SparkPeople Blogs  •  news  •  obesity

Overweight and Stressed? Watch Out!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do you often feel like you're being pulled in a million different directions? You've got deadlines at work, it's your night for the kids soccer carpool, you need to squeeze in a workout and there's no food in the refrigerator for dinner. Whatever your responsibilities happen to be, it's enough to get completely stressed out. But did you know that if you're overweight and stressed, you're more likely to gain weight?

A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that if participants already had a higher BMI, the chance of weight gain was greater when they were faced with stress in their lives. When faced with similar stressors, thinner people tended not to gain weight.

The sources of stress for men and women were slightly different. Women were more affected by stressful family relationships, finances and job demands, while men were more affected by job demands and lack of decision-making authority. Because the sources of stress for women came from a variety of sources (family, job, etc.) researchers theorize that they are more at risk for weight gain (as a result of the stress) than men.

Too much stress can cause the body to release large amounts of coritsol, a hormone that can slow down your metabolism. Research shows that chronic stress can also promote fat storage, and increase cravings for sugary, high-fat “comfort foods.” Do you notice that when you're stressed, you tend to eat more or are easily tempted by foods you know you shouldn't be eating? I know I am.

Fortunately, there are lots of options when it comes to dealing with stress in a healthy way. Exercising, deep breathing, reading a book or just taking a quiet walk are all ways that I cope with the stress in my life.

What stress management techniques work well for you? Do you find that the stress in your life impacts your weight loss progress? How so?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Here's another stress buster: have a serious talk with your partner and divvy up the tasks that need to be done. So many of my colleagues are putting in a full day of work; then they go home to put in a full day of childcare and housekeeping, while their significant other sits in front of the TV calling for dinner, or goes out with the boys/girls. Then they wonder why they're stressed. If you're in a partnership there is no reason not to divide the work equitably. Report
Oh my goodness, I felt like this blog should have been addressed, "Dear Tina." I cannot tell you how stress makes me want to eat anything and everything in sight and especially the worst kinds of food, or whatever happens to be readily available, which, at work for example, is the stuff in the vending machine that is generally horrible for you..

All I can say is that I've tried to distract myself from the "mission to eat" that stress can put me on by exercising, getting my son to play a game with me, getting online and reading a Spark article on the topic, picking up the phone and calling a friend.. sometimes I succeed in distracting myself, sometimes I don't.

