10 Experts Weigh-In on Stress and Weight Gain

We here at Celebration Saunas have been in the infrared business decades now and it’s all we know. Like a hunter who knows his/her knows or a mechanic who knows the what exact engine is roaring from 2 miles away. infrared Saunas are our lifeblood and passion and while that may be strange to some people, it’s not to our customers. When you’re investing your hard earned money in something as life changing and beneficial as a sauna, you need a company that not only knows their product inside out, but their industry inside out. If they’re not respected in their own industry, alarm bells should start ringing.

Over the years, we’ve made some really amazing connections with a collection of the finest minds in infrared sauna technology and who we’re happy to call our peers. From doctors, to engineers, from fitness experts and nutritionists to pain management specialists and surgeons to wellness experts and even pharmacologists. In this extensive interview list, we’ve put our  technology, and our products efficacy to independent and respected industry and medical professionals. It’s great when our passion tells you how great a home sauna can be for your health and weight loss goals but then again, we’re ultimately selling you our high quality technology. This time, let a panel of independent industry professionals give your their opinions and bust some myths on infrared technology so you don’t have to take our word for it. We genuinely want you to experience the benefits that thousands of our customers have and hopefully now, you can not only rely on our stellar reputation, but the reputations of some of the most respected healthcare professionals. Read on…

Far Infrared Saunas are excellent way to eliminate the stress hormone cortisol from the body.  See what these experts say about the harmful effects of cortisol in the body and gaining weight.

Stress plays a significant role in causing weight gain. When we are stressed, cortisol levels are increased. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and frequent high levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain. One way it leads to weight gain is that cortisol can move stored triglycerides to visceral fat cells, the cells under the muscle and in the abdominal area. The weight gain is due to the increase in fat cells.

Cortisol also leads to weight gain because it increases blood glucose levels and suppresses insulin production. When this occurs, our cells are low in glucose, which signals hunger cues to the brain. During this time of stress, the hunger cues can lead to overeating and poor food choices. During moments of stress and high hunger, we may gravitate toward high carbohydrates or high fat food, which leads to an increased intake of food and weight gain.

When we stress, eating also becomes very mechanical, ignored, and unmindful. In other words, we are not focusing on what we are eating or how much, rather we are just gravitating toward food for comfort. Mindless eating does not connect our hunger cues to the brain and therefore can cause significant weight gain

In order to help prevent weight gain caused by stress, it is vital to address the stress issues first. When our stress is under control, we are more in-tuned with our actions and what we are eating, helping to prevent stress weight gain.    Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LD  —  www.bnutritionandwellnes.com

Stress stimulates production of the stress hormone cortisol which increases appetite and it also increases insulin levels which lowers blood sugar levels which cause you to crave for carbs, sugar and fatty foods.Magnesium is my #1 anti-stress and metabolism revving nutrient because it activates hundreds of enzymes that control digestion, absorption, and the utilization of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.The mineral magnesium is crucial for healthy weight loss yet most Americans do not get their Recommended Daily Allowance of this mineral.
Magnesium helps the body digest, absorb, and utilize proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
Magnesium is necessary for insulin to open cell membranes for glucose
Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral. Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in boosting mood, lowering anxiety and depression and reducing stress levels as well as helping with deeper more restful sleep. Most Americans are magnesium deficient because this mineral has been depleted from our soils and foods. Over 75% of Americans do not get their recommended daily allowance of this mineral which is a co-factor in 700-800 enzyme reactions in the body.
A magnesium deficiency can magnify stress and anxiety. Serotonin, the feel good brain chemical that is boosted artificially by some medications, depends on magnesium for its production and function.
It is difficult to get enough from your diet due to the depletion of this mineral from our soils and food supply, so supplementing is another option. Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. Magnesium citrate powder is a highly absorbable form that can be mixed with hot or cold water and sipped at work or at home throughout the day.     Carolyn Dean, MD, ND   www.nutritionalmagnesium.org

Up to 90% of medical visits are for stress related problems, and the effects can be great, including the below, which ultimately all impact weight loss.
·       Digestive Dysfunction – Stress shuts down the digestive tract, oftentimes creating inflammation with bloating, gas, heartburn and constipation or diarrhea as well as food and/or environmental allergies
·       Immune Suppression  –  Because stress suppresses the immune system, you are at an increased risk for infections and illness and may have a harder time shaking them.
·       Musculoskeletal Breakdown  –  Chronic stress can break down bone and muscle over time and increase a tendency toward neck and back pain, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia or TMJ.
·       Cognitive Decline  –  Chronic stress increases the risk of depression, mood changes, memory decline, foggy brain, migraines and sleep disturbance
·       Hormone Shifts  –  Stress related hormonal changes can result in the following effects:  Decreased serotonin, creating sugar/carbohydrate cravings and lower mood.  Decreased melatonin, disrupting sleep quality. Increased insulin, which shuts down ability to burn fat especially around the midsection.  Lowered thyroid function, which impacts energy levels and metabolism/ability to lose weight effectively
Cindi Lockhart  National Nutrition Program Manager for LT Proactive Care Clinic  Lifetimefitness.com  


