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How Prolonged Stress Might Contribute to Unexplained Weight Gain and Impact Mental Health



If you’ve observed that you’re gaining weight, persistent stress may be the cause.

The hormone-stress relationship
When you’re under stress, your body releases the hormone cortisol. It’s a component of the “fight or flight” reaction, which is meant to provide you more energy in an emergency [2].

On the other hand, persistent stress causes your body to continuously produce cortisol. This may result in weight gain in a few different ways.

An increase in hunger
Prolonged stress can increase your appetite, mostly for comfort foods that are often heavy in fat and sugar. This may result in overindulging and gaining weight.

Storing fat
Your body is encouraged to retain fat by cortisol, particularly around the abdomen [4]. This visceral fat can cause weight gain and negatively impact your health.

Decrease in metabolism
Persistent stress can lower your metabolism and hinder your body’s ability to burn calories effectively . This may exacerbate weight gain even further.

Stressful cuisine
A lot of people use food as a coping mechanism for stress. Overindulgence in calories and weight gain can result from emotional eating, which frequently involves unhealthy snacking .

Sleep disturbance
Your sleep patterns may be disturbed by stress. Because sleep deprivation can alter hunger hormones and encourage overeating, it has been related to weight gain.

Declines in physical exercise
You might not have the time or motivation to exercise while you’re worried. Over time, this inactivity may result in weight gain.

Things to watch out for
You can determine whether stress is having an impact on your weight by recognizing the symptoms of elevated cortisol [8]:

Belly fat: Excess weight around the belly may be a sign of weight gain brought on by stress.
Sleep problems: Sleep disturbances or insomnia may indicate the negative effects of stress on your body.

Digestive problems: Stress can have an impact on your digestive tract, which may result in weight gain.

Fatigue: Prolonged stress can lead to fatigue and a decreased desire to exercise.
Increased appetite: If you’re always hungry, especially for unhealthy meals, stress may be the cause.

Mood swings and emotional eating can be brought on by ongoing stress.
Controlling stress to prevent weight gain: Effective stress management is essential to preventing stress-related weight gain . The following are some tactics:

  • Sufficient sleep: To enhance your sleep habits, give proper sleep hygiene first priority.
  • Exercise: Getting regular exercise can help lower stress and increase metabolism.
  • Eating well: Put an emphasis on a diet that is well-balanced and rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Stress-relieving methods include deep breathing and meditation.
  • Seek assistance: If you need assistance controlling your stress, don’t be afraid to ask friends, family, or a professional.
  • Prolonged stress has been connected to unexplained weight gain. You may take action to effectively manage stress and maintain a healthy weight by being aware of the link between stress and weight gain and the symptoms of elevated cortisol levels.


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