Stress and Weight

Are there links between stress and our weight? 

There is considerable research to support a link between stress and weight and you may know yourself of times when you can reach for chocolate or fast food to cheer you up. Perhaps less obviously, when we are stressed we may drop good eating and exercise habits that previously helped us lose weight.

When we are stressed other good habits are affected and we can also have trouble falling asleep.

Research has revealed that a lack of sleep will lead to lower levels of the hormone leptin and one side effect of this is to cause an increased appetite. When we are tired we may also feel like eating more to boost our energy levels.


A hormone often mentioned in connection with stress is cortisol. When we feel threatened or stressed, cortisol levels rise as part of our bodies stress response which is also known as our "fight or flight" response.

The rising levels of cortisol help to make more fuel available to our bodies but unlike our ancient ancestors we are unlikely to be able to burn all the energy fuelled by this response.

Our stress is largely emotional and doesn’t require a physical response i.e. our ancestors had to fight for their survival but we do not and they would recover for long periods after their physical exertions. We, on the other hand, may not realise the need to recover from emotional stress and can go from one pressure point to another.

Looking a little more closely at how cortisol works it may influence where body fat is stored. Research has shown that some people whose cortisol levels jumped the most in response to stress tended to have proportionally more waistline fat—even if they were at a healthy weight.

Manage Your Stress without Pills and Potions

To reduce your stress and its effect on your weight, it is important to remove the sources of stress in your life. This will mean becoming more self aware and thinking a little more about your lifestyle and rituals.

  • Are there some which you can begin to change slowly to improve your health?

  • Can you reduce some unnecessary commitments

  • Become more patient

  • Build in more time for yourself etc?

Remember, massage, meditation and exercise can be used to reduce the stress hormones that can accelerate the ageing process.

And finally, don’t forget the importance of our perceptions because a very effective way of slowing down the ageing process is to become more aware of our psychological responses to all the stimuli that bombard us every day.

In a very simple test people were asked to create a list of non-food responses to cope with stress to help them control the urge to eat comfort food when they were tired or upset. Just learning how to wait for 10 minutes can help negate the urge to eat. Simple changes to our psychological responses can make a big difference to our lives. Don’t forget we are emotional beings!


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© 2012 7Futures Ltd. Please note that, at 7Futures, our role is to help educate and encourage our clients to take positive responsibility for their wellbeing. We are not medical doctors and are not able to offer individual medical advice. We always recommend you should discuss with your GP or other medical professional before making any changes you hope will impact your wellbeing, or that of your current/future family.  7Futures Ltd offers generic information which is for educational purposes only. The information we provided is not a prescription system and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. As such our materials, videos products and communications are for general information purposes only and should not be read as a personal recommendation for specific changes in lifestyle behaviour, nutrition, or exercise. Please click here for a clear description of our services and the relationship with you as a client. You should not participate in any of our services until you have studied this is for your benefit.

Mark Davies