Can stress make you gain weight?

Motivation 101

Published on 8 January 2018
by Isabelle Huot

Feeling a certain level of stress on occasion is normal. However, chronic stress, which increases your heart rate and arterial tension, can also promote weight gain. How can we explain this phenomenon?


Cortisol is the culprit

 Cortisol is a hormone that is released during stress. When cortisol levels are elevated, your appetite increases, and you tend to crave certain foods, specifically those that are high in fat and sugar. Cortisol also tells your body to accumulate fat, especially in the abdominal area. What’s more, excess cortisol can slow down your metabolism, which causes you to burn fewer calories when resting.


When insomnia strikes

 For many, elevated stress levels lead to insomnia, which unfortunately leads to sleep deprivation. Many studies have shown that individuals who continuously sleep less than 7 hours per night are more likely to be obese, gain weight, and have a greater waist circumference and body fat percentage than those who sleep 7 hours or more.


Feeling stressed? Pay attention to your body’s hunger cues

 Stress inevitably affects our eating habits, both in terms of food quality and quantity. When we’re distracted, we are less mindful about what we eat and often ignore our body’s signs of hunger and fullness.


Tricks to better manage your stress

  • regularly engage in moderate physical activity
  • practice relaxation/meditation
  • practice mindful eating (eat slowly, taste, appreciate each bite)
  • listen to music
Isabelle Huot
Doctor in nutrition