Stress Weight Loss— Why You Need To Care About It
While the phrase “you are what you eat” is true, our bodies are a lot more complicated than just food-to-energy conversion machines. There’s a lot that goes into maintaining your body weight thanks to all the different things that can have an effect on it.
Chronic stress can often be a cause of unexplained weight loss and low energy. The tendency for stress to cause weight loss will differ from person to person.
Long-term stress is by no means a joke and we need to address the underlying issues and find out what is causing them. Here’s everything you need to know about stress weight loss.
What Is Stress?
Stress can be simply defined as a feeling of emotional or physical tension caused by anything, from internal illnesses to external circumstances that make you nervous, frustrated, or angry. Stress is your body’s response to change.
While we mostly talk about it in a destructive sense, stress in short bursts is actually beneficial for our body. Acute stress is the tension we feel when we slam on our car brakes to prevent a crash or when we ski down a scary slope. This short-term stress fades away quite quickly after the initial event is over. It’s usually a good thing because it elevates your instincts and makes you more alert to the danger. You react faster thanks to the stress.
A problem occurs when stress becomes chronic and leads to problems like anxiety. Simply put, anxiety is the stress that occurs even after a stressor is gone or when a stressor isn’t present. Stress is our reaction to the stressor and anxiety is our reaction to the stress.
When the stress response is activated again and again, it can cause damage to our mind and body. It makes us feel like we’re always in a “fight or flight” mode and leaves us overwhelmed.
How Do You Identify Stress Weight Loss?
You’ve noticed that you’ve been losing weight but you’re not sure if stress has anything to do with it. Here are some signs that you’re experiencing stress weight loss. These are all signs that your body is under a state of chronic stress.
- Muscle aches and pains
- Indigestion and other bowel problems
- Mood changes
- Low energy
- Problems with falling and staying asleep
- Fuzzy brain feelings (problems with short term memory)
- Increased heart rate
- Lower sex drive
If you notice these issues along with unexplained weight loss, the culprit could be stress. Let’s take a look at why you lose weight because of stress.
Why Does Stress Weight Loss Occur?
When you’re constantly stressed, your body is under a lot of pressure and this affects all your internal functions. Not to mention the bad habits we start to adopt when we’re stressed, like staying up late or skipping lunch. All of this has an impact on the way our body works.
The Fight or Flight Response Affects Your Metabolism
The ‘acute stress response’, also known as the fight or flight response to stress, prepares your body for a threat. Hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released to prepare your body for any physical exertion.
Cortisol is a hormone that plays a pivotal role causing damage during periods of chronic stress. It suppresses ‘nonessential’ functions like the digestive, reproductive and immune systems. High levels of cortisol can reduce your appetite and cause weight loss.
Hyperstimulation and Gastrointestinal Distress
Stress has an impact on your nervous system because the flight or fight response diverts attention away from non-essential functions that can’t help you in an ‘emergency’. This in-turn affects the communication lines (nerves) that run between your brain and your GI system.
This can lead to uncomfortable GI symptoms like:
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Problems with swallowing
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in appetite
- Muscle spasms
Symptoms often become worse for people suffering from GI conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. These symptoms can disturb your eating habits and lead to weight loss.
Stress can affect our vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls how the body breaks down, absorbs and metabolizes food. Stress can lead to inflammation in the vagus nerve, leading to poor absorption of nutrients, thus leading to stress weight loss.
If your stress causes sleep problems, it can have an impact on your cortisol levels. Poor sleep or lack of sleep leads to high cortisol levels. As discussed earlier, this leads to weight complications.
How to Correct Stress Weight Loss
At this point, you’re probably really worried about what’s happening. We advise that you take a step back and breathe.
Worrying will only make things worse. If stress is something you’re unable to control, contact a therapist. To prevent stress weight loss, you need to make sure you are eating properly. Here are a few tips you should follow:
- Create reminders for set mealtimes. If you’re someone who misses meals because of their stress, just pop some reminders on your phone for mealtimes every day. Keeping a steady eating schedule will help boost your energy, improve stress and keep your metabolism working
- Eat small quantities if you have to. You may not feel like eating something but try to take something small and healthy. It will help keep your stress in check.
- Skip the sweets! Sugar is the worst thing a person can eat under stress. It feels good for a few minutes but ruins your internal functions in the long term.
- Stick to natural whole foods. Fruits and veggies with vitamin B and antioxidants are great choices to relieve stress.
- Eat snacks post-work out to replenish your energy.
While stress weight loss is something you can solve yourself, diagnosing the condition is something only a healthcare professional can do. If you’re experiencing unexplained weight loss, make an appointment with your doctor and get yourself checked.
Stay safe and stay healthy!