Can Stress Cause Weight Loss Even When Eating: Physiological Mechanisms Behind Stress
Have you noticed that you have been losing weight without trying and cannot explain the reason behind this? People claim that if you overtax yourself, either thorough work or due to personal matters you may find yourself shedding a couple of pounds without putting in any effort. But is this true? Can stress cause weight loss even when eating all the right foods?
While many people would give almost anything to shed a couple of extra pounds, weight loss is not the goal for everyone. Some people hope to maintain their current weight while others may be struggling to add some extra kilograms. To these people unexplained weight loss is not something they desire.
If you are in either of these two groups and are wondering why am I losing weight?, read on to find out can stress cause weight loss even when eating, causes of unexplained weight loss, and risks of extreme weight loss and much more.
Can Stress Cause Weight Loss Is It True How Does
August 4, 2021 | saman
Many people have this doubt in mind can stress cause weight loss? The straightforward answer is yes. But, not only stress leads to weight loss for some people but it also contributes to weight gain. Stress is one of the major culprits in our body that gives birth to a lot of health issues. It makes some people skip their meals and opt for nutritionally-poor food options.
Moreover, it can also cause some to skip the idea of eating. But, the sigh of relief is that the sudden change is often temporary in nature. Once the stress triggers go down, people get back to their regular food habits. You already know stress can make people put on weight. But, do you know the process? It starts working by alleviating the appetite but, over time, it enhances hunger in the body.
The matter of concern is that almost every person deals with stress on a day-to-day basis. So, its hardly possible to make the mind 100% worry-free. But, we can at least try to manage it to an extent.
The post will help you to know about the relationship between stress and weight. Go through it and you will get some motivation to manage your stress.
Stress And Weight Loss: Connection Treatments And Prevention
Chronic stress is a severe health condition that may harm both your physical and mental well-being. Stress affects many people in different ways. Not all, but many people suffering from stress may experience sudden weight loss. This significant weight reduction is a common symptom seen in stress-related health disorders.
Weight loss usually happens when you miss your meals or choose food without enough nutrients. But did you know that stress can cause weight loss? Yes, researchers prove that weight loss and stress have a connection. Stressed people may have lost their likeliness to eat well. Lets find out more about stress and weight loss throughout this article.
Prepare Meals Ahead Of Time
Following suit from tips 3 and 4, meal prep is a great way to stop stress and anxiety from causing unintentional weight loss. Use your slower/rest days to prepare food ahead of time. Doing so will give you the peace of mind that your meals are all portioned out and ready to go for the week ahead.
Meal prepping will prevent stress-related overeating when you’re at home and ensure you don’t forget to eat on those go-go-type days.
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.
Read Also: How To Beat Fear And Anxiety
The Many Ways Stress & Anxiety Can Cause Weight Loss Even When You Are Eating
Can Stress Cause Weight Loss? Chronic stress can have several effects on your mental and physical health. Aside from the usual headaches and neck pains, stress can cause weight loss even without any changes to your eating habits or diet.
You usually lose weight when you change your diet, restrict calories, or get in the habit of regular exercises. Those are healthy ways to lose weight, and people are encouraged to do it to remain healthy.
However, unintentional weight loss is a serious concern as it may indicate health issues so if you start to lose weight without trying, it is time to see your doctor for a health check-up.
Several health conditions can cause unintentional weight loss and stress is one of the most common reasons for it.
When Is Weight Loss Cause For Concern
Although dropping a pound or two typically isnt cause for concern, unexpected or undesired weight loss takes a toll on your body.
See a doctor or other healthcare professional if youve lost five percent or more of your overall body weight in any 6- to 12-month period.
You should also see a doctor if you:
- are losing weight without trying
- have chronic headaches
- feel persistently on edge
- find yourself using alcohol or drugs as a way to cope
Your doctor can determine whether your symptoms are related to stress or due to another underlying condition. Whatever the cause, your provider can work with you to develop healthy coping strategies and prescribe medication, if needed.
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Stress And Weight Loss/weight Gain
Stress hormones can counteract the feel-good effects of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA. Because of that, the food you eat wont have the same pleasurable feelings, nor will it satiate you as much as it normally would.
In other words, when your stress hormone balance is out of whack, appetite regulation will be too. Your body will also be prone to storing excess calories/nutrients as body fat for long-term energy reserves.
The impact stress has on a person’s eating habits can lead to unintended weight loss or weight gain. So, what can be done to remedy this problem and avoid stress-related weight loss/weight gain?
When To Talk To Your Doctor About Unexplained Weight Loss
If youre losing weight when youre under stress, but its just a couple of pounds, focus on getting through the stress and taking care of your body. Here are signs, though, that you may need to see a doctor:
- Youve dropped more than 5% of your body weight without meaning to, or around 10 pounds.
- The weight loss is happening alarmingly quickly.
