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From tips on how to lose weight effectively to ways to combat boredom eating, this collection of informative articles covers a wide range of health topics that matter to real people, like you.

How to Stop the Cycle of Stress and Weight Gain

How to Stop the Cycle of Stress and Weight Gain

Overeating or making bad food choices is not the only culprit of sudden weight gain. If you’re still gaining weight even though you eat healthy and exercise regularly, a couple factors may be plotting against you.

Lack of sleep causes trouble

If you’re not catching your Z’s at night, your body won’t function the way it should. This means your body is experiencing physiological stress and because of this, you will store fat more efficiently. Not getting enough sleep and weight gain go hand-in-hand because when you’re tired, you can’t handle stress as well, so you’re probably reaching for food as a coping mechanism without thinking about the consequences. Some people think late-night snacking will help them fall back asleep, but all it does is increase your weight. Food and no sleep is not a good combination. 

Stress makes things worse

It’s easy to get stressed out in the society that we live in. Stress can help motivate us, but it can also negatively impact our mood and our emotions. Stress responses trigger a biochemical process where our bodies go into survival mode. During times of stress, our bodies store fuel, slow down our metabolism and dump out bad chemicals like cortisol, which are very likely to contribute to weight gain in the abdominal region. If that’s not bad enough, stress eaters tend to prefer high-carbohydrate foods because these foods trigger an increase in the brain chemical serotonin, which gives the body a calming effect—almost like self-medication. If you find yourself falling into this trap, try other relaxing techniques like exercise or meditation.

The effect of stress on your appetite

The problem lies within our neuroendocrine system—a brain-to-body connection that goes back to evolutionary times. It used to help our distant ancestors survive. Today, however, the source of the stress is more likely to be financial woes than a saber-toothed tiger; however, this system still activates a series of hormones whenever we feel threatened.

The hormones released when we're stressed include adrenalin—which gives us instant energy—and cortisol, which works on a different timetable. Its job is to help us replenish our body after the stress has passed so it hangs around a lot longer. When it remains elevated, it can increase our appetite and ultimately drive us to eat more.

This fight or flight response works when we’re actually in physical danger, but now-a-days when we’re stressed, we sit and stew in our frustration until we feel like we’re about to explode. Sitting in frustration does not burn calories. This will actually cause visceral fat to accumulate around the midsection.

To make matters even more complicated, the "fuel" our muscles need during fight or flight is sugar—one reason we crave carbohydrates when we’re stressed.

Alternatives to stress eating

Exercise: When we’re stressed, our body has an overwhelming urge to do correct the situation. In attempting to do so, it seeks to balance out the negative feelings of stress with the positive feelings obtained by eating junk foods. This increases your likelihood of giving in to the temptation to binge eat. However, exercise is a better option. If you’re tired or just plain exhausted, exercise is the last thing you want to do; but it will help. It’s not a magical solution because it will take some time to get used to an exercise routine, but if you stick with it, you’ll see results. It’ll also help you lose weight too. Exercise is a real win-win.

A better diet: A balanced diet and regular meals will help keep blood sugar levels steady, eventually reducing cortisol levels and decreasing hunger throughout the day.

Sleep: Don’t lose sleep. If you get good sleep, you won’t be as stressed so you won’t want to eat as much. Studies have linked lack of sleep to stronger feelings of hunger the next day.

Relax: That’s it—just relax. Anything that makes you feel calm and relaxed will help counter the biochemical feedbacks of stress, according to

Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol: If you turn to caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol in times of trouble, that just might be your problem. These three things are shown to increase cortisol levels and decrease blood sugar, which stresses you out and makes you hungry.

Take your vitamins: Vitamins B and C are known to combat stress which is just another reason to eat a healthy diet, and if advised by your doctor, to make sure you take your vitamins.

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