Thanks for this, it is affirming of my beliefs.. Gives me a few more arrows for my self-talk quiver, too!! Report
Thank you so much! I am coaching lots of people through a 12 week to a New You Program and this is our topic for tonight!! WOW , I must add I realized so many of us have the same issues! THANK YOU! Report
Oh yeah it's true!!!!!!!!!! I consistently gain weight throughout the school year, until holidays come. Over summer, I am fit, athletic, happy, content, which lasts a few months until the major stressors start popping up. Over the last two weeks, I have been eating so well, working out with NO weight loss. But, the job was very stressful...I live this direct correlation and am trying desperately to change the way I deal with stress and what I take on. Easier 'thought out' than applied! I credit at least 20 pounds of my 30 pound excess to stress! A few things work well and I get back on track - then out of nowhere, like a train off the rails, a stressful period hits and it is so hard to maintain the right path. That is a big reason why I am on here right now! :-) Report
I believe it....I remember when I wasn't so stressed in my life I weighed 140 ponds. The stressors of life came in and I got a hard job and failed at it, got newly married, and had to think about my future in the career. I gained so much weight in such a short period of time =(.....I try not to stress out as much as before, but now the stress of the weight gain amongst other things seem to make it hard for me..... Report
I totally agree on the stress and lack of weight loss. I have "Waves" of stress in my life. It all happens at once. I never just get one at a time. I deal with family relationships, finances, job demands, and a son with a disability - and with all that no support and a slight need for perfection. I will have a few days, months that are good - where I can cope or get by, then when it piles up it comes all at once in all those areas - not just one at a time. I tend to overeat, undereat or just feel rotten. I've had several things happen to my body in the last couple of years. I've become sensitive to foods that I wasn't before. Sleeping is awful, don't want to interact with anyone. Stomach problems -galore! When I am able to stick to a food program, nothing works - the wieght doesn't move down. And of course that becomes another stressor.....I am a worrywart type person by nature, have been since a young age. I've tried to find ways to relax and de-stress, nothing seems to work - other than sleeping. That becomes hard when you have 2 kids and a husband. I know all this stress is not good for me mentally, physically and spiritually. I would hate to see what my cortisal levels are...... Report
I just got laid off and found exercising was a great way to reduce my stress. I knew that this stress could cause me to start gaining weight and stop all the great progress I had made. But I now realize that exercising and eating right is going to help me handle stressors and get through this difficult time. Report
I think i started putting on weigh when things were stressful at home. I found my self eating more and not feeling like doing things i would normally do. Though the years i learned going for a walk or reading a good book helps, and once i relax the things i found stressful don't bother me as much. Report
I feel stress is the reason I just can't seem to loose my weight. I am a very stressed person and I bring upon myself--a trait passed down from my mother :(
I will be so pumped and in a great frame of mind, I'll start exercising and eating healthy, and then life will throw me a curve that I freak out about. It doesn't take me long to get off the health wagon and return to poor habits. It's all so frustrating, because then I beat myself up for eating and being fat and out of control over myself...I pray that one day I can conquer this roller coaster and simply just remain focused on making myself healthy, happy and strong. Report
My husband has a very stessful job, therefore I feel his stress I personally have lots of stress from physical illness beyond my control, illness has put limits on my exersize, therefore I have to put more thought into healthy foods, which in turn helps with pain or swelling, which helps with stress for me and for him and therefore our 4 children benifit from our heathy eating! Our kids see us go for walks together and they are invited as well. It's a win, win with this program. Sparkpeopls has made me free of diets and that in and of itself reduces stress! Report
Oh goodness... I felt like I was reading the story of my life from the get-go! I am glad I have found this site and I am reading new stuff everyday to try to change. I have so many stressers and so much weight I have gained from having my children, being disabled due to injuries, etc. I love myself, but there are parts that I will be more than happy to part with LOL! Thanks to everyone sharing their stories and motivations! Report
Most of my stress seems to stem from my relationships with others and myself. I have struggled with low self-esteem most of my life whether I was overweight or had lost weight. This low self-esteem has caused me to be in psychological battles with myself and really takes a toll on how I relate to others. When I feel stressed from what I thought was an awkward social situation, I have found comfort in eating and sleeping. This does nothing to help me lose weight. I see a counselor who is working with me to apply cognitive therapy to change how I view my relationships and myself and to change my reactions to stress. The book he recommended to me has some useful strategies such as writing about the stress non-stop for 10 minutes instead of immediately trying to sabotage yourself with overeating. Honestly, this has been an uphill battle for me to apply these constructive strategies, but I try to celebrate each small success by making an effort to be aware of the change I made, which really helps minimize the stress, too. Report
I think will power is the main thing. Before putting something in your mouth, ask your self: Will this help me achieve my goal?" and I'll bet you will stop your hand from grabing what you wanted right away. Think of it: It's easy to gain, but hard to loose.
BeverlyB31, just trust in the Lord and everything will be fine. He will not give you more than you can handle. Report
Last fall I was laid off and watching all the bad news about the economy... I gained 20-30 pounds in 4 months. The good news is, going through that made me very aware of my emotional eating issues, so along with eating better and exercising I'm also working on the emotional issues that make me eat. This year I've lost all of the weight I gained last fall and am now working on shedding the remainder of the extra weight I'm still carrying. Report
From the blog:
" Do you notice that when you're stressed, you tend to eat more or are easily tempted by foods you know you shouldn't be eating?" I

