• April 1, 2020

Is stress causing you to gain weight?

stress free family

Is stress causing you to gain weight?

1024 512 Holly Parsons
How common is stress?

In the UK, stress is unfortunately extremely common. In fact, according to a recent survey, “74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope”[1].

Why does it cause weight gain?

When you’re stressed your body releases the hormone cortisol. This hormones prepares your body for “fight or flight”, which is okay in small doses (such as a shock), because once the stressful situation is over your cortisol levels will return to normal[2]. However, chronic stress can lead to overeating since Cortisol is also an appetite stimulant. In addition to this, you may have a tendency to reach for comfort food when you feel stressed, since as the name suggests, many people find sugary food comforting. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that 46% of people say they eat too much, or unhealthily, during times of stress[3].


What are the symptoms?
  • Tight muscles
  • Irritation
  • Feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • Increased blood pressure

How to reduce stress?

Work related

44% of people attribute their stress to their workload[4]. If this is you, speak to your manager, since lightening your workload could also be beneficial to them. Last year it is estimated that 12.8 million working days were lost due to work-related stress in the UK[5], which suggests that reducing your workload could reduce your sick days.

Take control

Find the source and try to think all of the possible solutions to your problem. Then create a to-do list to ensure you stay on top of all the jobs you need to do, and are able to manage your time efficiently.

How to relax without using comfort eating?
  1. Talk about your problems- it can help you to see the situation more clearly and identify solutions. You may also find that your friend or family member has been through a similar situation.
  2. Exercise- this stimulates the production of endorphins, which makes you feel good, and reduces the levels the body’s stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. In turn this helps you to feel calmer[6].
  3. Avoid caffeine- it increases alertness and adrenaline, which can increase anxiety and nervousness.
  4. Sleep- this can be difficult during stressful times, so avoid caffeine and alcohol since these can disturb your sleep. Instead, take a warm bath before bed; this will help with help you to relax and will leave you feeling more calm before bed. It’s also important to make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.
  5. Play with/ stroking pets- it can increase the production of oxytocin (a stress-reducing hormone) and reduce the production of cortisol.
  6. Eat healthily- instead of reaching for comfort food, choose herbal tea, fish, nuts and fruit.
  7. Deep breathing- stress often makes your breathing shallow and irregular, by taking slow, deep breathes you will enable more air to flow into your lungs and this will have a calming effect.

If you’d like to make positive steps to a healthier you to help combat stress, you can call us 0800 169 4219 on or register online to get tips from our qualified health coaches and nutritionist

[1] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/stress-and-weight-gain#stress-on-the-body

[3] https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress

[4] https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

[5] https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

[6] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax

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