Is stress related to my weight gain?

Dr Finn Jenk

Dear Migrant Woman,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to have our voice. My name is Sylvia and I am from Poland, a single mother of two children. Recently I have been going through a lot of difficulties in life.

It is not easy to be in a new country, totally alone and raise two children. My concern is that over the last two years, I have gained too much weight (15 kg in that period). This is scaring me so much. Some friends have told me that it might be related with stress. Maybe they are right? Is there any chance that your experts can give me any tips on what can I do to stop it? By the way, I work full-time and don’t have time to go to the gym, because at the end of the day I feel so tired and need to go home to share time with my children.

Dr Finn’s Answer

Dear Sylvia, I am sorry to read about your difficulties. Your friends are correct in suspecting that stress contributes to weight gain.

The first place to start is with what you eat. I recommend a modified Mediterranean diet that is high in phytonutrients and fibre. I find this diet is achievable and sustainable. Focus on low glycaemic load foods that do not disturb your blood sugar. Try to avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed food. As you are busy, you may consider using a healthy shake as a meal replacement when time is limited. I use a soy based high protein product that has been shown to lose fat and gain muscle. You can also use specific supplements to help balance blood sugar and speed up metabolism. If you follow such a plan for 30 days, you should feel less tired and more energetic. You will then feel able to do some exercise. You do not need to join a gym but can focus on walking and doing some simple exercises at home.

With more energy and some exercise, you should feel less stressed and notice that your sleep improves. The goal is to make healthy changes in your lifestyle that are sustainable. If you do not have some complicating factor, you may lose the extra 15 kg in four months. Some people find it hard to lose weight because of some underlying factor such as adrenal imbalance, thyroid insufficiency, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or inflammation. Further, emotional issues can play a role in weight gain. Professional help is often necessary to identify and resolve such issues.

I wish you and your children health and happiness.