About Stress And Weight Loss

stress and weight lossThe connection between stress and weight loss is not something that is discussed very much. I started thinking about the topic just because my favorite nutrition expert – Patrik Borg – put so much emphasis on it in his latest book.

When I thought about it, I noticed a recurring pattern in my own life: practically all periods of considerable weight gain in my life go together with periods of high stress. Without those stressful periods I might well be normal weight.

My latest weight gain is a good example: I lost 28 lb with Weight Watchers in 2003 and was able to maintain most of  the weightI lost – until I started working in a high stress job in 2006.

Pounds gradually crept on me, regardless of my attempts at controlling my eating. The more out of control my life became, the more weight I put on. The knee problems that started in 2009 (and prevented me from exercising) were just the dot on the I – or rather like barf frosting on top of a poop cake (as Marion says).


Did you know that stress control is actually #5 predictor of permanent weight loss?

Other factors (like calorie intake) affect how much weight you lose in the short term, but factors like your ability to manage your stresses and how much exercise you get, determine whether you’re able to maintain your weight loss. (And I want to point out that exercise is also one of the most effective antidotes to stress there is!).

In other words, if you have trouble keeping your stress under control, it’s unlikely you can lose weight or maintain your weight loss in the long run.

All this can see quite obvious to you – yeah everybody knows people tend to put on weight under stress –  but it has made me think about my weight loss attempts in a wholly new way. Perhaps I should focus more on controlling stress in my own life than just think about diet and exercise.

By stress control, I mean making concrete changes in your life to get rid of extra stress: changing your job/career, taking a divorce, getting married, finding new interests in life, going to therapy, getting more exercise, getting rid of perfectionist thinking, learning relaxation techniques etc. etc.

Of course it’s impossible to control all stresses in your life, but I believe there’s still a lot anyone can do.


My ultimate point is that if you tend to gain weight when you’re stressed, maybe you should concentrate on reducing the stress in your life rather than focus on weight loss per se. It might be a more effective approach to weight loss and maintaining weight loss results than just dieting.

What do you think about the connection between stress and weight loss?

Best Wishes,



  1. Hi Satu! Well, being a person who gained 18 pounds from stress last year (!), I definitely think overeating and stress are related. When mother-in-law moved out of our house, I immediately started to lose weight. The thing I learned there was that we all need a sanctuary away from our stress. Now that I have it, I’m so much happier.

    I think that many of us think we have more control over situations than is really true. Then–when things go not as good as we’d like–we blame ourselves, even though external factors were definitely involved. If we quite taking responsibility for things not in our control, we’d feel less stressed.

    Also, I honestly think many people believe in giving 110% when it is not even possible! That extra 10% in our imagination is just stress that is not helping anything. And, further, we should not be giving even 100% to our work because it will leave us depleted and, ultimately, burnt out. I have learned that giving 80% to the job when I’m working gets me the same quality of work–maybe even better.

    🙂 Marion

  2. Satu says:

    I think you’re spot on, Marion! I especially loved “If we quit taking responsibility for things not in our control, we’d feel less stressed.” You’re so right!

    It’s curious but I’ve also been trying that “80% technique” to lessen my stress! If I aim for 80% of my best, I’m usually much more relaxed about what I’m doing and often end up with better results and usually enjoy myself more in the process.

  3. Debra Matthews says:

    Oh Satu!
    This is so something I have just recently come to understand and appreciate, after a lifetime of fighting with my weight. There is no doubt in my mind that some of us are afflicted with the stress gene that makes us pile on the weight when stressed.

    It’s really easy to think we can’t reduce stress especially when they’re related to or caused by family situations. The thing we need to remind ourselves of is that most situations in our lives really are within our control, just often they may result in upsetting the apple cart a bit if we deal with them as they should be. Others tend to get upset when we take actions that upset their apple cart but we owe it to ourselves to live the best way we possibly can for ourselves. Good for you Marion, for taking steps to reduce your own stress and for sharing because I can sure take a lesson from that.

    I think it helps to take stock of situations as an outsider if possible. I find often we are really good at telling others what is right, fair and reasonable but we don’t follow our own advice because it would upset others close to us. We really can’t please everyone all the time and if we try we simply end up stressed to the max and are less effective because of that.

    I do believe there is a huge connection between stress and weight gain and so I’m always interested to learn more about how that works and how to control it.

  4. Satu says:

    Hi Debra, glad to see your here! 🙂

    I agree that especially women have this tendendy to please other people in our lives even though we are groaning under stress ourselves.. and yes, getting rid of extra stress often means disrupting the apple cart.

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