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What is the relationship between stress and weight gain?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Stress can cause weight gain. There are several factors that stress can contribute to weight gain. 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 type so food people crave when stressed are generally high fat/sugary foods. Second, stress causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat, 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.

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics

There can definitely be a link between stress and weight gain. Certain medications for depression are often linked to weight gain. If this is a concern, talk to your healthcare provider about your medications and their likelihood of causing weight gain. Often times when individuals are depressed, they crave sweets. Sweets can elevate serotonin levels in the brain which can have a temporary calming effect. Unfortunately if this happens often, excess weight will appear. Depression often leads to sluggishness and decreased motivation which can derail any exercise plan. Exercise burns calories and increases endorphins which can help lighten depression.

Sudeepta Varma, MD
Psychiatry
There is a very strong correlation between stress and weight gain; stress raises cortisol levels, which directly impacts appetite and cravings. Watch psychiatrist Sudeepta Varma, MD, explain how stress levels and sleep directly impact weight gain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.