How Does Stress Affect the Body: 7 Ways Stress Is Keeping You Fat

Woman in peach pants is trying to pull them up, her stomach hanging out of them. How does stress affect the body

Meet Sarah, a 45-year-old who joined The 4% Club with a goal to lose weight and boost her overall health. Despite following a meticulous diet and hitting the gym four times a week, Sarah’s weight wouldn’t budge. Frustrated and confused, she felt stuck. Everything was seemingly perfect—her meals were balanced, her workouts intense—yet, the results were absent. What Sarah hadn’t accounted for was the silent factor undermining her efforts: stress.

Stress is not just a mental or emotional issue—it has tangible physical effects that can impact your overall health and contribute to weight gain. Understanding how stress affects the body can help you manage its effects more effectively and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Here are seven ways stress is likely keeping you from shedding those unwanted kilograms, along with some strategies that Sarah used to finally drop the weight.

1. Increased Cortisol Production

How does stress affect the body? One significant way is through the production of cortisol. This “stress hormone” can lead to increased appetite and cravings for unhealthy foods, especially sugars and fats, which contribute to weight gain. Sarah learned to manage stress through meditation and deep breathing exercises, which helped regulate her cortisol levels.

2. Compulsive Eating

Stress often triggers emotional eating, where you turn to food for comfort, not hunger. Sarah noticed that she would often snack excessively when stressed, regardless of her physical hunger. By recognizing this pattern, she was able to implement healthier coping mechanisms, such as going for a walk or practicing yoga, instead of reaching for snacks.

3. Disrupted Sleep

How does stress affect the body in terms of sleep? Poor sleep quality and stress go hand in hand, and insufficient sleep can sabotage weight loss by altering hunger hormones and metabolism. Sarah addressed her sleep issues by establishing a calming bedtime routine and limiting screen time in the evening, which significantly improved her sleep quality and supported her weight loss goals.

4. Lower Metabolic Rate

Chronic stress can slow down your metabolism, making it harder to lose weight even with a good diet and exercise regime. To combat this, Sarah incorporated high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into her workouts, which is known to boost metabolism effectively.

5. Reduced Physical Activity

High stress levels can make you feel drained and less likely to be active. Sarah realized that despite her four workouts per week, she was mostly sedentary outside of those times. She started incorporating more movement throughout her day, like taking short walks after meals and using a standing desk, which helped increase her daily calorie expenditure.

6. Digestive Issues

How does stress affect the body’s digestive system? It can lead to issues like bloating, discomfort, and even changes in gut flora, all of which can hinder weight loss. Sarah found that eating a diet rich in fibre and probiotics helped improve her digestion and prevent stress-related gastrointestinal issues.

7. Hormonal Imbalances

Stress can disrupt your hormonal balance, affecting everything from your thyroid function to your menstrual cycle, all of which can impact weight management. Sarah worked with a healthcare professional to address these hormonal imbalances through diet adjustments and proper supplementation.

Managing Stress for Weight Loss

Through mindfulness, regular physical activity, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep, Sarah was able to turn her weight loss journey around. She also sought support through therapy, which provided her with effective tools to manage her daily stressors. Here are a few strategies that can help you manage stress and support your weight loss:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can significantly reduce stress levels. Sarah incorporated daily meditation sessions into her routine, which helped calm her mind and reduced her overall stress.
  • Regular Exercise: Exercise isn’t just good for burning calories—it’s also great for reducing stress. Sarah found that aerobic exercises like swimming and cycling were particularly effective at lowering her stress levels, enhancing her mood, and improving her physical health.
  • Balanced Diet: Eating a diet rich in antioxidants, lean proteins, and omega-3 fatty acids can combat the effects of stress on the body. Sarah made sure her diet included plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which helped stabilize her energy levels and mood.
  • Adequate Sleep: Improving sleep quality is crucial for reducing stress. Sarah established a regular sleep schedule and created a bedtime routine that included reading and a cup of herbal tea, which helped her enjoy more restful sleep.
  • Professional Help: Recognising when you need professional help is key. Sarah benefited greatly from the support of The 4% Club and her coach, who provided with strategies to manage her stress more effectively. Sometimes, talking to a therapist or joining stress management programs can provide additional support and effective coping mechanisms.


Sarah’s journey illustrates how stress affects the body and can interfere with weight loss efforts. By understanding and managing the various ways stress impacts health, she was able to overcome her weight loss plateau and achieve her health goals. If you find yourself struggling with similar issues, consider exploring how stress management can complement your diet and exercise efforts.

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