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Will Stress Cause Weight Loss

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Can stress or anxiety cause weight loss?

In both of the studies, people self-reported their weight, and the researchers didnt collect any information about physical activity. But, one can cautiously assume that most of the weight changes were due to people gaining or losing body fat.

So why did people gain or lose weight this last year? And what explains the dramatic differences?

Many people find comfort in high-calorie food. That is because chocolate and other sweets can make you happy by boosting serotonin levels in the short term. However, the blood clears the extra sugar very quickly, so the mental boost is extremely short-lived, leading people to eat more. Eating for comfort can be a natural response to stress, but when combined with the lower motivation to exercise and consumption of low-nutrient, calorie-dense food, stress can result in unwanted weight gain.

What about weight loss? In a nutshell, the brain is connected to the gut through a two-way communication system called the vagus nerve. When you are stressed, your body inhibits the signals that travel through the vagus nerve and slows down the digestive process. When this happens, people experience fullness.

Ways To Calm Your Mind And Body

By no means is this list exhaustive. Merely think of it as a jumping-off point for brainstorming. Its more important to collaboratively explore what a client feels works for them and much less important to serve as a human encyclopedia of stress-relievers.

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1. Cadegiani FA, Kater CE. Body composition, metabolism, sleep, psychological and eating patterns of overtraining syndrome: Results of the EROS study . J Sports Sci. 2018 Aug 36:190210.

2. Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010 May 72:35764.

3. Grammatikopoulou MG, Gkiouras K, Markaki A, Theodoridis X, Tsakiri V, Mavridis P, et al. Food addiction, orthorexia, and food-related stress among dietetics students. Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Aug 23:45967.

Talk With Your Doctor

Doctors and therapists create individualized treatment plans for people living with an anxiety disorder. Medications other than those mentioned might be recommended in some cases, which could potentially affect your appetite and weight.

If you experience weight loss while being treated for anxiety, talk with you doctor to determine whether it’s related to your medication or possibly another medical condition. This is especially important if you experience new symptoms along with the weight loss.

Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.

  • Doctors and therapists create individualized treatment plans for people living with an anxiety disorder.
  • If you experience weight loss while being treated for anxiety, talk with you doctor to determine whether it’s related to your medication or possibly another medical condition.

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What Exactly Is A Stress Belly

Basically, stress belly is not a medical diagnosis, its a way of describing how stress and stress hormones can affect your weight, especially your belly. For instance, higher levels of cortisol – the primary stress hormone – have been associated with abdominal obesity. This crucial hormone produced in the adrenal gland also helps with blood sugar control, metabolism and many other functions in the body. Cortisol, along with other hormones like adrenaline, is a part of the bodys fight or flight response that occurs when faced with a crisis. During a stressful event, cortisol levels rise to give you a surge of energy to help you deal with the event. And once the stress is addressed, everything returns to normal.

Anxiety Can Cause Weight Gain

Overcome Stress, Get Your Cortisol Levels And Your Weight ...

Weight gain can be a symptom of anxiety. But anxiety doesnât always cause weight gain. Thatâs because the relationship is fairly complicated. The causes of gaining weight from anxiety are as follows:

  • Cortisol The key reason that some people with anxiety have trouble managing their weight is because of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released during times of stress, which means that itâs also released during anxiety. Cortisol causes fat to build up around the midsection, and is one of the primary reasons that those with stress have trouble maintaining their weight.
  • Excess Eating In some people, anxiety can also trigger excess eating. This may occur for two reasons. First, some people find that food provides a valuable coping tool, because it may release endorphins which improve the mood. Second, some people experience more hunger when theyâre stressed. Not everyone experiences either of these reactions, which is why not everyone gains weight. The differences may also be very subtle, and you may not realize youâre eating more than you used to.
  • Inactivity In addition, some people find that anxiety is very draining. They may sleep more, or they may sit at home more than they used to. This level of inactivity means that theyâre burning fewer calories, which in turn means they gain more weight.

