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The Powerful Relationship Between Stress and Overeating

Some of us tend to think of stress as a psychological phenomenon, but it can affect your body, too. During periods of high stress—and even low-level stress—the production of cortisol (known as the stress hormone) increases. Cortisol can increase your blood pressure and heart rate which can have serious effects on your body.

What causes stress?

Stress refers to our body’s response to danger. It’s an adaptive mechanism that can be a powerful part of survival, protecting us from external threats. When we feel threatened—whether by physical danger or emotional distress—the brain triggers a fight-or-flight response that prepares our bodies for action: hormones flood through our bodies, blood vessels constrict, heart rate increases.

What is the effect of stress on weight gain?

In addition to its direct effects on metabolism, stress affects our behavior. We tend to turn toward food when we feel anxious or sad because it makes us feel better in the moment; but unfortunately, those short-term bursts of endorphins don’t solve anything in terms of hunger—and usually make us want more sugar and refined carbs later.

Methods to reduce stress

There are all sorts of ways to reduce stress in your life. Many people find that a combination of exercise, meditation, diet and good sleep habits can help tremendously. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your stress levels, it’s important to realize that most stress is entirely controllable.

Ways to manage emotional eating

There are many reasons we may eat in response to emotions such as stress, boredom, loneliness, or depression. Instead of turning to food when you’re upset, reach out to a friend or a family member you trust. Talking about your feelings is an effective way to reduce emotional eating. You can also practice other stress-reduction techniques like meditation, exercise, and journaling.


The best way to prevent stress or stress eating is to be mindful of what your stress triggers are. If you know what your "stressors" are, you can be prepared.

Regulating your blood sugar throughout the day is going to keep your body stable and your emotions in check, so when you feel the need to snack, make sure it's healthy snacks.

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