Stress Can Cause Unwanted Weight Gain


Are you one of those lucky souls that eats less when you are stressed? Because of insurmountable stress, you have a lack of desire to eat.  In fact, you have to push yourself to eat because your stomach hurts at the mere thought of food. Do you move more to get your mind off of stress? You cannot stay home and dwell on this! Stress has you easily dropping 10 pounds.


Well, if so, lucky you, because I am the exact opposite. When I am stressed I find comfort in food, feel tired and I have to push myself for a workout. I always wind up exercising but I have to give myself a swift kick in the behind to get going. I am sluggish when I am stressed and my hips tell the story of what is going on in my life. My hips, butt and stomach do not lie. But where there is a will, there is always a way and if you are looking to combat this, I can help you. As a certified trainer for well over a decade, I am here to help you combat weight gain and overcome stress!


If you are like me and tend to gain weight whenever you are harboring stress, there are hormonal reasons for this. 


This means you are not entirely to blame because this also has to do with science. I’ve found that six factors to understanding what causes stress and how to de-stress has been very helpful.




The hormone cortisol is secreted in the body in excess when you are under stress and this causes weight gain. This elevation is cortisol may not only cause weight gain but also where excess fat is deposited. Excess fat in your stomach can cause cardiovascular disease, heart attacks as well as strokes. Jillian Michaels does a great job of explaining the relationship between cortisol, stress and weight gain in the stomach. The summary below is a good place to start to understand what happens to your body under stress.


When your stress and cortisol levels are high, the body resists weight loss! It thinks times are hard and you might starve, so it hoards the fat you eat or have present on your body. Cortisol also tends to take fat from healthier areas, like your butt and hips, and move it to your abdomen which has more cortisol receptors. In the process, it turns once-healthy fat into unhealthy toxic fat that increases inflammation and insulin resistance in the body. This fat then leads to more cortisol because it has higher concentrations of an enzyme that converts inactive cortisone to active cortisol. The more belly fat you have, the more active cortisol will be converted by these enzymes — another vicious cycle is created.


The fat in your stomach is annoying because your clothing will be snug and no longer fit the same way. But before you stress and research all the negative effects of this, take a deep breath, and relax. The best way to lower your cortisol levels is by regular exercise. So, integrate regular exercise into your daily routine and harness your stress along with breaking the cortisol cycle.


Reduced Interest in Exercising


The stress of work has you feeling overwhelmed and the last thing on your mind is exercise. Stress is holding you hostage because you soon begin to have a lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy, like exercise and eating healthy. This can become a vicious cycle of self-sabotage. To break out of this hold, you need to push yourself. I find the best way to break away from stress is to put on your workout gear and just go. If you over think it, you can easily talk yourself out of it.


Ghrelin Hormone


Ghrelin, the hunger hormone can have you dreaming up the amazing food you can eat. It is like sugar cookies dancing in your head. This appetite inducing hormone is in response to stress and the ultimate way to combat this is to eat foods with less fat as fat appears to increase the levels of Ghrelin. For me, I find the solution to usually be to refocus on a run. On a run you can rediscover yourself and get your mind off of excess eating! Several miles later and I am back on focus with eating a healthy, portion controlled meal!




You feel exhausted regularly because of the stress of deadlines, obligations and bustle of life. Stress is taking over your life. Less sleep has been associated with increased weight gain. Yes, the less you sleep, the more Ghren hormone is secreted. To avoid this, get up earlier in the day to start your day with a workout. It is pretty crazy how emotions can have us confusing hunger with stress. In response to stress in the past, I would always eat. But over the years as I have learned to identify that this is happening, I have now learned put a stop to this response.


If I feel stressed, I keep a small journal with me and I write down what is bothering me and also what I am craving. I then go for a walk, have a glass of water and if I am still hungry, I look for a healthier option. Do not let stress take control of your life, you are in the driver’s seat!


Lack of Support


Going at life alone increases stress. To decrease stress, there is nothing better than talking them out with people in your life. This feels like therapy in itself. So seek support in a walking group, running club, hiking group or even a reading club to de-stress. A group that meets regularly can be just what you need. This continuity and building of relationships can provide you with a new group of friends to talk to and vice versa. Strength in numbers can help you let go of whatever it bothering you. I find relief in the Bootcamp class that I run, my personal training clients and my family. Life is a journey of relationships so do not try to go at it alone!


Understanding these six factors about how stress can take control of your life is crucial to beginning a new path.  You only have one life so live it to the fullest by following these tips and putting your best foot forward each and every day!  Go ahead and live the beautiful life you deserve!



Tara Zimliki is a nationally recognized weight loss expert, personal trainer, health coach, health writer and founder of Tara’s Bootcamp, the Premiere Bootcamp of New Jersey. Tara also runs her own blog,