Stress + Weight Gain

Stress and weight gain - stressed out woman

Stress + Weight Gain

If you think stress may be the cause of your weight gain, or if you are dealing with adrenal insufficiency and just don’t feel good in your body, let’s talk about how to start supporting your hormones.

I’d love to help you get to the root cause and lay out a plan for you in a free metabolic breakthrough session (and also meet the person on the other side of the screen). If that feels aligned, you can find a time that works for you at the link below:

Stress and Weight Gain

When people try to lose weight, often times it’s a matter of trying to eat less and work out more. But when stress enters the picture, it’s not that simple.

Weight gain due to stress can happen for many reasons. Stress may lead to weight gain because of issues with the adrenals, the thyroid, reproductive hormones and digestion.

*Disclaimer about weight: 

There is not a magic number on the scale or certain size that equals health for all people and I do not believe that we all need to lose weight to be healthy. Everyone’s version of health and body type is different and weight itself is not usually the issue. There may be other issues going on in the body that cause weight gain – as you’ll learn – but the key is to fix those issues, rather than just focusing on weight loss which sometimes exacerbates the underlying root cause. 

Stress, weight gain and your adrenals

Your adrenal glands produce your stress hormones – cortisol and adrenaline. These are really important hormones that get produced when our bodies feel like we are in danger; they are meant to keep us alive.

Because they are survival hormones, they will always be the most important and our bodies will use all of our resources to make these.

The problem, is that a lot of the stress our bodies are perceiving is not life or death – it could be family, relationships, work…but our bodies are still stuck in survival mode.

When our bodies are in survival mode, they may start storing weight around the mid-section to protect the vital organs. A small amount of this is not usually a problem, but excess visceral fat around the organs can lead to inflammation and affect your blood pressure and arteries.

If you are storing weight due to stress hormones, working out harder or trying to eat less may actually  further exacerbate the issue. You actually may need to ease up on the workouts, give your body more rest and make sure you are fueling with enough protein, fats and carbohydrates to keep your hormones happy.

Stress, weight gain and the thyroid

Your thyroid gland controls how we use our food for energy and a lot of what we think of as our “metabolism.” There are certain thyroid hormones that need to be converted, and stress interferes with the conversion of some of these hormones.

When your thyroid hormones aren’t converting efficiently, weight gain is usually a byproduct of that. This is one way in which stress can lead to weight gain.

Stress, weight gain and reproductive hormones

Because our stress hormones are meant to keep us alive, they are the most important and our body will use all resources for these first. Having babies is possible if we aren’t alive, so if our body thinks it’s in a constant state of survival, our reproductive hormones take the hit.

When our reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone are not fluctuating as they should throughout the month, it can lead to hormonal imbalances like estrogen-dominance which is often expressed as PMS. With estrogen dominance, you may experience painful cramps, mood swings, anxiety, headaches and extreme fatigue, and you may also even store weight around your hips and thighs.

Stress, Weight Gain and Gut Health

If you’ve ever had a knot in your stomach from being upset, or butterflies from being excited, you are very aware of how our brains and gut are connected.

Our bodies like to be in a calm state while we eat, so we can properly break down all of our nutrients and absorb them efficiently. When we eat in a stressed out state, we do not produce the same digestive enzymes and it may lead to bloating, gas, indigestion and malabsorption.

If we aren’t breaking down our food and absorbing the nutrients, we may be missing out on key vitamins and minerals that are needed to support our other hormones and to support a healthy metabolism. This is one example of how everything is connected and how stress can affect weight gain by affecting how well we digest foods.

Signs of Adrenal Insufficiency

  • Weight gain in mid-section
  • Fatigue/lack of energy during the day but trouble sleeping in evening
  • Easily stressed/irritable
  • Acne (usually around forehead)
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Salt cravings
  • Pain in the middle to lower back
  • Pain or knots in body

Other Stressors:

  • Working out without fueling your body with enough energy (food) or carbs for your workouts
  • Fasting for more than 12 hours
  • Drinking coffee on an empty stomach
  • Drinking more than 1 cup of coffee a day
  • Not eating carbs at night

A slow metabolism, imbalanced hormones and lack of energy are not just a part of getting older. If you get to the root cause, it is possible to feel good in your body again. 

Take the quiz to find out what root causes are affecting your metabolism. 

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