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Feeling stressed may lead to overeating or stress eating, putting you at risk of becoming obese


Feeling stressed may lead to overeating or stress eating, putting you at risk of becoming obese


Your body and mind are closely connected. Have you ever noticed how your palms get sweaty and you feel thirsty when you become nervous? Similarly, feeling stressed and the way how your brain works can put you at a greater risk of what may come as a surprise—nonetheless truedeveloping obesity. 

Stress is a response to certain unpleasant events that can be physiological or emotional. Stress in turn creates a pressure (called “allostatic load) on the regulatory systems of our body.1 This pressure may disrupt the body’s normal functioning patterns. 

 Letunderstand how stress can take control over food 

Adrenaline is a hormone released by the adrenal glands, which are responsible for maintaining body’s physiological balance. During stress, the adrenaline levels decrease, and a hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol generally increases our appetite and our motivation to eat. As the stress level increases, the release of cortisol also increases2.This way, our body and mind are closely connected. 

Hormones released due to stress can cause an imbalance of appetite, leading to overeating or stress eating.” This causes a psychological push towards comfort foods that are high-fat and sugary. Hence, stress not only increases our cravings towards food but also changes our preferences on what type of food we want to eat. Stress leading to overweight contribute to an increase in the risk of metabolic diseases, including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, atherosclerosis, and type II diabetes. Besides stress the other factors like overeating, loss of sleep, decreased physical activity, increase in alcohol consumption, and irregular eating patterns contribute to excess weight gain1.

Obesity also affects self-motivation 

Studies have identified the lack of self/internal motivation due to continuous failures in weight loss as one of the adding reasons for weight gain. In this population, variety of behavioral techniques are used. They includself-monitoring, modeling as well as individual support, and various other lifestyle interventions3.

The balance between energy storage and its release is crucial to maintain an ideal body weight. In today’s modern life, the following factors have led to metabolic and physiological imbalances1 in-turn contributed to obesity and above-mentioned risks: 

  1. the use of cars and public transportation that have reduced physical activity 
  2. long hours of job work that involves continuous sitting 
  3. highly saturated fast food  
  4. stress due to various other reasons. 

Stress is one of the reasons for obesity, but it can be controlled 

There are several ways to control your stress. Yoga, meditation, and a brisk walk are few.  Indulge yourself in staying calm, focused, and motivated. You always choose to watch, travel, sense, and eat something that makes you feel relaxed and comfortable. Involving yourself into social interaction and accompanying yourself with your loved ones are few ways to relieve stress and thereby avoid weight gain caused by it.4 

Besides stress, low physical activity or lack thereof,5 overeating,2sleep deprivation,1 and genes6 may also be a reason for obesity. Low-calorie diet and strenuous exercise patterns may not be fruitful in such cases. These individuals require a medical intervention or even surgery to tackle their obesity problems.7 Hence, do not hesitate to speak to your health care professional and learn the possible underlying causes and solutions to maintain a healthy weight. 


  1. Yau YHC, Potenza MN. Stress and eating behaviours. Minerva Endocrinol. 2013 Sep;38(3):255-267. 
  2. Harvard health publishing. Why stress causes people to overeat. [Internet] [cited 2021 Feb 20]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat 
  3. Teixeira PJ, Silva MN, Mata J, Palmeira AL, Markland D. Motivation, self-determination, and long-term weight control. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act2012 Mar 2;9:22.  
  4. HelpGuide.orgStress management[Internet] [cited 2021 Feb 20]. Available from: https://www.helpguide.org/home-pages/stress-management.htm 
  5. CDC. Obesity & genetics: What we know, what we don’t know & what it means. [Internet] [cited 2021 Feb 20]. Available from: https://tinyurl.com/yaadjs6s
  6. Harvard. Obesity prevention source. [Internet] [cited 2021 Feb 20]. Available from: https://tinyurl.com/5xjeeyyp
  7. Behl S, Misra A. Management of obesity in adult Asian Indians. Indian Heart J. 2017;69(4):539-544. 

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