Chronic stress can increase weight (specifically belly fat) and reduce a psychological mood state parameter that we call “Vigor” (a combination of physical energy, mental acuity, and emotional well-being). In psychology research, vigor is the opposite of “burnout” which many of your readers will recognize as directly linked with chronic stress.

There are several reasons why stress can lead to weight gain. The most direct effects are due to cortisol (the primary stress hormone) serving as a signal to the brain to “eat” (especially high-sugar and high-fat “comfort” foods) – and then as a signal to the abdominal fat cells to “store” as many of those calories as possible. This is one of the reasons that belly fat is also known as “stress fat” by most stress researchers.

Any type of stress, but especially the low-grade, chronic stress that we experience at work and in our stressful “too-busy” lives (and especially during the HIGH-STRESS HOLIDAYS), leads to both behavioral changes (less exercise, eating more “comfort foods”, drinking, smoking, etc) and biochemical changes (higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol), which can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and cholesterol, elevate appetite, increase fat gain – especially in the abdominal region (belly fat), reduce sex drive, lead to memory and emotional problems, etc).

The “top five” ways to resist the detrimental health effects of stress:

  1. Have an “outlet” (a hobby or some diversion outside of work)…
  2. Do whatever you can to make the sources of your stress more “predictable” or learn to develop more “control” over those stressors – this means to identify patterns related to when your stressors might appear…
  3. Hang out with friends (avoid social isolation) – tough times are always easier when you’re around other people…
  4. Learn to tell the difference between “big” issues and “little” issues…
  5. Look on the bright side (really) – as simplistic as it sounds, the fact that you can look to “what is improving” in a given situation can help to psychologically buffer the stress in others areas…


A few of the most effective “anti-stress” herbs from our recent studies:

Corn grass extract (from USA) – to help alleviate the tension/irritability that comes with stress – it works by normalizing cortisol and serotonin levels, which are disrupted by stress.

Asparagus extract (from Japan) – to help our bodies to adapt and better handle stress – it works by improving production of “heat shock proteins” to help individual cells respond to stress.

Pine bark (from New Zealand) – to help our brains to recover faster from stressful events – it works by improving cranial blood flow and calming brain neuron excitability.

Theanine (from Japan) – an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves – helps to induce “alpha waves” in the brain associated with relaxed alertness.

Yeast Beta-glucan (from USA) – to help our immune systems to identify and respond to various challenges, especially viruses that can lead to upper-respiratory tract infections when we’re most-stressed and our defenses are down.

Ashwagandha – an herb used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) to help us adapt to stress – helping calm the stress “now” (acute stress) and helping us to be more resilient to future stressors (chronic stress).

All of these supplements work to normalize a specific aspect of “biochemistry” – which then leads to a specific outcome in our “psychology” (reduced stress, improved mood, clearer focus, etc).

Shawn M Talbott, PhD Nutritional Biochemist and Author www.shawntalbott.com,  StressCookie.com  


There are clear associations between stress and obesity. Stress can contribute to poor regulation of appetite, excessive food cravings, emotional and binge eating, and sedentary behavior. These behaviors can then lead to weight gain and obesity. The effects of this obesity caused by stress can be catastrophic as there becomes an increased risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, pulmonary disorders, sleep disturbances, and many cancers.

So as you can see, stress is not a benign or trivial condition. It can indeed be life-threatening!

The good news is that stress can be managed and improved with many lifestyle modifications, including exercise, maintaining positive friendships and relationships, and even developing and exploring hobbies and other interests.  Board certified GI surgeon (in both colorectal and general surgery) at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and with the Greenville Health System.  Cedrek McFadden, MD FACS, FASCRS  —  www.ghs.org/providers/Cedrek-McFadden/


The Stress/Weight Gain Connection

You know you are stressed and you are not managing it very well. Did you know that stress can be a major factor in holding on to unwanted weight?

You may be someone who sees the numbers on the scale continually climb despite repeated attempts at dieting.   If so, you are probably extremely frustrated and perplexed at the unfairness of it all.

The Stress Response

Physiologically, when you are stressed, many changes occur in your body.  Your heart and respiratory rates increase, you may perspire, your muscles tense, your pupils dilate, and most significantly, you release stress hormones into the blood stream.

