Overeating and Stress

Posted on: Apr 3rd, 2017 by The Physio Movement | Categories: Sports Medicine & Nutrition

In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. The hypothalamus produces corticotrophin-releasing hormone as a result of stress, which suppresses appetite. The brain also sends messages to the adrenal glands at the kidney level. This message causes a hormone called epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) to be pumped out. Epinephrine helps trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response and put’s our eating on hold. This process is often short lived.
Once stress becomes a chronic issue, a different process occurs. When the body is chronically stressed it send messages to the hypothalamus, which reacts to this by producing hormones and sending messages to the pituitary gland, which in turn cause the adrenals to produce cortisol. Cortisol causes elevations in blood sugar to help us survive and counteracts insulin responses. Cortisol increases appetite and often increases our ‘want’ to eat behaviors. Normally cortisol levels will fall after a stressful response, but in chronically stressed people, cortisol can stay elevated because they are always in a stressed response. The emotional over-eating cycle will continue until the stress and reasons for stress are treated.


Some techniques you will learn at TPM will offer an alternative behavior instead of over eating when stressed, which may include exercise, meditation, deep breathing, coping strategies and time management skills. These strategies will have positive affects on body, mind and spirit, which in turn help the body into a less stressful state.

By reducing the stress response you have helped limit the production of cortisol, therefore limiting the response explained earlier. Keeping blood sugars under control and having healthy hormones, nutrients and vitamins will help maintain the body’s homeostasis, therefore controlling unnecessary spikes in cortisol, insulin and blood glucose.

In the caveman days the only stress was about finding food, competing with animals for food and avoiding danger. Nowadays there are stresses around work, body image, relationships, driving and many other things. These all throw out our homeostasis leading to poorer health. Stress reduction techniques help us nurture the way in which our body should work.

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