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Stress Can Cause Digestive Issues

When you feel threatened, your body releases the hormone cortisol .

Cortisol redirects blood flow away from your digestive system and toward your brain and muscles. This is your bodys natural stress response, and it makes sense: when youre in immediate danger, its more important to think and move than it is to digest.

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These symptoms can make it difficult to eat, causing you to lose weight over time.

Get To The Root Of The Problem

While all of these tips will help you fight off weight loss from stress, you must get to the root of your stress. Usually, to be stressed out long enough to cause stress weight loss, something has to be having a pretty big impact on your life.

Is it a long term project for work? A new living situation? An unhealthy relationship? Constantly having too much on your plate?

Whatever it is, identify it, and start working on how you can make it less intense. Remember, while some stress in life is inevitable, you dont have to be stressed all the time, and its always okay to ask for help.

If the tips above and other lifestyle changes and stress management methods dont help, it might be time to consider other potential causes of weight loss.

Neda Shamsdiba

Neda Shamsdiba is a freelance writer with a background in environmental science. She uses her words to support the personal growth and elevation in consciousness in herself and others. As an avid explorer and citizen of the world, shes always looking for the next adventure.

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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.

Treatments For Weight Gain

Can Stress Cause Weight Loss Or Gain? What Actually Happens.

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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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.

Stress Can Release Excessive Epinephrine

When you are extremely stressed out, your body responds to it and releases epinephrine or adrenaline. Adrenaline prepares our body and mind for vigorous activities, but it sometimes kills our appetite.

If too much adrenaline is released, it can also affect our reproductive, immune, and digestive systems. Too much adrenaline also speeds up your metabolism. This means you will be burning calories at a much faster rate.

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What Will I Learn In Class

You will learn to:

  • stop unhelpful behaviors and patterns that cause you to gain weight,
  • use simple mindfulness strategies in your day-to-day life,
  • learn how to manage the stress and discomfort that comes with change, and
  • approach life with more flexibility, openness, and self-compassion.

We’ll encourage you to experiment with different mindfulness strategies to relieve stress, like mindful eating, brief meditation, or connecting with others in a meaningful way.

Stress Can Change Your Eating Habits

Stress &  Weight Loss

Stress also changes your behavior in ways that can make you lose weight.

For example, you may skip lunch because youre behind on a project at work, or you may be so preoccupied with a problem in your life that you forget to eat.

Not eating enough can worsen symptoms of stress because you arent getting the nutrients your body needs.

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When To See The Doc

Sometimes, stress weight loss resolves itself. If you are experiencing stress-related weight loss but are still eating nourishing meals, understand what is causing you to experience stress, and see an end to your stressors in sight, you might not need to worry about it too much, says Poon.

On the flip side, if youre not sure why youre losing weight, you arent eating enough or drinking enough water, or youre experiencing extreme stress, possibly due to something like a loss or trauma, she says it might be a good idea to seek professional help.

It wouldnt hurt to chat with your doctor or mental health practitioner, says Poon. I would say that it becomes essential to visit your doctor or practitioner if your stress-related weight loss is out of the ordinary for you, if you have stopped eating nourishing meals, or if your stress feels overwhelming.

Can Stress Cause You To Gain Weight

Stress and added body weight have a reciprocal relationship. Chronic stress can increase stress hormone levels, disrupt your sleep patterns, and even cause you to change your eating habits. All of these can lead to adding a few extra pounds. Many stressful situations at work or in the home can last for long periods of time, and as a result chronic stress has a strong correlation to obesity.

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What Are The Risks Of Stress And Weight Gain

When we live in a constant high-alert state, our cortisol levels remain unnaturally high and can cause all kinds of symptoms and long-term health problems.

