How Stress Impacts Fat Loss

Stress is something we all encounter at some point in our lives at varying degrees. Some days, weeks, months and even years can be smooth sailing but others can feel like you’re being kicked in the shin! Losing body fat can be hard at the best of times, let alone having something else make it even more difficult. Understanding the impact stress can have on your body and how it affects fat loss is critical. Identifying roadblocks in our diet and lifestyle is key to creating a successful fat loss plan and stress is a major roadblock for many of us juggling work, family, and our personal lives!

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that your adrenal glands produce and release. Without getting too science-y, it can have an impact on almost every organ in the body, so it’s a pretty big deal! High levels of cortisol can negatively impact our nutrition decisions, sleep quality and duration, exercise habits, and lifestyle choices – all of which can make losing body fat and maintaining a lower amount of body fat more difficult.


One of the main consequences of stress on fat loss is that it can result in us making poor nutrition decisions. Stress can cause us to use food for comfort, increase the portion sizes of our meals, and choose more processed and calorie-dense foods. A huge survey by the American Psychological Association found that:

• 38% of adults report overeating because of stress,

• 1 in 3 adults found that this change in food behaviour was a distraction to higher stress levels,

• 27% of adults say they eat to manage stress, and

• 34% of those who reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress said the behaviour was a habit. (1)

Of course, knowing what is good nutrition and how to achieve it is imperative for successful fat loss, but by simply managing our stress levels, we can have a direct positive impact on our diet and eating habits, which can help to make losing body fat and maintaining less body fat much easier.


Stress can significantly impact our sleep quality and duration, which can have a direct impact on fat loss. Stress can cause us to take longer to fall asleep; wake during the middle of the night and make it difficult to fall back to sleep, and result in less deep sleep, which can alter how our body uses fat for fuel and directly impact how much body fat we can lose. It’s been shown that poor sleep quality and duration can:

• Increase appetite by almost 25%,

• Increase cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods, which typically tend to be higher in calories,

• Increase our feeding window as we are awake more, and

• Reduce how much body fat we lose and increase losses in muscle mass. (1)

In fact, it’s been shown that getting just one hour less sleep per weeknight can result in significantly less body fat being lost! (2) By managing our stress levels, we can improve our sleep quality and duration and make it easier to lose body fat.


When stress levels are elevated, it has been shown that people tend to report a decrease in their desire to exercise. Exercise is a powerful tool to help lose body fat and maintain a lower body fat percentage by increasing energy expenditure. However, stress can drain our energy and motivation, consequently, making it more difficult to exercise. Despite most people knowing that exercise is an effective tool to manage stress, 39% of adults still reported skipping exercise in the last month because of it. (1) This lack of motivation can lead to decreased physical activity, ultimately making fat loss more difficult to achieve.


Stress can impair our mood and cause lifestyle changes that can negatively affect fat loss. One of the most common effects of stress on our lifestyle is the use of alcohol and substances. This can lead to a dangerous spiral of low moods, lack of energy and vitality, impaired sleep, and reduced motivation to eat well and exercise. It can also disrupt our daily routines and make it difficult to establish healthy habits, such as regular eating patterns and physical activity. By managing our stress levels, we can improve our lifestyle, which can help to improve our potential to lose body fat.


Chronic stress is common in the modern world. It can impact our nutrition, sleep, exercise habits, and lifestyle choices, which can have a significant negative impact on our ability to lose body fat. Fat loss is already difficult enough as is for most people, but by learning how to manage your stress levels, you can greatly improve your chances of losing significant body fat and maintaining a healthy amount of body fat.

Take the stress out of your diet and training with a plan tailored to your body and lifestyle!

One of the greatest causes of stress when trying to lose body fat is not having a plan that suits your schedule and lifestyle. By tailoring your plan to your goals, body and lifestyle, reaching your goals can become easy! Our expert coaches are highly trained and experienced to create a diet and training plan that suits you best and provide you with all the support you need. Check out our coaching programs to find the best program for you!


  1. American Psychological Association. Stress and Eating. American Psychological Association. [Online] February 11, 2014. [Cited: July 13, 2023.]
  2. Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Wang, Xuewen, et al. 5, s.l. : Sleep, 2018, Vol. 41.

About the author

Amanda Moroney


With over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and a burning passion for all things health and fitness, Amanda has a BSc in Exercise Science, a BSc in Health Sciences, and an MSc in Biomechanical Analysis. She is also an international IFBB Bikini competitor and a mother.

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