How Too Much Stress Can Cause Weight Gain
The question of whether excess amounts of cortisol can lead to weight gain is essentially the same as asking if too much stress can cause you to put on unwanted pounds. The answer in both cases is yes.
Cortisol a natural stress hormone is responsible for regulating your metabolism, so its important to follow common wellness guidelines to lower it. From finding time for relaxation to improving your diet and exercise, you can ensure that you control your cortisol and not the other way around.
Cortisol And Comfort Foods
Levels of “the stress hormone,” cortisol, rise during tension-filled times. This can turn your overeating into a habit. Because increased levels of the hormone also help cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops and you crave sugary, fatty foods.
So instead of a salad or a banana, youâre more likely to reach for cookies or mac and cheese. Thatâs why theyâre called âcomfort foods.â
Jason Perry Block, MD, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard, says eating can be a source of solace and can lower stress.
âThis happens, in part, because the body releases chemicals in response to food that might have a direct calming effect.â
Fatty and sugary foods are usually the big culprits, because lots of us have such a strong love for them.
The bottom line? âMore stress = more cortisol = higher appetite for junk food = more belly fat,â says Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, a nutritional biochemist.
Anxiety Medication Can Cause A Gain In Weight
Weight gain is a common side effect of certain types of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications, such as Zoloft, Lexapro, Prozac, and Paxil. Many people have noticed an increase in weight due to the psychotropic medication they are taking.
Since each body is somewhat chemically unique, each person can have a unique medication side effect experience.
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How Can I Lose Weight If I Am Constantly Stressed
We know that stress and anxiety often cause weight gain, yet the reality is that most of us live with a certain level of stress. But if you cant immediately remove a stressor from your life, how can you lose weight?
As a general rule, diets dont work for weight loss. Instead, you need a more holistic, sustainable approach to lose weight one that addresses the reasons why you may have gained weight, like poor hydration, imbalances in your body, the foods you eat, and even the amount of sleep that you are getting.
Ideal You offers a healthy way to lose weight by allowing you to reset your metabolism so that you are burning fat instead of storing it. You dont have to work out, or buy expensive pre-packaged food on the Ideal You program. Instead, youll eat real food, take all natural supplements, and work with experienced weight loss coaches to slim down. By changing your metabolism, you can counteract many of the effects of chronic stress even if you cannot completely eliminate stress from your life.
At Ideal You, we understand that figuring out how to lose weight can also be a source of stress. That is why we provide you with a structured food list and weight loss journal, and provide support from a team of weight loss coaches. You wont have to worry about how youre going to lose weight, because youll be following our proven strategy.
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Managing Weight Gain From Psychiatric Medications
- By Chika Anekwe, MD, MPH, Contributor
While psychiatric medications can be essential for improving mental health and well-being, they often come with unwanted side effects. One particular side effect of many psychiatric medications is weight gain. In this post we will explore how these medications cause weight gain, and what you can do to lessen the impact of this unwanted effect of many psychiatric medications.
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How Does Obesity Affect Your Mental Health
Having a higher BMI can help create conditions ripe for various mental problems. Being overweight can contribute to lowering overall activity levels, exposing you to social pressures related to weight, as well as other health concerns such as:
Some of the connections between obesity and mental health are fairly direct and obvious. In our image and fitness obsessed culture, negative feelings toward your own body are more common in overweight people than their peers who maintain a normal weight.
Other connections, such as the link between lower socioeconomic status and obesity as a risk factor for depressive symptoms have been studied, though the association is not strong enough to show as a significant causal factor of diagnosable mental health conditions.
What Causes A Fear Of Gaining Weight
Mental health professionals arent sure what causes specific phobias, such as obesophobia. But most believe it is caused by a combination of:
- Environment: Some cultures tend to overemphasize the way people look and their weight. Some people may be raised to believe that gaining weight is sinful or disgusting. These beliefs can contribute to obesophobia.
- Genetics: A personal or family history of phobias, eating disorders and other anxiety-related conditions can increase the chances of developing obesophobia.
- Traumatic experiences: Life experiences may lead to obesophobia. One example is a parent or peer who tells a child repeatedly that the child is fat. Another example is a childhood bully making fun of someones weight.
Cortisol Can Lead To Weight Gain
Cortisol stimulates your fat and carbohydrate metabolism, creating a surge of energy in your body. While this process is essential for survival situations, it also increases your appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. This means youre more likely to indulge in french fries and a milkshake than you are a well-balanced meal.
An excess of cortisol also can lead your body to produce less testosterone. This may cause a decrease in muscle mass, as well as slow down how many calories your body burns.
The Importance Of Sleep And Exercise For Stress Management
In several experimental studies, short-term sleep deprivation led to increased calorie intake and weight gain.
