Science Explains How Being Angry Can Make You Gain Weight

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Anger can sometimes be a good thing. It can motivate you to stand up against social injustice, push you to work harder, or force you to have a tough but necessary conversation with a loved one. Constant anger, though, does more harm than good. In fact, there is a connection between anger and weight gain.

New research shows that people who get angry more often are more prone to weight gain. But what is the connection, and how can you help yourself relax to avoid the health consequences of anger?

Anger and Weight Gain

The reason anger can cause weight gain comes down to stress. Although we often think about anger and stress as two separate emotions, there is a connection between them. Physiologically, anger is a stressful emotion for your body to experience. So while you can be stressed without being angry, you cannot be angry without being stressed.

Stress, however, can often lead to anger. This is because when you’re stressed out, you often have more trouble controlling your emotions [1].

Chronic stress can be very damaging to your health. This is mostly due to the release of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that increases when you’re feeling threatened. This is called the “fight or flight” reaction. It is useful in scenarios when you have to respond quickly to something, like make a sudden maneuver while you’re driving to avoid a collision. It is also useful while you’re exercising.

This response, however, is only supposed to be short-lived. Once the threat is gone, your body should return to normal, and your cortisol levels should lower. Chronic stress, on the other hand, results in consistently elevated cortisol levels. This where anger can indirectly can cause weight gain for the following reasons:

  1. Cortisol is an appetite stimulant. This is why after a particularly long, stressful day, you’re more likely to reach for your favorite comfort foods [2]. Experts are still researching this relationship, however.
  2. Stress promotes fat storage. When you’re under stress, your body is more likely to store visceral fat, increasing your risk of dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other facets of the metabolic syndrome [3]. This is possible because chronic stress stimulates the production of betatrophin. This is a protein that blocks the enzyme adipose triglyceride lipase, which breaks down body fat [4].
  3. Stress slows your metabolism. One study from 2015 showed that women who reported at least one stressor in the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than those who did not. That could equate to nearly eleven pounds per year [5].

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Chronic Stress and Health

Chronic stress can do far more than just make you gain weight. The long-term health implications of chronic stress are numerous, and can be very serious. The health effects of stress include:

  • An increased risk of cardiovascular disease [6].
  • An increased risk for Type 2 Diabetes, or a decreased ability to control your diabetes [7].
  • Decreased immunity. This puts you at a greater risk for illness and disease [6].
  • Stress can cause infertility, erectile dysfunction in men, loss of period in women, and lowered sexual desire [8]
  • Stress can cause depression and anxiety [9].

Control Stress to Control Weight

Of course, avoiding stress altogether is impossible. For this reason, it is important to do things to actively reduce stress, or increase your body’s ability to handle stressors. This is a key way to help reduce the negative impacts of anger on weight gain. Ways to reduce stress include:

  • Exercise. Even just simply going for a daily walk can have a profound impact on your health and stress levels. 
  • Spend some time in nature.
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods that are high in added sugar and unhealthy fats.
  • Cultivate social support. Make sure you have a friend or family member you can talk to when you’re having a hard time.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Do something you enjoy- read a book, listen to music, make some art, whatever hobby you have that helps you relax.
  • Try deep breathing.

Anger and Weight Gain: Try to Control Your Stress

When you control your stress levels, you can control your anger levels, too. If you find that you’re getting angry more frequently than usual, ask yourself why that might be. Are you stressed? Is there something else going on in your life that’s making you more prone to angry outbursts?

Your constant anger could be damaging your health, and could lead to weight gain. Try reducing the stress in your life to avoid anger, and be healthier and happier.

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