How stress affects your weight-loss

How stress affects your weight-loss

According to the Mental Health Foundation, we can define stress as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope due to pressures you perceive as unmanageable. This blog post will explore how stress affects your weight-loss pursuits and what you can do about it.

When you feel stressed, your nervous system instructs your body to release stress hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol. These hormones then produce physiological changes in your body to cope with the perceived danger or threat. In laic terms, this stress response is called the fight-or-flight response.

So, if you continue to activate your nervous system by experiencing the fight-or-flight mode, it can take a big toll on your body, preventing you from losing weight.

How is stress associated with weight-loss?

Stress can be associated with weight-loss or weight-gain. Here I will talk about how stress can prevent you from losing weight healthily and sustainably. It’s certainly possible to lose weight very quickly due to stress. That is called an unhealthy and dangerous way to lose weight. Many people did it but end up having all sorts of health issues after. Hence, it’s not a good approach, and you want to avoid it at all costs.

When you feel stressed, you will be more likely to miss your meals and eat unhealthy food, which gives you a short sugar spike like snacks. Some people also lose the entire desire to eat, which can significantly impact your healthy nutrient consumption and the energy needed to do the workout. You need energy and nutrients for your exercise and daily activities. If you don’t give your body the necessary nutrients, your immune system will weaken.

Moreover, your stress will also likely disrupt your sleep. As you read in our blog post How sleep affects your weight-loss, sleep plays a significant role when you are trying to lose weight. When you are not getting enough sleep, your sleep hormone levels called ghrelin increase, and your leptin levels, also another sleep hormone, decreases. These hormones are vital for you because they control your appetite. In other words, they dictate when you feel hunger or fullness.

You see now how stress can prevent or significantly slow down your weight-loss progress in many ways.

What can you do about stress when you are trying to lose weight?

When trying to lose weight, ideally, you should avoid being stressed in the first place. I realise that life gives us all kinds of worries and problems. However, we should learn how to deal with our issues in a calm and controlled way.

Here are some tips to alleviate stress while trying to lose weight:

  • Get the right perspective.

Things are never that worse as we make them in our imagination. Hence, step back and take a long-view. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and be paralysed in your tracks. Take a deep breath, identify what can you do to fix the problem, and take the first step. One step at a time.

  • Start your meditation practice.

Meditation has so many benefits, and it can alleviate your daily stress significantly. It will calm your mind and body. If you have never tried meditation, why not give it a go? Start small, with few minutes focusing on your breath and then increase your meditative practice over time. Your breath is a powerful tool; use it to calm your mind and to get focused.

  • Move and be consistent with your regular personalised exercise programme

Remember the fight-or-flight stress response we talked about in the beginning? Exercise provides stress relief while imitating the effects of stress, such as the flight or fight response. Exercise also improves your mood. It increases your confidence and helps you relax. So, stay consistent with regular exercise, no matter what is happening in your life. Some workout always beats no workout.

  • Don’t isolate yourself

When you feel stressed, the worst thing you can do is lock yourself in your room away from everybody. Ask for help. Share your stress-related problems with your friends who are willing to listen. Socialise and get out of your head. If we tailor this approach to weight-loss, I would advise, to surround yourself with positive people who are also on their weight-loss journey. Find your community that will encourage you.


It’s normal to feel stress from time to time. We all face problems; hence we all worry. If your goal is to lose weight, it’s especially important to control your stress and deal with it in the sustainable and healthy ways I described above.

As mentioned, stress can cause either a rapid weight-loss or a weight-gain. Your goal is to avoid these two alternatives at all costs. Above all else, remember this golden rule when you feel that stress is coming: Don’t isolate yourself.

Until next time,

Damir Pervan, Founder and CEO of TrainChampion | Online weight-loss platform

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