How does stress management affect your weight loss?

For effective and sustainable weight loss, you need to stay zen and motivated. Here’s why and how to combat the double whammy of stress, which leads to excess weight!

Sadness, anxiety, anger and other emotions usually trigger impulsive urges to compensate with fatty and sweet foods or alcohol (and coffee!).

But these so-called “comfort foods” only lead to feelings of guilt. Stress causes an eating disorder that is not without consequences for the body. Stress is therefore a factor in weight gain that must be managed to avoid the yo-yo effect.

1/ The effects of stress on weight

In times of stress, the adrenal glands produce a glucocorticoid: cortisol, which is only beneficial to the body in very low doses. Otherwise, it affects weight gain in several ways, especially in cases of chronic or prolonged stress:


  • It sends signals to the brain to increase appetite and cravings for comfort foods;
  • By interfering with serotonin (a neurotransmitter), it promotes a depressed state and reinforces the individual’s quest for “comfort” foods;
  • It interferes with the production of neuropeptide Y which stimulates appetite, insulin secretion and the storage of fat reserves;
  • It interferes with the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, thus slowing down the metabolism. The body then burns fewer calories in times of stress. A recent study by the University of Ohio in the United States estimates the weight gain due to the combination of “stress and fatty food” at 5 kg per year;
  • Under the effect of a high level of cortisol, fat cells tend to store more fat and release as little as possible;
  • It promotes the loss of muscle mass instead of fat;
  • By stimulating the production of insulin, it leads to the disruption of blood sugar levels, which results in even more cravings while white fat is oxidized less and less.

Conclusion: we ingest and store more calories under the effect of stress. This often manifests itself in weight gain in the abdominal area, increasing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


Add to this the other consequences of stress such as insomnia, fatigue and irritability that promote a sedentary lifestyle. We then progressively lose the motivation to exercise. Especially since the fear of getting fat is also a source of stress! A vicious circle that must be stopped.


2/ The different methods to overcome stress

As stress acts on fat storage and appetite, better management of it is therefore necessary for effective weight loss. There are many ways to fight it:


a/ Sport

It kills two birds with one stone, because, in addition to fighting stress through the production of dopamine and endorphin, sport helps to tone the body and burn fat. It also motivates you to eat a more balanced diet to replenish your energy, especially when you know how much physical effort it takes to eat a piece of cake to eliminate the equivalent calories!


b/ Leisure and physical activity

You don’t have to engage in intense sports to slim down your figure. The most important thing is to get moving and to enjoy it. This can be cycling, water aerobics, swimming, jogging, walking or simply taking the stairs instead of the elevator. The goal is to avoid getting stuck in a sedentary lifestyle, which is also a factor in weight gain and depression.


c/ Meditation

Eliminate excess weight by adopting a more zen philosophy of life. Mindfulness meditation, hypnosis, yoga and other spiritual wellness practices help control stress and therefore weight: you gain more self-control over both your emotions and impulsive eating.

d/ The spa

The wellness industry offers a host of rituals that promote relaxation while taking care of your body. For example, the sauna and thermal cures have been used since ancient times to relieve stress. This is also the case for holistic massages that combine body care and mind calming (lomi-lomi, Thai, Tibetan bowl, Egyptian, etc.). Some of these methods also promote weight loss.


e/ Anti-stress foods

Many active ingredients found in food help control stress, including green tea, calming herbal teas (linden, California poppy, lemon balm, passionflower, hawthorn, etc.), garlic, fish and even dark chocolate. Choose foods rich in magnesium, iron and vitamin C to fight fatigue, as well as those rich in omega-3 and B vitamins for their effects on the body.


f/ A positive state of mind

Be more optimistic, learn to calm your emotions and stop feeling guilty at the slightest weight gain. On the contrary, use it as a motivation to spend even more time and above all, don’t lose sight of your goal!

You have tried almost everything to lose weight, but without lasting success? Now you know that stress is probably a factor. So try to live away from stress to lose weight better!


Where can I find help to lose weight

If you need help in your weight loss process, as well as managing your stress during this process, come and discover the different solutions offered by Motivate! Whether it be through audio guides for weight loss, books or through our incredible pro coaching. Motivate brings you all the help you need to reach your goals!

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JF Larocque
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