Is stress making you fat?

Written by: | July 31, 2018

It’s been a hard day. The photocopier is busted at work, you spilt lunch all over your fave top and you’ve been walking around for 15 minutes looking for the glasses that are already perched on top of your head.

You get home and go straight for the confectionery aisle in the back of the pantry or scoff anything that isn’t bolted down. Perhaps it seems easier to just smash a few cookies before you start your next lot of never ending things to do? You’re not alone. Even just the word stress can bring your hands to your head ready to rip out your hair. 

During those stressful moments, the hormone adrenalin is released and gets you ready to ‘fight or flight’. At the same time as this adrenalin surge, your body receives an injection of cortisol, demanding your bod replaces that adrenalin, in turn making your tum grumble. Few of us reach for a smart snack in that situation, craving sweet, salty, high-fat foods as they stimulate the brain and trick us into releasing pleasure chemicals that reduce tension. Being soothed by food can be addictive so you start relating feeling anxious to thinking fatty foods will solve it. (Guess what: it won’t).


“Our bodies can’t tell the difference between deadline stress, fights with your partner or a surprise bear attack.”


Chronic stress can cause aches, digestive issues, weight gain, fatigue and insomnia. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between deadline stress, fights with your partner or a surprise bear attack. Our stress responses can be triggered no matter if the danger is at a level 1 or 100.

Stress is going to happen; it’s part of life, but it’s also something that’s 100% manageable. 


Try these techniques to help you stress less (and not reach for the muffin next time)

1/ Think more like the tortoise and less like the hare

Slow and steady wins the race. We think that our multi-tasking is the be-all and end-all, but in fact, it’s actually contributing to our stress levels. When we switch between tasks, it takes longer to re-focus our attention to what we’re doing. Bring back mono-tasking! Turn off your notifications, put your phone away and just focus on the one thing.


It’s so important to take some time out of your day to take full, deep breaths, release and feel your body relax. Introducing daily meditation into your routine allows you to tune into your body and research supports its positive physical and emotional benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Deep diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) activates the parasympathetic nervous system and induces the relaxation response in your body which is a counter to the stress response.

3/Become your OWN biggest groupie 

We are our own worst enemies and sometimes our positive self talk can spiral into a distress-based self talk. By telling yourself that “you’ll never get it done, it’s too much”, it causes stress in your body. By swapping negative thoughts for a more positive and optimistic mindset, you are encouraging positive things to happen. Instead of saying “it’s too much”, try “it will be ok”.

4/Create a not-do list

We all have a to-do list, but it’s time to make a not-do list and pop all of the “urgent but not urgent-urgent tasks” on there. Be realistic, look at your commitments and responsibilities and move anything that is creating unwarranted stress onto your new not-do list.

5/Live and breathe positivity

Surround yourself with as much positivity as possible. Social hostility is one of the major causes of stress, things from having an argument with your spouse, to having a fight with a friend of colleague or even just a bout of road rage. Do what you can to rid your life of toxic relationships and embrace the positive connections you have with the people who support you. Make time to be with your people or fur babies and don’t ever be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Last but not least

Stress affects us all in different ways and it’s important that as stress fills up your steam pot, that you are able to harness healthy coping strategies to release that overflow. 


Tiffiny Hall is the founder of online health & fitness program TIFFXO.COM, an author, ninja and expert trainer who has appeared as a trainer on The Biggest Loser Australia and health expert on The Living Room.

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