Health Tips

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 Eating

If you're still gaining weight even though you eat healthy and exercise regularly, a couple factors may be plotting against you. It's time to break the cycle of stress and weight gain!


Overeating or making poor food choices is not the only culprit of sudden weight gain. If you are still gaining weight even though you eat healthy and exercise regularly, a couple factors may be plotting against you. It's time to break the cycle of stress and weight gain!

Stress and Weight Gain Factors

Sleep Deprivation

If you are not catching your Zzz's at night, the body can start experiencing physiological stress and may start to store fat more efficiently. Insufficient quantity and quality of sleep and weight gain go hand-in-hand, as research shows poor sleep contributes to poorer nutrition choices. First off, when tired, stress may not be handled so well. To counteract the stress, you are likely to reach for "comfort" food as a coping mechanism without thinking about the consequences. Some people think late-night snacking will help them fall back asleep, but it really may just cause stress weight gain.

Stress Exacerbation

It is understandable to get stressed out in the society we live in. Stress can be motivating, but may also negatively impact moods and emotions. Stress responses trigger a biochemical process where our bodies go into survival mode. During times of stress, our bodies store fuel and energy, slow down metabolism and dump out harmful chemicals such as 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.

Stress and Appetite

The problem lies within our neuroendocrine system, a brain-to-body connection that traces back to our distant ancestors, helping them survive. But instead of stress prompting us to avoid a saber-toothed together, the source of the stress is more likely to be from financial woes. But regardless of the stressor, this neuroendocrine system activates a series of hormones whenever we feel threatened.

When stressed, the body releases hormones including adrenalin (offering instant energy) and cortisol, which works on a different timetable. Cortisol's job is to help us replenish our body after stress has passed and hangs around a lot longer. When it remains elevated, it may increase our appetite and ultimately drive us to eat more.

This fight or flight response works when we actually are or feel in physical danger. But now-a-days when stressed, we tend to sit and dwell in our frustration - and, unfortunately, sitting in frustration does not burn calories. These occurrences can 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. This causes the body to crave carbohydrates when stressed and may ultimately be a link to stress and weight gain.

Say "NO!" To Stress Eating

When stressed, our body has an overwhelming urge to correct the situation. To balance out the negative feelings of stress, our body seeks out positive feelings, generally by consuming comfort foods. Unfortunately, the likelihood of giving into the temptation of binge eat increases and can result to weight gain. Luckily, though, stress weight gain can be combatted with these tips:

Improved Diet

If food is absolutely desired, stray away from sugary, calorically-dense products. A balanced diet and regular meals will help keep blood sugar levels steady, eventually reducing cortisol levels and decreasing hunger throughout the day.


If feeling tired or just plain exhausted, exercise is the last thing you want to get up and do. Ultimately, though, getting active halts stress weight gain. Though it typically takes time to get used to an exercise routine, you will more than likely see results with consistency. It'll also help you lose weight, too. Exercise is a real win-win!


Though stress can certainly hinder sleep quality and quantity, studies have linked sleep deprivation to stronger feelings of hunger the next day. Turn off electronics and lights, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours, and cozy up in your preferred climate to help induce a calm sleeping environment.


That's it - just relax. Anything that makes you feel calm and relaxed will help counter the biochemical feedbacks of stress, according to WedMD. Go to your "happy place" - a warm bath, a swaying hammock, or with your favorite book!

Avoid Cigarettes and Alcohol

If you turn to cigarettes and alcohol in times of trouble, that just might be your problem. In addition to coffee, they are shown to increase cortisol levels and decrease blood sugar, which can stress you out and make you hungry.

Eat or Take Your Vitamins

Generally found in nutritious foods, vitamins B and C are known to combat stress - just another reason to eat a healthy diet! Before taking vitamins, be sure to check safety and ingredient labels. Your healthcare provider can further guide supplement sources.

Along with preventing stress weight gain, the listed tips can also be an effective means on how to lose stress weight gain after it has already occurred. Conversely, some individuals may actually drop pounds related to a loss of appetite. How to gain weight back from stress? Go slow and do not resort to binge eating, which can ultimately lead to poor nutrition choices and cascade more health consequences. Practice stress-relieving techniques that initially caused a reduced appetite - embrace a healthier lifestyle filled with a well-balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep!

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on April 25, 2013. Updated on August 23, 2016.


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