How Stress Makes You Obese – Health Problem Caused by Stress


In 2030, Jim is brought into hospital with a stretcher

He is weighing 300 lb, lying on the surgery platform as doctors trying to save his heart

‘How the hell did this happen?’ the doctors shout.

Turns out, Jim spent his childhood eating too much unhealthy diet and while spent next to nothing physical exercise.

Jim is a character in a public service advertisement to combat obesity in Atlanta. The purpose of the video is to raise parent’s awareness to their children’s diet.

But sometimes, the cause of your bad diet is not only your parents or your childhood habit.

It can also come from your stress!

If you can’t manage your stress the right way, it can lead you to several health problem. One of the them is obesity.

Curious? Continue reading!

Right now, more than a third (35%) of adults in US are obese.

If you include those that are overweight, the number increase into more than two third (69%)

Meanwhile, 33% US citizen reported to feel they are living with extreme stress.

And 77% people reported to regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress.

While the coincidence on the percentage number may doesn’t state anything about relationship between stress and obesity, some research actually pointed out that stress may indeed cause obesity.

Obesity itself is a dangerous health problem. It can lead to more severe illness like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, even gallbladder disease. There are a lot other health problems it can cause.

This findings from the research should make us more concerned about stress and obesity in the society. Our society are living a stressful modern life – with more pressure from work, social life, and family. But, a lot of them still don’t know stress relief method (or maybe choose to ignore) that best for them.

According to APA, four in ten US citizen (43%) overeat or eat unhealthy food to manage stress.

Do you think you are included in those 43%?

Do you find comfort in ice cream, cakes, fried chicken, or junk food when you’re stressed?

If you do, don’t worry.

We will help you to find a better stress relief that is healthier and more beneficial for your body.

But first, let’s find out how can stress increase your weight…

How stress can make you gain weight

There are two possible cause on how stress can make you gain weight.

The first, stress itself makes change in your body, causing it to accumulate weight or makes you craving food.

Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD from American Dietic Association explain that when we’re stressed and unhappy, our body seeks comfort. This comfort can be found in a hormone called serotonine (another happy hormone beside the famous dopamine). Serotonine itself is secreted into our body when we consume carbohydrates. That’s why when we’re stressed we want to eat carbs like muffins, pastries, cookies, or doughnuts.

Also, when we’re stressed, our body release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is responsible in storing fat and controlling energy in our body. An increase of cortisol will make us want to eat fatty or sugary things.

Another explanation, according to Taub-Dix, is that during stress our body release neuropeptide Y – a molecule that encourages fat accumulation. That’s why when we’re stressed we gain weight even without additional eating.

The second reason that makes you gain weight when stressed is not actually the stress, but your inability to cope with it in healthy way.

When you are mentally and physically tired, you love to seek comfort food – ice cream, cookies, or sweets. The problem is, when you’re stressed, your hormones and emotion takes control over your logic, and you tend to crave for unhealthy food – sugary, fatty, and full of carbs food.

Other problem is, not only you eat unhealthy food, you tend to overeat too. The overeating urge comes from the ‘fight or flight’ reaction during stress. This automatic response makes your body think you need to store more food in your body in case stressful situation happens again. That works back then when your ancestors is facing their own stress – like encountering wild animals in the wild. It makes sense that they need more food after stress. But for you right now who live a peaceful, rather sedentary life, you actually don’t need to store that food, and instead of being additional energy they become fat.

When you’re stressed, your body release stress hormone called cortisol. One of cortisol’s work is to take fat from your other body parts (sometimes in part where you actually want them to have fat, like your butt) to your stomach to avoid you getting starved in stressful situation. So, instead of having big butt, you ended up with big belly.

So, what do you have to do to fight the natural urge to consume more food when you’re stressed?

Find the answer below.

It’s not just being overweight that’s dangerous. Stress is dangerous. (Carnie Wilson)

How to avoid both stress and poor diet from stress

Practice good diet and mindful eating

Because we’re talking about obesity, obviously the first tips should be about your diet.

Healthy diet can makes you manage stress better as it provide your body with necessary energy to help cope with stress.

Healthy diet means you eat enough carbs, fat, protein, and vegetables during your meal. Avoid harmful food like junk food and processed food.

Healthy diet is also about meal time. Don’t skip food when you’re hungry but also don’t eat when you’re not feeling hungry. The trick is to keep yourself from feeling too hungry. When you’re too hungry, your blood sugar levels are low and in that condition you’ll feel fatigue and easily irritated – condition that can makes you even feel more stressed.

