The Role Of Cortisol In The Body
Stress can significantly impact your ability to maintain a healthy weight. It can also prevent you from losing weight. Whether it’s the result of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, unhealthy stress-induced behaviors, or a combination of the two, the link between stress and weight gain is glaring.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
In What Other Ways Can Stress Cause Weight Gain And Bloating
Here are a couple of other ways stress adds to your weight:
Chronic stress makes it harder to sleep well, which also spikes your cortisol levels. Lack of sleep triggers excess hunger as your body tries to make up for lack of energy.
Cortisol also tends to make the fat cells gather around the belly and midsection. So even if youre not eating that bad, fat goes right to this problem area.
In other words: with stress weight, you gain a belly.
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.
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Cortisol And Sugar Cravings
Cue the sugar cravings. Because sugar supplies your body with the quick energy it thinks it needs, it’s often the first thing you reach for when you’re stressed.
The downside to consuming so much sugar is that your body tends to store sugar, especially after stressful situations. This energy is stored mainly in the form of abdominal fat, which can be particularly hard to shed. And so the vicious cycle starts: get stressed, release cortisol, gain weight, crave more sugar, eat more sugar, gain more weight.
An Introduction To How Stress May Affect Body Weight
can stress make you lose weight
Thats why there are various answers to the question, can stress make you lose weight? But before we dive into what causes weight gain or weight loss when you are stressed, you should understand how rampant the problem of stress is.
It is estimated that one-third of all Americans suffer from some form of chronic stress or another. It is also not surprising that America is one of the most overweight countries in the world.
While there may not be a direct correlation, it is not surprising why so many Americans are asking themselves, can stress make you lose weight?
However, if one were to draw a correlation between the high amount of stress and obesity in our culture, then it would be natural to conclude that stress does cause weight gain. Still, the opposite may be true. So can stress make you lose weight? This is what you will find out if you read on.
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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.
Too Stressed To Lose Weight
Most people have heard about stress hormones, particularly cortisol, causing weight gain or preventing weight loss, especially around the midsection.
While being overweight is of course not something people should judge each other or themselves on and fat shaming isnt cool, as a health professional, I will not ever agree to say that overweight and obesity are not a health concern.
They absolutely are. And moreover, stress in and of itself, regardless of your weight, is very damaging to your health.
But we all know that! And despite the body positivity movement, we do know that being overweight and obese is not the ideal status for our bodies.
Theres just an overwhelming amount of science that proves this.
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Increased Levels Of Epinephrine
Also known as adrenaline, it is a hormone that is released by the adrenal glands in the body. Whenever you are stressed, in danger or experience strong emotions such as anger, this hormone is released in large amounts, thus triggering your fight or flight response .aspxâ rel=ânofollowâ> 14).
A surge of adrenaline in the body leads to an increase in heart rate, expanding the air passages of the lungs, enlarged pupils, redistributing blood to the muscles, and high blood pressure, all factors that affect your bodys metabolism by making it move faster. A faster metabolism means that you are burning calories faster than you normally would and this can lead to weight loss.
How To Prevent Future Health Issues
Although decreasing your stress levels may feel impossible some days, you can still manage the effects of elevated cortisol. To begin with, practicing relaxation through mindfulness, meditation, yoga or deep breathing can help bring the production of this hormone back down to normal levels.
Youll also prevent the excess storage of empty calories by ensuring that you consume a diet high in quality foods. Even though your body may be craving a quick fix, aim to eat mostly whole, plant-based foods. Of course, making the decision to eat right isnt always easy, but its worth it. By monitoring your diet, the calories you consume will be turned into energy, not converted into fat and stored by the body.
Finally, exercise is an excellent way to manage your stress hormones too. Whether you go out for a run, take a daily walk with your family or hit the gym, exercising will help maintain your lean body mass. This is especially important during prolonged periods of high cortisol levels.
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Why You Lose Weight
Stress and anxiety are commonly associated with weight gain, and for a good reason – during times of anxiety, the body releases heavy amounts of cortisol, which is a hormone that contributes to weight gain – especially around the midsection. Anxiety also causes further inactivity as people stop engaging in many activities, which can also increase weight gain.
Yet for various reasons, weight loss is also a problem that may occur with anxiety. There are several factors that cause this weight loss to occur:
It’s important to remember that anxiety itself makes you worry about things that shouldn’t necessarily be worried. Weight loss may also simply occur naturally. But if you were not suspecting to lose weight, this can cause significant health concerns. It’s simply the nature of anxiety to cause people to worry about their health.
Hormones That Cause Belly Fat
Having a stressed out hormonal belly can seem super complicated. Its not going to be as simple as counting your calories and exercising more. Your hormones play a vital role in your metabolism and how much weight youre able to lose . If your hormones are out of control then you could be doing everything else right but not getting the results you want.
Ive seen bodybuilders and professional athletes who were unable to get rid of the last of their stomach fat because of hormonal issues. They worked out for hours every day and ate super healthy but their stubborn stress belly refused to go away.
Here are the hormones you should be aware of that can cause abdominal fat
Leptin is known as the anti-starvation hormone and its probably the hormone that plays the biggest role in fat loss . Its released from your fat cells that signal for your brain to start burning or store more fat. In general, the more leptin you have then the faster youre going to lose fat . And since leptin is produced in your fat cells those who are overweight tend to have more of it.
But another problem with having high cortisol levels is it produces leptin resistance . This keeps leptin from doing its job at signaling for your body to burn more fat. And if youre severely cutting calories then your body will release less leptin . This is a survival mechanism that keeps you from losing more weight to keep you alive until you can eat food again.