LOL...Do I know?...I wrote the book! LOL :)
Gained 40 pounds in 6 months when everything in my world was turned upside down. Thank you for the info! Glad it's not just me after all! Report
thanks Report
Thank you Report
My stress stems from quite a few things but I would say I mainly stress over my job. We have had so many lay offs lately and I cannot help but wonder if I am next in line. I am doing better though. There are certain things that are just not in my control and therefore those things are the things I need not worry about, especially. Report
try following the Thrive diet by Brendan Brazier... there is even a Spark Team about the Thrive diet.... it is specifically designed to help you lose weight and quit stressing your body out with bad foods..... it talks about how nutritional stress affects our bodies... it is a really great program Report
Many people don't know the negative effects that chronic stress can have on the body. In fact, stress can be more damaging than lack or exercise and poor nutrition. There are numerous ways to manage stress and making healthy lifestyle change is at the top of the list! For more information, see my book, "How To Eat Fried Chicken And Be Thin Too" on Amazon or at
tFriedChickenAndBeThinToo Report
It is so true that we need to let go and let god handle things! Report
This is for Beverly: I liked your decision to "not going to look at this as an "extra" thing to worry about - just let God handle this one!" ...Please look at Proverbs 3:5 in your own Bible where it says to Trust in God with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding..."

Remember: The difference between a Stumbling Block and a Stepping Stone is ATTITUDE! I like your attitude. Report
Seeing this article was a God-Send to me today! As mentioned before, i had 3 major surgeries in 1 year then spent 2 weeks in the hospital because of all the medicine i had taken caused a serious ulcer! Now one year after surgery, i am finally walking good again - ready to start exercising to lose 20 pounds i gained and i fell and broke my right foot! After NUMEROUS of medical bills, 2 job layoffs for my husband, me being out of work because of surgery, my husband has now decided to go back to school for nursing ( am very excited about this, i've been trying to get him to go back for 10 years and GI benefits are still good - god blessing!) I am now going back to work this fall working with children again - and now i am looking at having to work 2 jobs and just the thought of this is already causing MAJOR anxiety for me! I didn't need any help in that department - anxiety seems to be my speciality! Ha! But i have decided to have the mind-set that if God allows me to get this second job, then he must know that i can handle it! I am not going to look at this as an "extra" thing to worry about - just let God handle this one! For those of you who do not know me, giving up control to God has not been my speciality - like i said, anxiety comes very easily for me! I do believe that cortisol DOES play a big factor in my weight gain! Being a control freak makes it hard to give up anything to anyone - but I am determined to stay with this program and stay with God! Going to give it my best shot anyway! Report
When I had the highest levels of stress in my life I know I did nothing but eat. I was Never able to feel full, and craved those foods that were the absolute worst for me health wise. Report
I used to smoke so now i munch. Boy is it hard to stop and think before stuffing my face when i am faced with a stressful situation. I bought gum but my jaws hurt from chewing so i will try to limit that habit to one piece a day... I'm not sure why i internalize stress so much. Others around me just let it roll off their backs. So i am making a conscience awareness to come from home after a bad day of work and either pick up my cats and hug them, and take time to count my blessings, then go garden and unwind before i hit the fridge. It helps and i can take the time to make a healthy dinner rather than grab for junk!! One day at a time.... The stress leads to almost a ADD, i cant function, think or even say what i need to say, just completely lose focus and cant stay to one task. Start 5 things instead of just doing one, finishing it then going on to next thing. Overwhelming sometimes, but I have to clear the clutter in my head and focus!! Not to mention makes my heart pound and feel sick... Report
I try not to relieve stress so much as I try to eliminate it. Let me explain; I have been unemployed for the past 4 months. The tags on my car are expired, so my car can no longer be driven. I have lost my home, and am living with relatives. So I try to preplan my days as much as possible, and resist the attempts of other people to stress me out. I write out a menue for each day, for every meal. Then I use that menue to generate a shopping list, which I take to the grocery store. I also have noticed that noisy environments are, for me, stressful environments, so I don't take any noise with me when I'm walking or biking. When I get back, I'm much more relaxed. Report
When I'm overstressed during the day I have a hard time sleeping through the night. My energy level is down the following day and my workouts aren't as intense as I know they could be to burn off that horrible cortisol the stress has created.

So, I'm learning to do more mini yoga breathings throughout the day with a few tension/relaxation moves, especially in my shoulders and lower back area. That's where I tend to hold my tension when under stress. Report
I got a new job! LOL. I gained about 20 lbs over the course of 6 years at my last job...

