How does stress affect weight loss and overall health?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Stress can make weight loss more difficult for many people 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.

For other people, stress causes weight loss, but not in a good way. For those people that lose their appetite weight loss is unhealthy and can cause dehydration, weakness, and suppresses the immune system. Overall health is negatively affected.


Dr. Andrea Pennington, MD
Integrative Medicine
The hustle and bustle of life naturally creates a certain amount of pressure that actually helps us function. Constant stress, however, can wreak havoc on your emotional as well as physical health. Aside from causing anxiety, depression and sleep deprivation, stress can lead to hypertension, unwanted weight loss or gain, and an increased vulnerability to colds and infections. To help combat stress, practice yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques. Take at least 15 minutes out of each day for you time. You deserve it.

Continue Learning about Stress

Stress Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease
Stress Increases Your Risk of Heart Disease
Did you know that a small amount of stress is good for you? It helps motivate you to get things done. Too much stress can have the opposite effect, in...
Read More
What are two of the best stress-reducers?
Diana S, NASM Elite TrainerDiana S, NASM Elite Trainer
There are lots of ways to decrease stress, among them is physical activity. In order to stay consist...
More Answers
7 Ways Stress Can Harm Your Body
7 Ways Stress Can Harm Your Body7 Ways Stress Can Harm Your Body7 Ways Stress Can Harm Your Body7 Ways Stress Can Harm Your Body
Stress isn't just bad for your mental health—it can harm your physical health as well. Learn how, plus smart strategies to help you take control.
Start Slideshow
Breathe Deeply to Ease Pain
Breathe Deeply to Ease Pain

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.