The HealthStyle File- Got Stress? Got Fat?


You already know that stress can make you feel frazzled, out of control, anxious, and it can shorten your life by helping speed up the process of diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes. But did you know that stress can also make you fat? And that it can keep you fat? It’s now a scientific fact: Your stress levels, and how you handle stress, can determine your fat level, overall health and even your appetite.


Your body can handle a good amount of stress, but it wasn’t built to withstand chronic stress. We were designed to survive using the fight-or-flight system—we either took on the stressor (we fought the saber tooth tiger), or we ran from it. With either response, there was physical movement on our part, and that’s what is missing today in our response to stress.

Our bodies react to stress by creating stress hormones. These hormones encourage the following responses:

• Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rates increase.

• Blood moves from internal organs to the legs (so you can run).

• Digestion, pain, and immune system responses are put on hold.

How stress makes you fat:

When stressed, your appetite is temporarily turned off. When the stress subsides, your body tries to return to normal, but the stress hormones have other ideas. These hormones stay elevated so that you will crave carbs (sugar) and fat, assuring that you will replace the calories burned during the last stress response to prepare for the next one. Though modern day stressors don’t usually require you to burn extraordinary amounts of calories, your body’s reaction to stress has not changed; so you still load up on carbs and fats after stressful incidents and you store these extra calories as fat. And guess where you store this wonderful “stress fat”? Right in your stomach, so it’s close to all of your internal organs, this makes for easy deployment during episodes of stress.

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