Sleep, Meditation & CBD
Stress Can Lead To More Activity
When Im stressed or anxious, movement always helps, walking, running, yoga, moving my body in any way. And Im not the only one.
Physical activity is known to reduce stress while improving mood and self-esteem. Plus, nervous movements like fidgeting, leg shaking, pacing, and more are commonly associated with stress.
In many situations, using physical activity to combat the effects of stress is healthy and recommended. But if youre too active, especially while not eating enough, it can quickly lead to significant stress weight loss.
Here Are A Few Strategies You Can Use To Calm Down When You Are Feeling Particularly Stressed Out:
- Write in a journal. Sometimes processing your thoughts by writing about what is going on can help you gain perspective and calm down.
- Talk to a close friend. Much like writing, the sharing of your concerns with a friend or family member can be helpful in easing stress.
- Go for a walk or run. In addition to being a great tool for weight loss, exercise is actually great for helping the body calm down in periods of stress.
- Meditation or yoga. Peaceful and serene movements coupled with deep breathing routines and clearing your mind of stressful thoughts are great tactics in overcoming stressful situations.
Unfortunately, stress will cause many people to engage in unhealthy behaviors that do not at all contribute to weight loss and can actually lead to weight gain. Binge eating and alcohol consumption are two of the biggest examples of how stress can lead to negative behaviors.
If you are feeling stressed out, do your best to find a healthy activity that will help you calm down. Practicing strong stress management tactics can help you stay on track for success in your medical weight loss program.
Read our FREE e-book Chasing Diets and learn about the weight loss program that works.
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Tips For Preventing And Combating Stress
Whether you are dealing with stress belly fat or unwanted weight loss due to stress, there are some things you can do to combat these conditions.
In general, you would want to find a way to slow your metabolism down. Here are some tips on how to slow down metabolism and combat the effects of stress-related weight loss:
- Avoid Situations That Cause Stress Identify your stress triggers and do your best to remove yourself from situations that would expose you to these stress triggers.
- Improve Your Diet Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety.
- Reduce Alcohol Intake Many people may try to treat stress with alcohol. However, in reality, alcohol is a depressant. Once intoxicated, it can make you feel worse about yourself. So, whether you are dealing with stress belly fat, or unhealthy weight loss, cutting down on alcohol can be helpful.
Stress And Weight Loss: What You Need To Know
Stress and weight loss are very closely related. In fact, stress can have such a big impact that you can be doing everything else right and still struggle to lose weight.
In this article we’re going to break down how stress effects your weight loss efforts and what you can do to fix this.
Let’s get started!
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Tips To Better Manage Stress And Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Adding stress-reducing habits into your healthy lifestyle can help you maintain weight loss. Yes, you are capable of losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle but, you need stress management skills. Come, its time to get empowered! Lets find out what experts say are the best ways to deal with stress.
Choose Your Fats Wisely
If stress causes your body to burn less of the fat you eat , aim to include some healthy fat in your mealsbut avoid doubling up. For example, many clients tell me they order a healthy salad for lunch, but the toppings include both olive oil and avocado. Or they might snack on nuts alongside popcorn cooked in oil.
I’m not saying you should eat low-fat meals fat is important for satiety and it’s one of your body’s key building blocks. But to keep it in balance, choose only one high-fat item per meal. For example, if you want avocado on your salad, dress your greens with balsamic vinegar rather than an oil-based vinaigrette.
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How Can I Lose Weight When I’m Busy And Stressed
Asked by Güera, Frederick, Maryland
I tend to go through many weight changes especially when I am in school. What is the best way I could maintain or lose weight when I am very stressed and I do not sleep enough due to schoolwork and chores at home and all other activites?
Diet and Fitness ExpertDr. Melina JampolisPhysician Nutrition Specialist
Is Stress Preventing You From Losing Weight
3 Tips to Manage Stress from Experts to Lose Weight Faster
You cant lose weight if youre stressed out, says research experts. Stress is a major contributor as to why many of us find it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Stress is preventing you from losing weight. Yet, stress cant be eliminated from your life. The solution is to develop better skills to manage stress. Yes, you are capable of handling stress.
Its hard to sleep when youre stressed. When youre tired, emotions can vary, while decision-making skills and energy levels decline.
As such during stressful times, you tend not to exercise. You reach for comfort foods that are most commonly high in sugar, fat, and salt. This tasty trio are well-known culprits of belly fat accumulation, blood pressure elevation, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. And, its worth trying as research says managing stress may be beneficial if you have been struggling to lose weight. Here are 3 tips that experts want you to know about how to manage stress, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and lose weight faster.
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Talk About Your Stress With Someone You Trust
Treatments For Weight Gain
If youve experienced weight gain after going through a period of stress, know that youre not alone. This is common for lots of people, and is probably just a temporary reaction to that stressful time. Following a healthy diet and exercise regime should help you lose weight and get back to normal.
Of course, some people find weight loss a lot more challenging, even with diet and exercise, which is why medicated treatments are available. Here at Online Doctor we can prescribe the weight loss tablets Xenical or Orlistat to people with a BMI over 30, or anyone with a BMI over 28 who has weight-related health issues.
Find out more at our online weight loss clinic.
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Nervous Movement Burns Calories
Some people use physical activity to work through stress. Although an exercise-fueled endorphin rush can reduce your stress, engaging in more physical activity than normal could result in unexpected weight loss.
Sometimes stress triggers unconscious movement, like foot tapping or finger clicking. These tics may help your body process your feelings, but they also burn calories.
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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