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How Stress Increases Your Weight - What to Know

Traditionally, weight loss is achieved through consistent healthy eating habits and committing to an exercise regimen. People track their daily progress by measuring the amount of calories they eat versus the amount of calories they expend through physical activity.

While this may seem simple enough, there can be other factors that affect weight loss. One of these culprits may not be obvious: stress.

Stress is a significant factor in everyday life. Whether we are stressed due to job performance pressure or relationship issues, a high level of stress can affect unseemingly related issues such as our weight.

Stemming from Your Sleep...

Stress can easily cause nights where you are tossing and turning, and not getting the rest your body needs. In addition to feeling tired the next day, your body hasn’t had a chance to balance the hormones that control hunger and fullness.

Two hormones are involved in controlling hunger levels. Ghrelin is a hormone that causes the feeling of hunger and encourages fat storage. Its counterpart, leptin, is the hormone signaling fullness to the brain. When we have a lack of sleep, there is an imbalance of ghrelin and leptin in the brain. Because of the imbalance, we may feel hungrier than usual and eat larger portions than usual and still feel unsatisfied.

While some lose their appetite when under high levels of stress, those with an imbalance of large amounts of ghrelin being produced can lead to a persistent habit of consuming too much food. Generally, people do not consume celery sticks or roasted brussel sprouts. Instead, they gravitate towards high-calorie “comfort foods.” This is referred to as “stress-eating,” or consuming high calorie foods in larger portions than normal or when someone isn’t really hungry.

Stress eating can alter your metabolism. One large meal will not make you gain weight. Over a period of time, the cycle from hormonal imbalance due to a lack of sleep can lead to stress eating which results in unwanted pounds.

Stress Busters

Meditation: According to a Lifehack article, the deep controlled breathing you do during meditation increases levels of nitric acid. This opens constricted blood vessels which reduces blood pressure. As your blood pressure lowers, so does your stress level.

Consistent Sleep Schedule: Going to sleep every night and waking up at the same time every day consistently with 7-8 of rest time helps to regulate your body’s hormones, including ghrelin and leptin.

Exercise: According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise reduces stress by increasing endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Even a twenty minute walk outside can make a difference.

Hobbies: If you feel stressed due to time constraints, it may seem counter-intuitive to engage in activities you enjoy purely for fun. However, in addition to lower stress levels, spending time on hobbies can reduce waist circumference. Whether it is dusting off old paint brushes, trying photography, or even getting around to that book you’ve been meaning to read, engaging in an activity for pleasure helps reduce stress levels.

To learn more or schedule a consultation with Dr. Korman, contact us here or call the office: 310-577-5540.

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