Did you read right? Yes, it’s true, stress can make it impossible to lose weight and I’m about to tell you how, and what you can do about it.

You can feel the effects of stress straight away as it has an impact all over your body but one way that may take longer to notice is weight gain.

When you’re stressed, whether it’s because you don’t like your job, or you're eating a low calorie diet, it can be impossible to lose weight.

Now I know some people stop eating when they’re stressed, this will naturally mean you lose weight as your caloric intake isn’t high enough. This is not ideal either as it’s yet another stress on the body and is setting up your metabolism to have greater issues in the future.

There are several elements at play when it comes to weight gain and weight loss, our diet, physical activity, hormones like thyroid hormones, insulin and leptin - our satiety hormone, gut dysbiosis and inflammation, and genetics and epigenetics.

Stress directly impacts our hormones by causing a production of cortisol which acts in the body increasing your respiratory rate, your blood pressure, slowing your digestion, and most importantly for the body, converting glycogen into glucose in your liver and releasing it into the bloodstream.

This can make exercise for weight loss very difficult as the body uses this glucose in the bloodstream to make energy before it uses your fat stores. If the glucose supply keeps coming you won’t even come close to using your fat stores.

Over time a prolonged stress response can cause dysregulation of cortisol, either too much or too little. Both of these are damaging and can be the cause of weight gain.

Over time a prolonged stress response can cause dysregulation of cortisol, either too much or too little. Both of these are damaging and can be the cause of weight gain.

The thyroid creates T3, a hormone that controls your metabolism. When you are under stress, cortisol puts you in a state of fight and flight, blocking T3 from being produced and therefore stopping your metabolism.

There have been studies that have shown adipocytes, fat cells, increase cortisol production in obese subjects, keeping them stuck in this vicious cycle.

Other studies have shown stressed people burn fewer calories at rest. In 2015 researchers gave female participants a high-fat meal and found women who reported one or more stressors in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed participants. The difference may seem small but it can add up over time to nearly 5kg a year.

In another study in 2010 women placed on a low calorie diet and made to track their calories had increased cortisol levels and increased physiological stress. Low calorie diets can potentially cause a very dysregulated hormonal system, even if only done for 3 weeks.

You would be better off having a break (and eating a little more), than being stressed out at work and exercising all the time (too much of the wrong kind of exercise can also cause a stress response).

So for anyone that is stressed right now, here are a few things you can try:

  • Eat a nourishing meal

  • Go for a walk

  • Phone a friend

  • Do a breathing exercise

  • Try EFT/Tapping

  • Book an appointment with your therapist

  • Read/ listen to an uplifting book

In the meantime, I have a free 7-day meal plan to nourish and protect a stressed-out body. I recommend you download it and give it a try, it’s an amazing first step to take towards a healthier you.

Free 7 Day Meal Plan

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