If you are worried about weight gain, you are in company of a lot of people. World Health Organization estimates that 39 percent of the world’s population above 18 is overweight. And this level has tripled since 1975, almost in perfect sync with digital revolution. 

The situation is even worse in the United States. According to Center for Disease Control, more than half the adult Americans are overweight. More alarmingly, during the past ten years the number of children and overweight teens has doubled. (1)

An easy test to check if you are overweight is to use a bmi calculator. If you have bmi in the normal range, you probably have nothing to worry about. But if you find yourself overweight, then you should look at ways to lose weight. 

Mostly we try to start with exercise and diet when we get motivated to lose weight. However, stress and weight gain are also closely linked. Many times, the underlying root cause of belly fat is stress. In fact, it is possible that you have stress and weight gain without overeating. 


Why stress is bad

  • Stress causes you to eat more because you try to fill your emotional needs by eating more
  • Stress would result in your body holding on to fat even when you are eating healthy food
  • Your sleep will take a hit because of stress. And lack of sleep is clearly linked to weight gain.
  • Stress can trigger junk eating because you will feel drained and tired. In trying to regain your energy levels, you would make bad eating decisions. 
  • A life full of stress would mean you would always lack time to make meals at home and this would mean you will be eating on the go and mostly unhealthy. 

How is stress related to obesity

Weight gain and stress are directly linked with each other. In fact if you are suffering from chronic stress, you will find yourself in a cycle where stress causes weight gain and then weight gain stress drives more stress and you again eat more. 

A stress and weight gain study published in Journal of Pediatrics found a positive link between stress in the family and childhood obesity. (2)

Another study that was published in 2009 found a positive association between chronic stress and obesity. (3)

When we are stressed our bodies produce different adrenaline boosting hormones and cortisol is one of these. Interestingly cortisol remains elevated even after the stressful event has passed and in chronic stress cases it is elevated most of the time. 

And measurement of cortisol is a good indicator of stress. Cortisol function provides us further insight into how stress and weight gain are tightly linked. There is a well established link between cortisol and weigh gain. 

Animal studies have established that higher cortisol levels increase food intake and decrease calorie burning. (4)

A well cited study published in Obesity Reviews established a link between stress and obesity and its related comorbidities. This is caused by accumulation of belly fat and metabolic syndrome that in turn are caused by stress. (5)

Cortisol levels range

Cortisol levels change during the day. The Highest levels are early in the morning (and lowest at about midnight. Normal range for morning is between 10 and 20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) and in the afternoon it is 3 to 10 mcg/dL.?(6)

However, normal range varies based on gender, age and medical history. A blood test is used for finding normal cortisol levels range. 

Foods that reduce cortisol

We will discuss different other techniques about how to manage stress for weight loss but to start with here are some cortisol reducing foods that are going to benefit your cortisol levels: 

  • Dark chocolate
  • Green tea and black tea
  • Fruits like banana and pear
  • Probiotics found in foods like yogurt and soluble fiber
  • Water. By staying hydrated you decrease your cortisol levels

By introducing these foods in your diet, you will be able to reduce stress and weight gain resulting from it. 

How to reduce stress to reduce waistline

Our modern life has inherent stress in it. As if stress is best friend of obesity. Therefore, we need to learn how to manage stress and weight gain. 

The best strategy is to get rid of stress by finding ways where you can vent your stress peacefully. Here are 10 ways you can take control of your stress and weight gain. 

  • Learn to manage your time. When you would stay organized, you will be on top of your routine and this will lower your stressful times. 
  • Don’t overload yourself with unnecessary tasks. The best strategy is to start saying NO when you think you can’t do something without stress. Delegating your work is also essential for reducing stress. 
  • Exercise not only burns calories but it will decrease your stress levels by producing happiness hormones. 
  • Seek professional help if you need to because trained psychologists can help you manage your anger, depression and substance abuse in a better way. 
  • Set aside time for social activities at least once a week. This will decrease your sedentary time and human contact will make you feel happy and less stressful. 
  • Become member of some club that suits you because it will do wonders for improving your emotional health. 
  • Identify a hobby you like and nurture it. This can help you stay happier and feel useful. And result would be reversal of weight gain caused by stress. 
  • Take stock of your problems and face them. Rather than ignoring a problem that is causing you stress, start acting to address the problem. Because this will be better than ignoring the problem which will only worsen it over time. 

The bottom line

Unmanaged stress causes weight gain. By reducing stress, you can optimize your efforts to lose weight. By taking control of stress, you can reduce your chances of become obese. In fact, you can reverse weight gain caused by stress if you understand your stress causes and properly address those. 


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