drugs and surgery are used as a last resort. She believes that increasing health on the inside shines through to the outside.