How can chronic stress lead to weight gain?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Chronic stress leads to weight gain for several reasons. First, stress causes many people to stress eat. Stress eating is a type of emotional eating, which contributes to excess calories and when done often enough causes weight gain. In addition, the types of food people crave when stressed are usually high fat and sugar. Second, stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat and makes it harder to lose weight, especially around the stomach. Third, when someone is stressed they generally sleep less. Less sleep, chronic fatigue causes the hormone ghrelin to rise. Ghrelin is the primary hunger hormone, and causes someone to feel hungry even when they don’t need to eat.

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