Can stress cause weight gain?
September 6, 2006 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Can stress 'cause' weight gain?

I've noticed my body weight and bf% creeping up with no real change in eating habits, medication, or lifestyle changes. I'm a fairly active person who swims, hikes, mountain bikes, runs, etc. at least 4 days/week.. I'm also under a lot of financial and medical stress (close relatives) at the moment. I dont believe i'm eating emotionally either.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about stress causing weight gain on its own, however it's typical for people to gain weight as they age (and metabolism slows), if they continue to eat exactly the same amount and exercise exactly the same amount. In order to maintain your weight, or lose weight, you need to lower your calories and/or increase your exercise as you age.

This site says stress can cause weight gain, based on a release of hormones that slow the metabolism, but I'm not sure how reliable it is.
posted by Amizu at 6:41 PM on September 6, 2006

It's quite common for stress to cause changes in weight, either up or down. But weight gain from stress doesn't require a resort to hormones for explanation; a simple increased desire to eat chocolate or ice cream is more than enough to do it.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:01 PM on September 6, 2006

You don't mention how long the trend is... if it's over a week, it's just regular fluctuations. If it's over a month, then start to be concerend.

Could your body be bulking up for "hibernation" as winter is coming up? Maybe your diet hasn't changed, but your favourite packaged food could have "new better flavour" that has added calories to your diet.

The reason I mention alternatives is that I gain weight when I become unstressed, but the body is a weird thing. YMMV
posted by cathoo at 7:07 PM on September 6, 2006

Did your habits change in reaction to stress? There could be a chain of causality. Though I know nothing of physiology, I can easily see how stress would affect exercise, activity, and diet.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:38 PM on September 6, 2006

Various articles I've read have said that the cortisol released by stress causes weight gain; others have said that not getting enough sleep can also cause weight gain.
posted by occhiblu at 10:36 PM on September 6, 2006

I find boredom to increase my food intake. give me a day and a couch and I shall easily gain a pound. give me a week and I'll fake a pregnancy. worst of it all, I won't be able to tell you what I ate a minute later, the kitchen will just magically get rid of all available food options.

stress on the other hand just causes me to eat badly. one should assume this would entail weight loss but that is just as untrue as thinking that just because men will go where women are that women would do the same the other way around.

to recap: I think it's a question of actively thinking about what you are eating. if stress causes someone to mindlessly jugg stuff in, they will gain weight. you need to remember you already had this much food to be able to develop a guilty conscience.
posted by krautland at 1:05 AM on September 7, 2006

Various articles I've read have said that the cortisol released by stress causes weight gain; others have said that not getting enough sleep can also cause weight gain.

From what I've read, cortisol not only causes your body to accumulate and store energy (i.e. fat), it does so specifically in the midsection (i.e. belly). But it most certainly is a combo function with the "I've had a bad day, I deserve hot wings" phenomenon.
posted by jbickers at 2:03 AM on September 7, 2006

The difference between staying the same weight and putting on weight is not that many calories, so you might not think there's been a real change, but just having an extra bit of pasta or the odd snack here and there would make you gain weight.
posted by lunkfish at 2:10 AM on September 7, 2006

Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels.
posted by OmieWise at 5:45 AM on September 7, 2006

Have you been drinking more? I think people sometimes don't realize how many calories are in booze.

You don't mention if you're a man or woman so if you're a woman, could it be hormonal?

Finally, I don't know your age but we all have metabolisms that slow down with age so maybe your old routine isn't cutting it. But maybe all you'd need to do is to try to change your exercise routine for some variety.

Good luck! That can be very frustrating.
posted by clairezulkey at 7:14 AM on September 7, 2006

Yep, cortisol is the key.

Your excercise routine sounds great, I hate it when people blame hormones, but if the weight gain is really happenning in accordance with age then maybe there's something to it. I'd see an endocrinologist if you think there's something to that.

But it also varies from person to person. I have always had a very stable weight, but I move to NYC became much more stressed and lost 15lbs (also no car more walking). I gain weight when I'm happy.
posted by scazza at 8:00 AM on September 7, 2006

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