- Youre experiencing digestive problems, such as diarrhea.
Your doctor will want to rule out or treat you for depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, all of which could lead either to weight loss or gain, says Goodpastor. If its a medication thats causing weight loss, you might need an adjustment, and if you are facing food scarcity or economic distress, she may be able to refer you to an organization that can help.
And of course, stress can and does trigger or exacerbate existing eating disorders, such as ARFID or anorexia. ARFID stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, which is extreme picky eating that gets worse over time and that has nothing to do with wanting to lose weight, but nonetheless results in a person not eating enough. ARFID can be pretty bad and Im sure you know anorexia is downright dangerous, says Rosmarin. The bottom line is persistent failure to maintain an adequate weight requires professional intervention.
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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.
Eat In Small Quantities
You might not feel hungry at all when you feel stress, which is why we recommend you consume small quantities of food during such periods. It is going to be tough taking even a bite, but trust the process. Equip yourself to get back up, find your ground, and stay put. For that, you need a human beings basic need food! Eat just a little or make a juice or smoothie and drink it. You will slowly start getting back to your normal food habits.
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Are There Other Ways Stress Leads To Weight Gain
Yes. Not only can stress influence your cortisol levels, but not managing it can also lead to other unhealthy behaviors that can also lead to weight gain. Here are a few:
Eating food can be a way to soothe difficult emotions for some, which, like in every rom-com, might be why you’re more tempted to eat ice cream after a breakup or an argument with your partner. That’s because of the dopamine hit, or pleasurable feeling, we get from eating palatable, high-calorie foods, Dr. Youdim says. “When weâre stressed or when we have difficult emotions or an emotional, psychological void, we search for ways to feel pleasure.”
But emotional eating can lead to unhealthy eating habits, like snacking at odd hours when you normally wouldn’t, or eating a lot more of foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition. Those unhealthy eating habits can then lead to weight gain.
Binge eating is a disorder in which a person eats an unusually large amount of food in one sitting in order to deal with negative emotions. It goes beyond the common kind of emotional eating mentioned aboveâpeople who binge eat may also feel guilt and shame for their behavior, or feel like they have a lack of control. While it can certainly lead to weight gain, binge eating can also have detrimental mental health effects. If this is something you’re experiencing, it’s best to see a doctor who can help you determine the best course of action.
Eating fast food
Drinking more alcohol
Work With A Licensed Therapist
Work with professionals who will guide you in learning ways to manage stress and weight-related issues. If you’re suffering from anxiety due to prolonged stress and feel your weight or physical health is being affected, a licensed therapist can help you. With compassion and expertise, licensed therapists are equipped to help you develop positive and healthy eating habits. You can read reviews of some BetterHelp therapists below, from people experiencing similar issues.
“Shana is a very helpful and thoughtful counselor. Shana not only helped me work through my immediate problems but discussed a path forward so that I could find more time to enjoy myself and manage the stress and anxiety in the future. I really appreciate her counseling.”
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Stress And Blood Sugar
Another physical aspect to stress is that it can affect your blood sugar levels. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol make it harder for insulin to work, and this causes your blood sugar levels to rise. Heightened blood sugar is associated with weight changes, and serious conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Scientists Discover Link In Brain Between Anxiety And Weight Loss
JUPITER, FL Scripps Research scientists have published a study revealing a shared mechanism for both anxiety and weight loss. Their research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, describes a key molecule that triggers anxiety in the brain, while also increasing metabolism and fat burning.
“Weve found a relationship between anxiety and weight loss, says Baoji Xu, PhD, professor on the Florida campus of Scripps Research and senior author of the study. This research could guide new therapies for anxiety and help researchers design treatments for obesity.
Anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental health disorders in the world. Along with the psychological effects, many people have noticed that weight changes accompany periods of anxiety and stress.
Xu, a long-time obesity researcher, noticed the same phenomenon in a group of mice engineered to lack a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor . These mice showed anxiety-like symptoms and stayed lean.
Even on a high-fat diet, these mice were really lean, says Xu. Could the same thing be happening in humans?
Answering that question required a study of how BDNF works. Normally scientists simply turn off a gene to find out what it does. There was a challenge with BDNF, though: Previous work had shown it is mandatory for brain development, learning and memory. They needed a mouse model that had normal BDNF in some areas of the brain, but not the areas they wanted to study.
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Can Obesity Cause Anxiety
There has been a significant amount of research that establishes a connection between anxiety and obesity. While obesity does not directly cause anxiety, some evidence suggests that obesity contributes to anxiety because it throws off a persons hormones, of which can potentially contribute to other behaviors that produce anxiety. That being said, it has also been suggested that anxiety may play a role in certain issues that may eventually lead to the development of obesity. Discussed in more detail below are some ways in which anxiety and stress may contribute to weight gain: