My article "Can Anxiety Make You Fat?", which was posted on Beliefnet.com and Zestnow.com, answered the question with a resounding "Yes." The major culprit here is cortisol, a hormone that is produced when the body is under stress. One of the things that cortisol does is "preferentially direct body fat to the abdominal region" (i.e., create belly fat), as Dallas and Melissa Hartwig state in their 2012 book It Starts with Food.
But something even scarier is happening here: even one's attempt to cope with anxiety can result in unwanted pounds. This takes place as follows. Start with a person who wants to keep unpleasant, anxiety-ridden thoughts out of his or her mind. One of the most convenient and cheapest ways to do this is to begin overeating, choosing primarily foods made of refined sugar and flour. Unfortunately, eating like this itself brings on the stress response in the body, involving an outpouring of the hormone dopamine, the pleasure-seeking hormone. Dopamine rush followed by tolerance, followed by increased cravings, followed by withdrawal symptoms, is a textbook description of addiction of all types. Thus when one tries to keep stressful thoughts out of the mind by gobbling junk food, one is at risk for becoming an addict, a compulsive overeater. Susan Peirce Thompson makes a compelling case for this position in her thoroughly admirable book Bright Line Eating. She argues that the only way to rid oneself of compulsive overeating is to banish refined sugar and flour from one's diet for life. Of course, not all overweight people are compulsive overeaters, but anyone who worries that their eating is out of control should consider taking a look at Bright Line Eating: it could be a life-changer.
Today's Words of Wisdom: "People love to be told what to do, but they love even more to fight and not do what they are told." Carlos Castaneda, The Second Ring of Power