Can Stress Cause Weight Gain?

Weight loss is more than just about what and how much you eat. Your level of stress and how well you manage it can also impact your weight loss journey.

The Relationship Between Stress and Weight Gain

Whenever you are stressed, your body responds by releasing hormones to help you cope with it. Your adrenal glands release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which causes glucose to be released into the bloodstream. Glucose is your primary source of energy and in times of crisis, it is released to give you the energy to escape from a risky situation.

Once the stressful situation subsides, your adrenaline rush starts to wear off and so is the spike in your blood sugar level. At this point, the hormone cortisol starts to kick in to help you replenish the energy you’ve lost.

Cravings for Sugar
Sugar is one of the first few things you reach for when you’re stressed because it provides your body with a quick supply of energy it thinks it needs. There’s nothing wrong with food containing sugar; the problem starts when you start eating too much of it.

Slow Metabolism
Aside from the sugar cravings, getting constantly stressed can also impact your metabolism. In a 2015 study conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, they found out that on average, women who reported more stressors during the prior 24 hours burned fewer calories than women who were not stressed.

Unhealthy Habits
Stress can also cause a number of unhealthy habits that will make it harder for you to lose weight. This includes emotional eating, skipping meals, eating fast food or “quick” processed food, and sleeping less which is also shown to make you more prone to crave more sugar.

How to Effectively Manage Stress

To break the cycle, it’s important to learn effective ways to manage stress. You may try meditation, yoga, journaling, and reaching out to friends and family.

Research has also shown that exercising can especially help. Any physical activity, whether it’s walking, cycling, or even mild stretching triggers the release of “feel good” hormones in your system.

And if you’re someone who’s prone to reaching out to “quick” meals when stressed, one good trick you can do is stock up on healthier alternatives. Instead of fast food or highly processed packaged food, you may stock up on cooked chicken fillets, microwavable vegetables, cut-up fruits, and nuts for snacks.

We can help

The team at New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery in Knoxville reminds you that stress in life is normal, but don’t let it or your reactions to it hamper your weight loss journey.

If you’re considering weight loss surgery, our free informational seminar will answer a lot of your questions. To get started, visit

New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery is part of Premier Surgical Bariatrics in Knoxville, Tennessee. New Life is affiliated with the Parkwest Center for Bariatric Surgery, a division of Covenant Health Bariatric Services.