Lifestyle Nutrition

Work, stress & it’s effect on your waistline!

February 11, 2019

Work, stress and waistlineAlways rushing? always busy? No time to relax? Stress and weight is something that affects people in different ways, but did you know the impact it can have on your waistline – even if you are following a healthy diet?

Life is busy and that’s a fact that is hard to change. So rather than try and change the things that are perhaps out of our control (ie. workload, family, income etc.) finding a way to manage them is typically the best solution and something I always recommend to my clients.

You might have heard of the fight or flight response. This is a stress reaction that is part of our normal nervous system function and the human body responds by triggering a response to allow us to get away from a potentially dangerous situation and will then bring us out back to our natural state of homeostasis. Potentially dangerous situations are those that occur when you are threatened, in danger etc. although this stress response is becoming increasingly common in the workplace due to the pressures of daily life and although you aren’t actually in danger, your stress response is telling you otherwise.

When you are stressed cortisol is released and a few physiological changes occur:

  • Increased heart rate and force of the heartbeat
  • Constriction of blood vessels
  • Dilation of blood vessels
  • Sweating
  • Conversion of glycogen into glucose
  • A decrease in digestive functions

A key response I want to discuss is the conversion of glycogen into glucose. Glycogen is the energy we store in our liver, primarily sourced from carbohydrates (although this can include fats or protein).

When cortisol is released, glycogen is released to give us extra energy to ‘get away from danger’  or from a stressful situation. We have cortisol receptors located all over our body, however, we have an increased amount located around our abdomen to protect our vital organs. This is of course really useful when is a ‘danger’ situation. However, if this constant release of cortisol is due to daily workplace stress, glycogen is being released to protect you, but isn’t being utilised and therefore stores around your waistline.

This is a key reason many people struggle to lose weight and can restrict your ability to manage weight, lose weight as well as disrupting your sleep. Poor sleep leads to poor food choices and the cycle of stress will impact your sleep and energy levels and it is possible to become stuck in a vicious circle.

If you are feeling stressed there are a few things to consider:

  • Do you consume a lot of caffeine? This can add additional stress to your body.
  • Do you consume a diet high in processed foods? This can affect your gut microbiome, stress response and energy levels.
  • What do you do to relax? How well do you sleep? And what are your energy levels like?

Being in a stressed state isn’t always obvious. Some people are highly aware they are stressed, whilst others thrive on the adrenalin – although in both types of people, it is important to have an awareness of how stress can impact your overall health and is a key part to maintaining a healthy weight and cardiovascular health.

If you would like to understand more about stress might be impacting you, how it can be affecting your weight loss goals and get the tools to help reduce your stress, please contact me at to book a Nutrition Consultation or Dietary Analysis or for more information visit here.


Amy Savage is a qualified Nutritionist with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional & Dietetic Medicine and is available for consultations online and in Sydney CBD. Email for further details. 


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