Maintaining healthy eating habits when under stress can be a difficult task for most people. Whether a person eats to fill an emotional need or other needs, one thing is for sure: a stressful life is rarely healthy. Because not every weight gain results from healthy eating, stress can play a role in adding individuals extra pounds. While it can result in reduced appetite for food at first, it boosts hunger in the long run. Stress can cause weight gain in the following ways:

Hormonal Changes

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands to facilitate various body processes, including energy provision and maintenance of the blood pressure. It is called “stress hormone” because its levels in the blood rise when a person is under psychological or physical stress.

The secretion of cortisol occurs in a pattern known as diurnal variation, which refers to the variation of cortisol in the blood stream with respect to the time of the day. In this pattern, a person experiences lowest levels of cortisol in the blood stream during late night and highest levels in the early morning.

Cortisol stimulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism, to ensure that the body gets fast energy. It also stimulates insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating the blood glucose levels. These processes can result in increased appetite, leading to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods, which causes an increase in the body weight.

Additionally, when the level of cortisol in the body rises, the production level of testosterone hormone drops, causing a decrease in muscle mass. This hinders the body’s ability to burn more calories. As a result, the calories accumulate in the body, leading to weight gain.

It is crucial to note that the amount of cortisol secreted in the body as a result of stress may vary from one person to another, depending on how reactive a person is to stress.

Bad Sleep Habits

Is it true that a good number of people stay awake at night wondering how they will settle their bills or pay school fees? The answer to this question is obvious, and it happens because of stress. In fact, according to a survey conducted by APA, at least 40% of the American population remains awake during the night because of stress.

Remember, the human mind is designed in such a way that it overreacts to stressful issues and may fail to regain normalcy for an extended period of time as long as the stressor still exists. Some people make the mistake of taking alcohol for a better feeling. This disrupts the normal sleep pattern even more. When a person lacks a healthy sleep, the appetite controlling chemicals: leptin and ghrelin, may malfunction. When this happens, a person begins to crave for carbs, which eventually results in weight gain.


When the body’s adrenalin is stimulated in response to stress, a person gets activated and anxious. This anxiety may result in “emotional eating” as a way of calming down the stress. The “emotional eating” involves increased appetite for calorie-rich foods, resulting in excess calories in the body. Because the human body has a limited ability to burn calories, the excess calories are converted to fat and stored in the liver. When this happens, the body weight increases.

In a nutshell, despite the fact that weight gain can be attributed to other factors, stress plays a role too. However, the good thing with stress-related weight gain is that the condition can easily be addressed. The remedy involves avoiding things that cause stress. A healthy diet and regular physical exercises can also help remedy the situation.