This may be because of changes in the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, and a greater intake of high-calorie foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. Most adults should aim to get seven hours or more of sleep each night, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Exercise helps lower stress levels and may help decrease symptoms of anxiety, according to a systematic review of randomized clinical trials published in August 2015 in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
But the benefits of moving regularly dont end there. Exercise can have direct effects on weight by helping burn calories and increasing lean muscle mass, which helps with weight control, says Chao. Regular exercise can help improve your physiological toughness when facing stress. Exercise can lead to beneficial adaptations in the stress response system that improve how your body reacts to future physiological stressors, which may result in the body being more efficient at coping with psychological stressors.
Exercising regularly can also help you more rapidly recover from stressors and decrease negative feelings following a stressor. This lessens the overall wear and tear that the stressors have on the body, says Chao.
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Treating Anxiety Depression And Obesity
The link between obesity and anxiety is just one more worrying way that being chronically overweight can have damaging effects on your life. In addition to the well-known physiological health problems of carrying extra body weight, obesity could put you at increased risk of mental disorders. Getting healthy in both body and mind may seem like an obvious goal, but the road to long-term health can present some challenges.
If you are suffering from the effects of both anxiety and excessive body weight, solving one condition may temporarily worsen the other. Taking antidepressants, for example, is an essential step for many people in treating anxiety, but weight gain is a common side effect of many antidepressant medications. In these cases, it is important to work closely with your doctor and your psychiatrist to ensure that the medications you are taking to solve one problem are not causing you more issues in another.
Similarly, obesity treatments can help you drop weight, but doing so may expose you to other stressors. Losing pounds may improve your quality of sleep and help you stay more active, but if you have difficulty with impulse control, the severe dietary restrictions of a bariatric surgery might create new difficulties. Similarly, if binge eating comfort food has been a coping mechanism for your chronic stress or depressive symptoms, not being able to eat in the way you are used to could leave you searching for new ways to cope with your anxiety.
How To Navigate Stressful Times
Lets bring our attention back to the key words of perceived and perpetual. We must ask ourselves what the specific sources of our stress are. If specific people and events seem to trigger the cascade within us, identifying these can be very helpful. Physiology and psychology share a consensual relationship. State of inflammation in the body can make us predisposed to perceiving stress more frequently. In turn, perpetual stress makes our physiology imbalanced. What can we do?
1. Creating a string scaffolding for our body to navigate times of stress is the key. Think of the framework of eating protein, fibre, and fat. Protein holds first place in stress management within the body. Fibre comes from non-starchy vegetables, which are rich in antioxidants and whole grains, both of which improve digestive function. Healthy fats like ghee stoke the fire of digestion, helping it to metabolise and utilise nutrients.
2. Insulin and blood sugar regulation can be sensitive in times of stress as there is increased cortisol output. You might find blood sugar fluctuations occurring more rapidly. Preempting this, try to cut out all the simple sugars in your diet. It might take mental effort, but your resilience to stress will increase manyfold. Be mindful that poor sleep is driving you to choose wrong foods and avoid succumbing to it.
3. Make a grounded meditation a part of your life. Take twenty minutes each afternoon and evening to lie down and listen to a guided visualisation.
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Anxiety Weight Gain Fatigue
Cortisol produced during stressful periods including anxiety moments causes weight gain, fatigue, depression, sex drive, and overall mental function can be adversely affected by high levels of cortisol. If youre feeling anxious, theres a good chance that youll start to feel more sluggish and less energetic than usual.
The problem is that an anxious person might not even realize that theyre experiencing these side effects. This is because theyre worrying about other things as well. Increased cortisol levels, as the result of anxiety, cause fat to build up in the stomach and leads to an increase in weight.
The longer that a person experiences stress and anxiety, the more weight he or she can potentially gain. For example, they may be worried about their appearance and the scrutiny that others will be giving them. They may also be worried about how their friends and family will react to them gaining weight. As a result, they may be trying to avoid gaining weight at all costs.
The good news is that you dont need to be anything other than you in order to avoid anxiety and weight gain. Here are 3 ways that you can do that:
How Can I Stop Worrying About Weight Gain
Obesophobia, also called pocrescophobia, is the fear of gaining weight. You can avoid the fear by:
- Eating regular meals at the same time each day
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding sugary or high-fat foods and junk foods
- Having regular exercise such as walking, swimming, running, and others
- Trying to avoid situations where other peoples opinions on skipping meals or talking about their weight can affect you.
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How Nature Nurtures The Brain
4. Cravings and Fast Food
When we are chronically stressed, we crave comfort foods, such as a bag of potato chips or a tub of ice cream. These foods tend to be easy to eat, highly processed, and high in fat, sugar, or salt.