Well, I'm sure that wasn't the only factor. I was also going to school full-time and raising 3 kids by myself.

Now, I'm done with school, I have a less stressful job and even though I had another baby, two of mine are now adults so I'm only rasing 2 kids (with more experience under my belt). Report
This article comes at an opportune time for me, as well as many others on here. I am struggling with a break in my good intentions to eat healthy. I recognize that my stress has increased recently (for example, my husband has been out of work for over 3 months; my daughter is leaving home to spend a year overseas). I use exercise to help, and I also see a therapist. I talk to my friends and my husband when I am feeling overwhelmed. I also try to plan fun things (like a bike ride on the weekend at a location I've never been to before) to look forward to during the busy work week. Report
It was food that made me fat, not stress. Report
Now days thats all you hear how everyone is stressed. I relief my stress when ever i can if its eing on the internet reading about someone else that has it worse than i do and i hould cnt my blessings, things could be worse. I have always felt God only gives us what when can handle it just took me along time to see that. i also have alot of health probelms and i got to really work onit or i could become blind or even loose an arm or a leg or both. So yah thats stress when you get that news from a docto when your only 48 if you don't take care of yourself. Report
Surprisingly this came up today because I just went through a very stressful couple of weeks and noticed I gained 2 lbs. Well, I got my stressful job completed over the weekend and dropped 2 lbs. immediately. I stayed within my calorie limits during the entire two weeks, so that does tell me something! Report
Eliminating my debts, walking and participating in fun activities with smiles & laughter Report
wow who in this life isn't stressed especially during these times? The only way to excape stress is death. So I say do the best you can, and pray a lot. Report
Yes, I have been stressed for about 2 years now due to family circumstances and have noticed a lot of weight gain. I am trying to be calmer and not let it bother me as much, but obviously it still is. I am having a hard time getting the weight off. But NOT giving up!! Report
The reason why I put on almost 35lbs in the span of 2-3 months WAS stress. I was stressed about grad school, my advisor, friends who turned out to be not -so-friendly, being away from home etc etc. I was stressed and depressed. I turned to junk food and how! My BMI however was on the borderline healthy range before I gained all that weight. When I found SP, it was like a blessing. I re-discovered walking, thats how I started my journey towards a halthier me. I would just go for a walk when I was stressed. I practice that now too. Every time I'm stressed, I just put on my shoes and head out the door. But even now I struggle to not reach out for junk food when I am stressed. When I'm stressed, I find myself reaching out for chips and chocolate. Sometimes I give in, sometimes I dont. Like I said, its a struggle but I'll get there some day! :) Report
Oh boy, do I know this to be true!! Report
Comment number 30 is spam... I didn't see anywhere to report it. Report
We all have stress. I know it has affected my weight. I had a great job that turned sour when a new director came on board. When I reached early retirement age I quit and felt better, even with less money coming in. I sold my house and bought one across from my in-laws, in another town. I got a real estate license to make a living. The real estate market crashed before I got established. 2 years into my new house I lost it before I could find work. I found work in an other town 60 miles away, so I rented a house in that town. I started moving my ton of stuff in a rented UHaul. The very last item I was taking off the truck was a double bed box spring, the wind caught me just right and blew me and the mattress off the ramp of the truck. I crushed my right shoulder and upper arm, and my right lower tibia and shin. I nearly lost my leg. I had 3 surgeries and a lengthy recovery and therapy. The accident was almost 2 years ago. I had to move from the hosue I had rented while I was still in a wheel chair, due ot rent costs. I have alot of stuff. Stress was drowning me. All these things contributed to significant weight gain. I am just now getting enough confidence in my bones, to start an exercise program. I have not found a job in my area,so I squeak by each month. To top it off, I am excited but scared and stressed because my husband is coming home in a couple of months, after 15 years in prison for a robbery he did not commit. That was the hardest thing in both of our lives and now he is coming home to almost no chance of finding work, and this wrongful conviction hanging over his head. I feel bad because we cannot afford clothes, shoes, or tools for his trade. As far as dealing with all this, I keep holding on to my dreams, and doing what I can and letting go of what is out of my hands. I do not drink, as being older has made even one drink feel like many, in my body, and it is not a solution. I like to sweat when I exercise and that helps. I stay away from caffein, and have a quiet faith in God and His direction for my life, though I do not always like the results, I just keep chugging along and try not to think about the bad, but about the good.
I have a loving and good husband that will soon be home, some family scattered about, a place to live, food on the table, a car, a small vegetable garden at my brother's house, I have my leg and can walk, which was uncertain 2 years ago, I am optimistic about the future. Stress will never go away. For me, it is how I look at things and my personal strength that keep me going, even when I have bouts of almost paralyzing depression, these are infrequent and keeping my mind and body, busy, with periods of quiet indulgence, like watching a good movie on TV, or having a couple of chocolate covered strawberries, or reading, or allowing myself to take a nap, or playing rock and roll as loud as I can, all carry me through. Report
This comes at a very appropriate time for me. I'm feeling very stressed today at work. I just feel completely overwhelmed and like I'm being pulled in too many different directions. My boss' responsibilities have increased which, in turn, increased my workload. I need to sit down and talk to her about ways we can get her more organized. She's constantly giving me things to do at the last minute. Now she's volunteered me to help new staff. It's just completely crazy. I'm trying to learn how to deal with it. Report
I can't get reid of the stress if in my home at big time at work. I hav 4 kids. But two are not mine. Those two are my stress. My son can from time to time but I also have a newborn too. So she is some of it too. But work is the big factor. I need to find away to get reid of that. Report
I have finally reached the age where I realize that it's okay to say "no" to all the people and tasks that can pull me in a hundred different directions at once. I have learned how to take the time to take care of me and I make no apologies for it! Report
I had some medical problems that forced me to reduce the stress in my life quite a while ago. I was a bit of a "control freak" and wanted things done to a certain quality. I had to re-teach myself to "let things go", it doesn't have to be perfect and quality of work is no comparison to quality of life. Report
I, like LAURANCE wrote, can take a walk, run, get lost in a book to relieve stress, but when I'm done with that the stress is still there staring me in the face. I can't avoid it, but I'm trying to teach myself how to let it go. I struggle with losing weight, and with this project I'm on, the stress is even higher, match that with it's just a contract position so I'm stressed out with work and stressed out that I won't have an assignment in 2 months. The weight piles on, no matter what I do...

