1. Healthy Eating
  2. Diets

Nicholas Rush, RDN, CDN

January 19, 2023

How Stress Affects Hunger Hormones & Weight

Stress on Appetite

Ever find yourself mindless snacking during a stressful time? You aren’t alone. Stress can impact your appetite and weight in many ways, including the increased the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both.


When stressed for an extended period, the adrenal glands release cortisol. Cortisol is known for increasing appetite. Too much cortisol circulating in the bloodstream increases the activity of neurons in the hypothalamus that signal “I am hungry,” generally leading to people overeating.


Cortisol also reduces the sensitivity of the hormone “leptin,” which signals the “I am full” message, making it less powerful. This is known as “reduced leptin sensitivity” and encourages fat storage by stimulating the fat cells to grow and mature.

Stress Management Tips

Be mindful

Become more aware of the behavior that leads to overeating during stress.

Schedule breaks throughout your day

Frequent breaks throughout the day will help you avoid feeling burnt out. Take short 10-15 minute breaks every couple hours to reset and recharge.

Address your environment & triggers

Keep a journal and identify patterns that can help you change. Eliminate bad habits one by one.

Prepare ready-to-go healthy snacks

Have healthy snacks ready to go, making you less likely you’ll reach for an unhealthy option.

Seek professional help

Talk to a professional about how to reduce stress in your personal life and work towards short, achievable goals.

Helpful Resources

HEADSPACE: https://www.headspace.com/

CALM: https://www.calm.com/

BREETHE: https://breethe.com/

Written By:

Erica Vigliano, DTR