Does stress make you fat?

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My fat loss blogs have sparked a lot of questions and interest. Here’s one question that I thought I’d share with all of you. I think many of you can probably relate.

“I read that it’s hard to lose weight when you’re stressed out. If that’s true, that would explain a lot in my life. My job is extremely stressful and although I eat pretty well and exercise weekly, I just can’t seem to lose any weight. How does stress affect my weight loss?” J.P., Vancouver,WA

There has been quite a bit of research recently measuring stress hormones and how they affect our fat cells and fat metabolism. Dr. Pamela Peeke has been the leading researcher in this area and she has found that our body interprets any kind of stress in our lives as physical stress and immediately responds using the “Fight or Flight” response. Unfortunately, most of the stress in our lives is not physical stress but rather, work, kids, financial etc – more of the emotional or mental type of stress. But nonetheless, as our stress increases, the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the blood stream.

Cortisol has two negative effects in terms of fat loss. One -it causes the body to crave more fat and sugar. Consider the last time you were really stressed out. What did you grab for – a tuna sandwich or ice cream? And secondly, it causes the body to uptake more fat into the fat cells in order to store energy. Both act as a defense mechanism to enable the body to fight off the stress – unfortunately, since we’re not really undergoing physical stress and don’t require the extra energy we just get fatter.

The message is clear. People who want to lose body fat need to manage their stress better. Take baths, get massages,write in a journal, read, pray, practice deep breathing, participate in Tai Chi, Yoga or meditation classes. Do whatever it takes to either interpret your stress differently or take care of yourself so that stress doesn’t tear you down.

Yours in health and fitness,

Sherri McMillan

ps. We offer some amazing Yoga & Meditation classes at both our Vancouver and Portland studios. Email me at if you’re interested. I’ll forward you a Free pass so you can try out our programs for yourself.

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