How to Get Rid of Weight Gain Due to Stress

Posted in: January 8, 2018 By: Bernadette Marie Wilson


Are you over eating due to stress?


Stress takes a toll on our body. It also can have a damaging effect on our brain health. Long-time exposure to it can even have deleterious effects on people[1] and can cause havoc in our daily life.

As a result, many people have taken to different coping mechanisms. One of the more popular ones is through food, or what is known as “stress eating.”  A recent study found 35-60% of people report eating more total calories when they are experiencing stress. Stress eating is also double whammy in that while it provides an easy “escape” from stress, it also exacerbates its effect, thanks to its behavioral and physiological effects.

There are, however, a number of simple things that to help reduce or prevent these so-called extra “stress calories” from adding up. Mindfulness-based approaches may reduce compulsive overeating, address associated behavioral and emotional dysregulation, and promote internalization of change.[2] Mindfulness, exercise, and developing good habits help to ease and ward off the damaging effects of daily stressors. With consistent practice, one can reduce destructive eating habits and learn to manage stress effectively.

Stress-Induced Eating: A Vicious Cycle

Accordingly, acute or chronic exposure to stress evokes a number of behavioral and physiological responses that change a person’s metabolic and behavioral state.[3] This simply means that continuous exposure to stress can have major effects on one’s physical, mental, and even emotional well-being.

Stress has been shown to affect the body’s caloric intake. A number of studies even indicate that constant exposure to stress can promote eating disorders like anorexia or even cause obesity, depending on one’s dietary environments. This almost works in conjunction with the aforementioned emotional changes stress induces, which leads many people into looking for an appropriate coping mechanism such as stress-induced eating.[4]

As so, the negative physiological effects that stress already has on the body are complemented by eating when stressed. It creates a vicious cycle: stress promotes bodily intake, which leads to changes in calorie consumption, and overeating supports that notion through the introduction of unnecessary “comfort food” into the body.

Appropriate Coping Mechanisms

There are several ways a person can practice stress management other than indulging in comfort food. One effective way is by seeking assistance from family and friends. Having positive reinforcement can help give one a sense of healthy positivity and even assistance when it comes to formal mental health treatments, if necessary.[5]

Actively engaging in physical activities may be helpful in managing stress levels. A study done on river flood survivors who were tasked to undergo yoga practice as a coping mechanism for stress showed that just one week of yoga relieved them of their anxiety and their self-perceived sadness.[6] It may thus prove helpful to engage in physical activities that may take one’s mind off stress.

One other way that could help is through psychological or even pharmacological assistance. While stress eating is indeed a way to cope with the stress one is undergoing, this may merely hint at deeper problems, such as anxiety and other related disorders. Moreover, unresolved issues may be associated with distinct risk factors.[7]

Reduce “Stress Calories” The Proper Way

“Stress eating,” while an easy coping mechanism, is not the most effective way to deal with everyday stress. It merely complements the physical effects that stress has on the body while assisting in its caloric intake. There are, however, a number of ways to improve on stress management, such as by engaging in natural rewards that provide similar effects.[8] There is no need to engage in unhelpful eating habits when there are many safe and healthy ways available today to manage stress.

As so, if the problem is unresolved in the long-term, it may be helpful to seek advice from a health professional or performance coach.  If you would like to learn more how to develop the habit of mindfulness to reduce worry and stress, contact Bernadette today for a complimentary 15-minute intro session. Learn more about this exclusive offer at

[1]    Chrousus et al., 1998.


[3]    Dallman et al., 2003.

[4]    Ulrich-Lai et al., 2015. Stress Exposure, Food Intake and Emotional State.

[5]    Griffirths et al, 2011.

[6]    Telles et al., 2010.

[7]    Schaal et al, 2010.

[8]    Ulrich-Lai et al., 2015. Stress Exposure, Food Intake and Emotional State.