There are many types of diet program out there, but we want to recommend you to start your diet with It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, where they outline the basic relationship between our body and food we consume.

A good diet will help you not only regain your health, but also your shape. If you have specific goal to reshape your body with diet, make sure to check The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy who has help her client lose up to 20 pounds in 28 days.

Did you know?

More than just inability to handle stress in positive way, there is actually a mental disorder about overeating. It is called Compulsive Overeating Disorder.

In this disorder, the patients show symptoms like always binge eating even when they’re not hungry; eating faster than normal.

They often eating alone due to embarrassment from being found out by others.

If you know someone who maybe display the symptoms this disorder, it is best to ask help from professional.


Mindful eating is like a meditation in eating.

And just like meditation, it can bring your restless and stressed mind to relax and focus on the more important thing than your stressor – the present.

When you practice mindful eating, eating will be a more ‘conscious’ activity for you instead of routine.

Or, basically, you will be able to understand your own feeling when you’re eating. You will be able to feel when your body feel hungry and full, so you won’t be eating just because there is food in front of you or because it’s mealtime.

You will also learn to not just chew your food mindlessly, but also to slow down while eating, chewing them properly, and appreciate the food wholly – not only from the taste – but also from its texture, smell, or visual.

Before you eat, notice at the visual of the food. Look at the color, the arrangement, and the shape. Does the whole appearance make them look tasty and make you feel happy?

Try to catch the aroma of the food. Is it strong? Is it subtle? Can you guess what ingredients are in the food based on the smell? Is the smell appetizing and make you happy?

As you eat, let the food roll in your tongue. How is the texture? Is it soft or chewy? Is it pleasant to chew them? Do you feel happy when you’re eating it?

When you’re aware of the food, they’re becoming something that makes you happy instead of just something that makes you full.

Weight loss is more than a pysical challenge. It’s a mental challenge. (Anonymous)

Seek comfort in things other than food

When you’re stressed and you’re craving food, you’re not actually hungry.

It’s just your fight and flight response thinking you need food while in reality you don’t.

So, when you get that urge to drown yourself in buckets of ice cream, remember that you’re not actually hungry.

Then, seek comfort or pleasure in other activities that doesn’t related to food.

There are many distracting activities, from reading to watching movie to taking a walk, but sometimes even when you’re doing them, you’re still craving foods.

So, you have to choose activity that won’t allow you to eat food.

For example, singing out loud. Go to karaoke or simply open Youtube and find karaoke version of your favorite song. Or you can simply use karaoke apps in your smartphone. By singing, you won’t be able to use your mouth to chew food. Your mind will also kind of busy to process the lyric so it won’t remind you of food.

Other effective distraction is exercise. Either you do yoga, aerobics, cycling, or running, all of your body will be focused on the physical movement you have to do that they won’t be able to remember about food anymore. Beside, it even helps burning extra calories and keep your body in shape!

Health Problem Caused by Stress

Want to combine art and exercise? Choose dancing! Enroll in a dancing class or just put your favorite singer’s CD on the TV and follow the dance movement in the video. Dancing can be vigorous and it serves well as a substitute for exercise!

Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. It’s extremely relaxing and easy to do at home with just a little kit of mani/pedi tools. Plus, you can’t binge eating with a nail wet from nail polish.

Other activity we suggest is playing with your pet. If you have dogs, take him or her out for walk or play fetch the ball in the park. If you have cat, pet him or her or play with toy balls. Since you’re touching your pets, you will be less likely to touch food when you’re playing with them.

Which activities is best for you? Well, the only one who can answer that question is you. If you’re more an artistic person, choose artistic activities like singing or dancing. If you’re more into sport, then you can choose your favorite sport as comfort. If you’re not sure which one are you, doing both simultaneously is not a problem either.

Do you have other stress relieving activities that will distract you from food? Tell us about it!

Our children are obese, either have or being threatened by diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and not socially adjusting properly to others because of lack of fitness. (Richard Simmons)

Healthy body is waiting for you when you’re stress free

The list of health problem caused by stress in increasing day by day, and it seems like obesity isn’t exempt from the list.

Obesity can be caused by stress itself and also by our inability to cope with stressful situation in healthy way.

We especially don’t want you to fall into that situation, that’s why we’ve written tips and tricks above to manage stress healthily. Thus, we hope you’ll have less chance to get health problem from stress!

What do you think about our tips to manage both stress and obesity? Do you have your own trick to cope with stress that nobody knows? Share them with us in the comment section below!

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