Weight gain is often the most noticeable outward sign of chronic adrenal stress. But this isnt just about your jeans feeling tight. Hormonally driven weight gain increases your risk for many serious health issues:

  • high blood pressure

The Health Effects Of Being Overweight

Can anxiety cause weight loss? Try this simple technique

Even if you are not yet heading toward the dangerous end of the body mass index, getting a handle on stress is essential for your health. Though you may not feel it in the short-term, high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones can have disastrous effects on your overall wellness in the long term.

  • type 2 diabetes

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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.

Is It Normal To Hit A Weight

It can be frustrating to see those numbers on the scale stop movingbut its important to know that weight-loss plateaus are normal. A 2019 article in Medical Clinics of North America reports that weight loss plateaus are near ubiquitous: Obesity interventions typically result in early rapid weight loss followed by a weight plateau and progressive regain.

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How To Get Rid Of The Weight Loss Anxiety Symptom

Similar to eliminating any anxiety symptom, you can eliminate anxiety-related weight loss by dealing with your anxiety issues, reducing your bodys stress, and giving your body ample time to respond favorably. As your body recovers from hyperstimulation, anxiety-related weight loss should subside.

Faithfully practicing your recovery strategies, including addressing the underlying factors of your anxiety so that your bodys stress can diminish, can help resolve anxiety-related weight loss.

As hyperstimulation is eliminated, and as your stomach and digestive system return to normal functioning, youll likely find that your weight stabilizes and eventually returns to normal.

The Role Of Cortisol In The Body

How to reduce stress to lose weight!

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.

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What You Can Do To Treat Or Lose Stress Belly

Various factors, including age and genetics, influence where your body stores fat. But there are many things you can do to lose belly fat and maintain weight loss. Here are a few tips that you can follow:

  • Eat a balanced diet: Adopt a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A healthy diet can help you reach or maintain weight. Research suggests that eating foods high in B vitamins can help relieve stress. So, consider adding a lot of dark, green, leafy vegetables, bananas, etc, to your diet.
  • Reduce total calories: Limit foods that are high in calories with little to no nutrition. Avoid added fructose and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Also, avoid or drink alcohol in moderation – this is important because alcoholic beverages are high in calories.
  • Get more active: A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of many serious health problems, including weight gain. Daily exercise can help you reduce belly fat, boost your mood among several other benefits. It is suggested that one should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days and strength training on other days. You should include a good amount of exercise in your daily routine to lose weight.
  • Quit smoking: Studies have shown that smoking cigarettes is a risk factor for abdominal obesity as well as several other health concerns. So, if you do smoke, kicking the butt can significantly reduce belly fat while also improving overall health.
  • Stress Can Cause Stomach And Digestion Problems

    When the body experiences stress, it goes into fight or flight mode. In fight or flight mode, the body receives a burst of energy, which increases heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, enhances vision, and more.

    To maintain this spike in energy, digestion slows down, or in some cases, stops completely, which can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Gastrointestinal distress leads to stomach pains, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or other symptoms.

    Chronic stress can also cause irritable bowel syndrome , or intensify the severity of symptoms.

    The symptoms of gastrointestinal distress and IBS commonly lead to a reduced food intake, which in turn leads to weight loss.

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    Can Stress Cause Weight Gain

    Youre having problems at work or at home. Youre stressed, and its beginning to show — in more ways than one. Youve noticed a bulge around your mid-section that wasnt there before. Where are these extra pounds coming from?

    Stress could be one of the culprits. It plays a role in weight gain. While it can make you have less of an appetite at first, long-term “chronic” stress actually boosts your hunger.

    Have A Support System In Place

    How Stress Causes Weight Gain

    If you regularly find yourself forgetting to eat and losing a concerning amount of weight when youre stressed, work on building a support team of friends and professionals you can turn to when you see yourself slipping into these patterns.

    You can also check out mental health resources like these for support:

    • Mindshift is an app that includes guided meditations and a journaling feature to track your emotions.
    • SAM is an app built to help you manage your stress and even offers an option to share your experiences with the apps community confidentially.
    • If you need to talk to someone, you can reach out to a crisis hotline. Cant call? You can text HELLO to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.

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