How can stress make you fat and create diabetes

Right up until he passed away, Dr John Hinwood was a prolific blogger (an award-winning blogger in fact!). John’s blog’s shared musing from a rich history of experience, learnings, travel and wisdom

The Hinwood Institute is named in honour of Dr John and to continue his legacy, we’re republishing his blogs to keep his wisdom, wit and wise words alive for the world to enjoy.

You can learn more about the legacy of Dr John Hinwood HERE.

stress fat - weighing scale

When we were created way back in time, we came with a fantastic safety mechanism inbuilt into our brains. 

If we became stressed due to impending danger, our body would instinctively enter the “fight or flight” mode.  

This would set into action a cascade of physiological events in our body that would prove to be life-saving.  

In the modern day, there’s a good chance that the threat is more mental or emotional than physical. The solution does not need us to run like Usain Bolt to save our life.

So how you’ll gain stress fat and lead us also to early Type 2 diabetes?

This is a summary of the physiological process that happens…

stress fat - rbs

How Stress Throws Your Body Out of Whack

When you become stressed, and your body enters the “fight or flight” mode. Blood sugar known as glucose is released to give your muscles the energy needed to run and escape.

In our modern day, most threats that cause stress are more mental or emotional than physical. You don’t need that extra blood sugar after all.

Instead of ‘running for your life’, you now have to sit in what seems like an endless queue to solve a problem.

You speak to a person in a distant call center, often struggling to understand them because English is their third or fourth language. Your stress level skyrockets!

Stress Hormones and Blood Sugar Blues

The physiological result is that your body must produce more insulin to keep your elevated blood sugar levels in check.

When you’re stressed out, your blood sugar levels will probably stay elevated much longer than they would otherwise. Ultimately, this promotes weight gain and Type 2 diabetes.


stress fat - sleep insulin

How Stress Disrupts Blood Sugar Balance

The cascade of events causing the excess stress can throw your blood sugar way out of balance.

The longer your blood sugar stays elevated, the more insulin your body will produce.

Your cells can become resistant to insulin and glucose (blood sugar) stays in your blood, negatively affecting another hormone called leptin.

Leptin is a hormone produced by your fat cells. A function of leptin is to tell your brain you have enough fat stored, and you have eaten enough and to burn calories at a normal rate. When you are stressed, this function is reduced.

From Stress to Belly Fat

When your body is under the stress response, your cortisol and insulin levels rise, and these two hormones tend to track each other.

Consequently, when your cortisol is consistently elevated under chronic low-level stress, you may find it very hard to lose weight or build muscle.

As a result, this may lead to gaining weight around your midsection, which is a major contributing factor to developing diabetes.

Do you find yourself reaching for sugary or fatty snacks when stressed?
Share your healthy coping mechanisms in the comments below!

P.S. If you’d like to know how likely your stress will lead to ill health, you may try our Stress Test below.

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How well do you roll with the punches?

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How it works:

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About the Author

Dr. John Hinwood
Dr. John Hinwood is a Global Leader in Stress Management. He is a very experienced and respected executive coach, mentor, consultant, sought after international speaker and author. He specialises in facilitation that leads clients out of the stress and into the calm. He has a reputation for innovative and transformational work in stress-life balance and mindset change for front line employees, to managers and business leaders.

Dr John Hinwood has shared the stage with Dr John Demartini, Dr Deepak Chopra, Dr Wayne Dyer, Dr Joe Dispenzia, Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul fame), Dr Bruce Lipton, Dr Masaru Emoto and others who are at the cutting edge of human behaviour and mindset change.

He has written 14 books with 4 being Amazon international best sellers. He has had papers published in academic journals and was once Captain/Coach of the Danish National Rugby Team. Dr. John’s experience as a health professional by training, successful businessman by effort and an inspiration by inclination has given him an awesome array of practical tools for success.