These were all extremely important events when in ancient times you may have encountered extreme physical danger on a daily basis, but today, most of the stressors you encounter are of mental or emotional origin.  You don’t need to have your body respond physiologically as it did in ancient times, yet it does.

How Does This Relate to Weight Gain?  

When your body goes into stress response and stress hormones are released, your brain is alerted to reserve calories to prepare your body to defend or attack or run.  In other words, it slows your metabolism, which is the engine that burns calories. It conserves so you have the energy to survive an attack.

In modern times, the stress response occurs several times each day.  Your body begins to habitually conserve the calories it consumes. Thus the gateway to weight gain is opened.

A second more intriguing cause of weight gain lies within the interaction of the stress and relaxation hormones.  One outcome of the activation of the stress hormones is the depletion of the happy or relaxation hormones that sit in the synapses of the brain and in the digestive system.  And guess what the easiest way is to replace those lost hormones?  SUGAR!

Ever notice how much more prone you are to go for the donut or candy bar when you are stressed? In your body’s infinite intelligence, it knows it feels better when the synapses of the brain and  belly  are flooded with happy hormones, and it will set off a craving to get them as quickly as possible.  The problem is, this can cause weight gain and doesn’t improve your response to stressful situations!

Is There a Remedy?

Fortunately, there is a remedy.. It is stress management.  There are many ways to address stress management, and since you are unique, finding the vehicle that gives you relief is a matter of personal choice. Approaching each task with mindful awareness slows the body’s stress response. Be present.  You might find daily meditation helpful, or you may find running or some other active sport relieves your stress.

When you do things that are enjoyable or settling, you restore balance to your body, mind and spirit. When that happens, your stress hormones are less reactive and your coping skills improve.

However, in our human-ness, it is easy to fall off the wagon of practicing daily stress management techniques once you regain some equilibrium.  Developing a plan to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes that include active stress management practices is the real path to success. And of course, eating whole foods based healthy meals is the foundation for creating balance within.

Active Practice and Lifestyle Changes

With a better understanding of the link between stress and weight gain, the best thing you can do if you want to lose weight is manage your stress. This is best accomplished not by randomly practicing stress management techniques, but instead by creating a life that includes most of the following:  adequate rest, nourishing meals of whole foods as opposed to processed packaged food products, regular enjoyable exercise, engaging work, laughter, connection with others and with nature.  When you put this package together and live your life this way, you will see your stress level drop automatically.

Adding a specific stress management practice like breath work, yoga or meditation, will bring you to an even deeper level of relaxation, allowing those happy hormones to fill your brain synapses with all the juice they need.

Your body is extremely intelligent and when you give it the right support, systems that regulate weight gain return to a place of balance and synergy.  And, best of all, you won’t even want that donut.  

Peg Doyle, M.Ed., CHHC —  www.wellnessandyou.com


Not flossing can lead to gingivitis—irritation and inflammation of the gums. In animal studies, researchers discovered a possible link between this inflammation and weight gain. Animals with gum disease were more likely to be obese; when the infection was treated, they lost weight.

Inflammation causes stress in your body, which messes with your metabolism. And when fat cells become inflamed, they may not control insulin as well as they normally do, causing glucose to be stored as fat instead of used for energy. And the cells may also leak fatty acids, which can cause conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol.

Since it’s the kind of inflammation we have direct control over, taking care of your teeth means overall good health….You may find that it makes you stronger in the gym, faster on the track, and, yes, you may be a little leaner.

— Dr. Burhenne, creator of askthedentist.com


The most common way that people deal with stress is to eat because food is a classic way to comfort, relax and reduce stress. However, Zebriec explains that it is a boomerang effect. If you use food to manage stress, then you gain weight as well as your your level of guilt and disappointment.  Using food to manage stress can often backfire.

Zebriec can provide insight on how to reduce stress eating and tips on how to make weight loss easier.  He says it is not about self-discipline or willpower, but about changing your environment to make it easier to take care of yourself.  For example – if you don’t want to eat the snack, then don’t buy it. Don’t cook more food than you plan to eat.   Zebriec plays an important role in Joslin’s unique Why WAIT program (which stands for Weight Achievement and Intensive Treatment), 12-week multidisciplinary program for weight control and intensive diabetes management that is offered at Joslin Diabetes Center.  As the program’s behavioral therapist, he is part of the world-class Why WAIT team that also includes: endocrinologists, psychologists, exercise physiologists, and registered dieticians who are with the patients every step of the way.

John Zrebiec, the Director of Behavioral Health at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston

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