This is a good article for me to read and keep on hand that I need to keep working towards letting go of the stress. Thanks. Report
I find when I'm overstressed I overeat. However when I was a waitress I took things in stride because I was always walking and running to get the food there quick and was able to walk off the stress thereby keeping off the weight. I also found when I didn't have a car that when I walked anywhere I walked off anger and resentment and felt more calm. I managed to lose weight and keep it off. Report
Yes. I'm severely stressed. And I'm overeating. But reading a book or taking a walk or exercising, or doing deep breathing (or a bath by candlelight, or any of these nice things) doesn't help at all. The anxiety remains and does not leave my consciousness while I'm doing the breathing or exercising. I'm stressed and anxious the whole time. When I finish the breathing or the walk or whatever, the stressful things are still there, demanding my attention.

The only difference between exercising or deep breathing to relieve stress, and getting somewhat drunk to relieve stress is that drinking is unhealthy and undesirable. These techniques are all escape mechanisms and don't solve any problems. (And yes, I know there are people here who will strongly disagree with me, and that exercise and breathing work for them. I'm speaking for myself.)

The only way I can lessen the stress (and heavy depression that comes with it) is to find a way to lessen the things that are causing the stress. I need to solve the problem, not merely escape somewhat for a short time. Report
"That's right," the man said. "I couldn't remember the word." He was the only t, then high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The website currently has more than 175 million active users in amount of visitors, making Facebook the most popular social network, followed by MySpace and Twitter.other human at the loading dock this morning. The man didn't have a name, just a number, like the rest of the robots. / Report
I believe that all my weight gain is due to stress and my other form of therapy is cooking...needless to say they go hand in hand. Now I will come on the site and go to my personal journal...thanks SP Report
Oh yeah... I put on weight every time I get stressed out. I usually do meditation or self talk to get myself out of it. Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.