We crave these foods for both biological and psychological reasons. Stress may mess up our brains reward system or cortisol may cause us to crave more fat and sugar.
We also may have memories from childhood, such as the smell of freshly baked cookies, that lead us to associate sweet foods with comfort.
When we are stressed, we also may be more likely to drive through the fast food place, rather than taking the time and mental energy to plan and cook a meal. Americans are less likely to cook and eat dinner at home than people from many other countries, and they also work more hours.
Working in urban areas may mean long, jammed commutes, which both increase stress and interfere with willpower because we are hungrier when we get home later. A University of Pennsylvania research study showed, in laboratory mice, that being stressed by exposure to the smell of a predator lead the mice to eat more high-fat food pellets, when given the choice of eating these instead of normal feed.
5. Less Sleep
How to Minimize Weight Gain When Youre Stressed
2. Eat Mindfully
3. Find Rewarding Activities Unrelated to Food
4. Write in a Journal
What Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are a familiar group of psychiatric disorders distinguished by fear and anxiety that does not decrease over some time. Anxiety contains nervousness, restlessness, and stress. An anxiety disorder creates emotional and physical distress, therefore, intruding on an individuals daily life.
When an anxiety disorder is left untreated, the symptoms could prevent social engagement, participation in daily activities, and harm the persons career. More than 18% of Americans are affected by a particular anxiety disorder.
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Anxiety Can Make It Harder To Make Healthy Food Choices
It can sometimes be difficult to focus on whats best for you when your brain and body are screaming at you about everything under the sun.
People with anxiety may have a hard time making decisions about what to eat, resulting in them eating more unhealthy food, Chait says.
Its also much easier to lose track of what youre eating when youre feeling anxious. That distracted eating can add up to extra pounds.
Similarly, anxiety can cause people to be distracted, which may cause them to eat aimlessly, paying less attention to what theyre eating or how much theyre eating, Chait says.
Try Mindful Eating Habits
Oftentimes when you eat, the focus is usually on how you feel when you’re actually eating the food. For example, if you’re eating a burger you might feel joyful because you’re really liking the food. But Dr. Youdim says it’s also important to focus on how you feel after you’re done with your meal. If you feel lethargic or shameful after most meals, it’s probably a good idea to reflect on your relationship with food.
Mindful eating also means paying attention to your hunger cues. Know the difference between when you’re really hungry and when you’re just bored. Mindful eating can help you avoid using food as a stress-coping mechanism.
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Does Buspar Cause Weight Gain
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
More than 23 percent of all US adult women experience an anxiety disorder on an annual basis, making anxiety one of the most common mental health issues.
If youve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, your healthcare provider may suggest taking the medication BuSpar® to control your symptoms.
Many medications for anxiety and depression are associated with changes in your body weight, including weight gain and weight loss.
Does BuSpar cause weight gain? The good news is that there isnt much of a link between the use of BuSpar and changes in body composition. In fact, in clinical trials of BuSpar, weight gain and weight loss were both extremely infrequent side effects.
Below, weve explained what BuSpar is, as well as how its used as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder and other forms of anxiety.
Weve also talked about why you shouldnt feel overly concerned about weight gain while youre using BuSpar to treat anxiety, as well as what you can do to maintain a healthy weight while you take part in treatment.
Check In On Your Mental Health
This is incredibly important, says Dr. Illuri. “There is a large psychological aspect to increasing cortisol levels and that can also increase hunger hormones. This is where the term ‘stress-eating’ comes from.” Actively taking care of your mental health, whether it’s with the help of a professional like a therapist, or making time for friends and family, can help you clear your mind of stress, both in the short-term and long-term, and keep your cortisol levels low.
Dr. Youdim says a heartfelt connection with other people, pets, or nature can also help you get a dose of dopamine, your feel-good hormone, without leaning on unhealthy foods.
The bottom line: Stress can lead to the release of hormones that can cause weight gain, and often causes behaviors that also lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose or maintain weight. Maintaining stress-reducing activities and self-care is key for your physical and mental health.
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Why Do Antipsychotic Medications Worsen Obesity
Antipsychotics can also be categorized into two classes: typical and atypical antipsychotics. Both classes can cause weight gain, but they differ in that atypical antipsychotics cause fewer movement disorder side effects. Like antidepressants, antipsychotics affect the chemical messengers in the brain associated with appetite control and energy metabolism, namely serotonin, dopamine, histamine, and muscarinic receptors. In addition to causing weight gain, antipsychotics can also impair glucose metabolism, increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and cause hypertension, all of which can lead to metabolic syndrome and worsen obesity-related diseases. The antipsychotics most likely to cause weight gain are olanzapine, risperidone, and quetiapine.