Is your Stress Causing Weight Gain?

Stress leads to unwanted gains or difficulty losing
Stress leads to unwanted gains or difficulty losing

We women struggle with weight.

Especially if we’re over thirty or forty.

Without our permission, weight begins to add itself to our waistline.
Even if we’re eating well and exercising! It’s so unfair.

What’s worse, and what adds to the injustice, is the advice of some medical professionals to “get used to it” because it’s “just how it is”. “This is aging, sorry.” “Nothing you can do about it.”

That, my friend, is bunk. Baloney. Boohockey. Bull.

There is absolutely something we can do about pre-menopausal weight gain.
I know this not only as a medical professional. I know not only as a fitness coach whose clients experience success. I know because I LIVED it. I was middle-aged, over-weight, and desperate for a solution. And I beat it.

Middle-aged, pre-menopausal, unbalanced-hormone induced weight gain is absolutely something we can influence and even conquer.

There are a few factors that worsen or improve premenopausal symptoms (like weight gain). We’ve talked about a few of them. Today I want to address one of the big ones.

It may surprise you to learn that stress impacts both our hormones and fat storage.

Medically Speaking

Cortisol is a hormone that regulates both hunger and fat storage. The more stress you have, the more Cortisol is released. This hormone causes fat storage, particularly around the mid-section.

At the same time, this flooding of hormones also suppresses the thyroid which is in charge of our metabolism. So, chronic stress lowers thyroid function which slows metabolism – another cause for fat storage.

Translation: Stress tells our hormones to store fat.

This is meant to fuel the fight or flight response stress historically required. If you were a cavewoman, stressed out by the cougar stalking your family, your body would fuel you for the fight. Today, in our culture, we need not flee or fight to battle the stressor. Demanding children, insufficient finances, high demands at work, or difficult relationships are our stressors. These modern stressors are dealt with more internally. So all the fuel gets stored instead of used.
That storage warehouse is located on our midsection. Aren’t we lucky?

What To Do About It

Despite this process being knitted right into our DNA, we actually can regulate how our body works. We’ve talked about balancing hormones with food and exercise, but let’s address stress.  How can we combat stress?

Let’s start with how not to combat stress: hiding in any unhealthy behaviour or substance will actually do the opposite – it will cause more stress. Over-eating, over-shopping, alcohol and drug use, and over-use of media and screens can all be tempting as a way to unwind or relax, but they actually do us harm.

Food, drugs, and alcohol fiddle with our hormones (and internal organs), over-shopping can pinch the wallet, adding more stress, and over-use of media and screens leaves us feeling empty, lethargic, and sedentary.

I started with how not to reduce stress because reducing stress is actually highly personal. There’s no ‘one list’ of specific things to do that will, guaranteed, reduce stress for everyone. One person will be energized by being with a group of friends, and another will be exhausted by it for example.

I can offer ideas though. People have found the following to be energizing, relaxing, and refreshing. Try them out. Experiment. See what lowers your stress level. Then keep it up. Add it to your regular weekly (or daily) schedule. This is not about a quick fix, it’s about maintenance. Health is a long-game, not a fast food.

Ideas to De-Stress:

  • Meditation and/or prayer
  • Hang out with friends
  • Play with your kids
  • Do something active (skiing, tennis, snowmobiling, quadding, walk, jog, bike, hike, swim…)
  • Read a book (one you enjoy, not one that feels like homework)
  • Take a day off – do no work. No house work, no yard work, no thinking about work.
  • Do something creative (knitting, woodworking, painting, writing, scrapbooking, pottery, singing, dancing class…)
  • Go for a long drive
  • Check out open houses, window shop in a store you love,
  • Get a spa treatment – massage, manicure, or a nice long hair treatment
  • Go on a retreat, spend some time reflecting.

Even when we eat well and exercise, a high-stress lifestyle can stall any fat-burning success we seek.

Health isn’t a tactical approach. (as Westerners, we hate this, I know. We want results and we want them now!) But health is holistic. It’s a process of maintaining health on all fronts, not just one. We need to focus on clean eating as much as we focus on exercise, as much as we focus on minimizing stress. This is what it takes to thrive in health.

If you’re tempted to feel overwhelmed by this, thinking, “well, I’m not getting them all right, so I may as well do none of them”, don’t give up!!

New habits are hard to establish, and old ones are hard to break. Keep trying. Then try some more. Change one small thing at a time. Think progress, not perfection. It’s the long game, not fast food.

Don’t give up.

You can do this.


Please take a minute to COMMENT on this article! I would love to hear from you!

CLICK HERE to receive a FREE PDF re: getting started NOW with Clean Eating!