How Stress Makes You Fat: 5 Ways to Strengthen Your Mind-Body Connection and Slim Down in the Process

Our thought patterns & emotions deeply impact nearly every illness we can get – from arthritis to headaches, from the common cold to cancer.

What does this mean? That our mind, brain and body are all chattin’ it up with each other all. the. time. What’s more? You can help these major pieces of who you are communicate in HEALTHY WAYS! Score? Score.

First things first:


In my schooling from Duke Integrative Medicine, I learned that stress is an emotion, but it’s also a physical experience. Let’s go through a typical scenario: “I’m overwhelmed, there’s so much to do, work is overloaded, I’m trying to limit my sugar but I had a donut AND a cupcake today, the house is a DI-SAS-TER, I’m late for class, my kids won’t get their frickin shoes on PER USUAL, where the H are my keys, dinner whaaaat ahhhhh!” And then, it starts all over again tomorrow morning.

Stressful episodes, hours or even full days or weeks make us TIRED. We can get headaches, stomachaches and other digestive upsets just from feeling stressed, overwhelmed and anxious. The stress response begins in the brain and then SURGES through your entire body in a rush of powerful hormones. (ah!)

Now, small bouts of stress here and there (also called acute stress) isn’t harmful. It’s natural and is actually good for your body & mind to experience so it can learn healthy ways to cope. But chronic stress? The kind that builds up over time and becomes a normal part of your everyday life? That’s the stuff that will impact your health in a bad way. (#badthings)

Quick example: Sandra Aamodt, author of Why Diets Makes Us Fat: The Unintended Consequences of Our Obsession with Weight Loss says, “Dieting is stressful, and stress hormones increase the amount of fat stored in fat cells.” No thanks!




Stressors can be physical, psychological or social.

  • Physical: things in your immediate environment, like constant noise or even pollution
  • Psychological: deeply held beliefs or views about yourself and others
  • Social: issues in relationships with loved ones, neighbors, employers

You can even have stressors from all or combinations of any of these places in your life happening at the same time! Talk about a stress sandwich!


  • Abnormally elevated glucose and insulin
  • Weaker immune system
  • Reduced resistance to infections, cancer, and illness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Weakened bones
  • Trouble with digestion
  • Headaches, backaches, and arthritis pain
  • Anxiety and mood disorders

So now we can see how too much stress too often can negatively impact our general health and overall well-being. What’s more: when you’re under stress, you’re more likely to eat poorly and exercise less. You might also neglect or damage your relationships.



I’m so incredibly grateful for the mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques I learned from Duke Integrative Medicine. I’ll share them with you briefly here, but I’d LOVE to work with you one-on-one to properly implement the right method for your specific situation and goals.

These exercises have shown to have positive health benefits (including producing more joy and relaxation in your mind & body) particularly if practiced consistently over time. And that’s exactly what wellness coaching helps you do.

  1. Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Starting at your head and moving down to your toes, focus on one part of your body at a time. First, just be aware of it, acknowledging what it feels like. Then, tighten each muscle, and then relax it, so you can feel the difference between tight and relaxed.
  2. Conscious Breathing: Sit or lie down quietly with one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Simply notice your normal breath. Begin working more of your breath to your abdomen instead of your chest. Begin to pause at the top of the breath, and the bottom of the breath.
  3. Paced Breathing: When we get stressed, our breath shortens. Lengthen it to calm back down with the 4/7/8 breathing method (which is actually based on an ancient yoga tradition!). Breathe in through your nose on a 4 count, hold your breath for a 7 count, exhale through your mouth for an 8 count, repeat 3 or 4 times.
  4. Body Scan: It’s important to experience your body physically and not just mentally. Working from your toes to your head, either lying down or sitting, simply pay attention to each body part, noting any sensations.
  5. Letting Be: Simply acknowledge your thoughts, but don’t judge them. For example, next time you’re feeling angry, rather than trying to get rid of the feeling or lashing out, simply sit with it. Be curious about where the feeling is coming from. Accept your full range of feelings. With practice, you’ll be able to respond to frustrating feelings in a healthier way.

So there you have it.

If you feel like your stress is causing your weight gain, and your weight gain is causing your stress, get to the heart of the matter with mindfulness.

Take a few moments to focus on the mind-body connection at play. Implement one of the five tips above to start, and see what works best for YOU and your personal situation.

If you’d like to dig even deeper into your desired state of health & wellness, set up a free Mindfulness Audit here. We’ll talk through what you want for your life, what’s driving you to want it, and what’s getting in your way of feeling how you want to feel. You & I will partner up to define a clear goal for you with specific action steps to take each week to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be.

Less stress. More mindfulness. Better life. You got this.

Stay well,

PS: Are you on the list? Get the Weekly WholeHardy Health & Happiness Hacks newsletter here! So many value-bombs coming straight to your inbox you WON’T want to miss.

WholeHardy Integrative Health Coaching include: Nutrition, Mindset, Fitness, Personal Development, Sleep, Stress Management, Spirituality.
WholeHardy Health, LLC is a Mindfulness-Based Wellness Practice. Owner Katie Hardy was professionally trained in integrative health coaching at Duke Integrative Medicine. Learn how mindfulness-based wellness coaching can help you by scheduling a free call with Katie here.


More articles on how your thoughts & feelings (like stress and anxiety) impact your body’s reactions (like digestion):
  1. The Gut-Brain Connection: 
  2. How Stress Affects Digestion
  3. Stress and the Digestive System

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