Stress Weight Loss: Why it Happens And How to Fix It

Stress and anxiety are commonly linked to weight gain. When the body is stressed, a stress hormone known as cortisol is released into the blood stream. The hormone tends to increase your overeating habits.

It also increases insulin levels which results in reduced blood sugar levels. The reduction in blood sugar levels increases the cravings for sugary and fatty foods.

However, weight loss can also occur with stress. Several factors can cause weight loss to happen with anxiety.

What Cause Stress-Related Weight Loss

Here are six common reasons why you might be suffering from stress weight loss.

1. Bad Eating Habits

The lack of appetite for food is one of the leading cause of weight loss in people with anxiety. Weight loss due to disinterest in food is commonly seen in depression.

However, it is also involved in those suffering from anxiety problems. Intense stress is associated with appetite loss. When you're stressed out, you feel as though you're not hungry. As a result, you eat less food than your body needs. Starving yourself during stress can lead to massive unhealthy weight loss.

2. Stress Hormones

Besides the production of cortisol during stressful periods, your body also produces another hormone called corticotrophin-releasing hormone.

Studies have revealed that the hormone is an appetite suppressor. The increase in the concentration of this hormone when you're stressed shuts down your appetite leading to poor eating habits.

The release of these hormones is also known to increase your body's metabolism and fuel requirement. The increase in the metabolism rate enhances the rate at which it burns fuel. Due to poor eating patterns, the body cells acquire energy from the breakdown of fats leading to weight loss.

3. Stress-Related Stomach & Digestion Problems

Stress is likely to cause conditions that are related to the gastrointestinal tract. Peptic ulcer disease is one of the digestive tract disorders that can be caused by stress.

People with stomach distress and digestion problems tend to have poor eating habits. Poor eating habits lead to the breakdown of fats in the body. The depletion of fat stores leads to a reduction in body weight.

stress weight loss digestion

4. Nervous Movement

Stress-response hyper-stimulation will lead to increased nervous energy requirements. Increased nervous activity during stress causes you to constantly move around. It 's hard to rest and relax when you're is stressed.

Others may experience nervous ticks and leg shakes. The constant body movements will demand more energy supply leading to the depletion of the body's fat stores.

5. Changes in Lifestyle

During stressful periods, a lot of lifestyle changes will occur. People experiencing panic attacks tend to stay indoors and drink less. As a result, you're consuming fewer calories. If you used to exercise, you risk losing your muscle mass due to inactivity.

6. Poor Nutrient Uptake

The body is unable to absorb and process nutrients from food during stress. The reduced nutrient absorption can lead to sudden weight loss from stress.

How Much Stress Weight Loss Should Raise Concern?

The body weight tends to fluctuate on a regular basis. However, persistent weight loss of more than five percent of your total body weight over a period of six to twelve months should raise concern.

Losing this amount of weight from stress could indicate poor eating habits whereby the body does not get sufficient nutrients.

Some signs of weight loss due to stress may include:​

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite also known as anorexia
  • Change in an individual’s toilet habits
  • An increase in incidences of illnesses and infections

How to Manage Weight Loss From Stress

Weight loss from stress can be a serious health concern. The first thing you should do when you're trying to recover from unhealthy weight loss should be to calculate your body mass index. When the body mass index is below 18.5, you're considered underweight.

bmi chart

Besides visiting a doctor, another good strategy for managing stress weight loss involves identifying the primary cause of poor eating habits.

Experts recommend writing down factors that cause you to skip meals or eat poorly. Break your day into three or four-hour sessions, and then rate your stress levels during each of the sessions.

You should also note down anything you ate during each of the sessions. After a period of one week, look at the records to get a clear picture of the times you were over-stressed and when you were likely to eat less.

A cool product I like to use to track my eating habits and how I feel with each meal is the Fitbook. It's small enough to carry around with you and makes it easy to track everything from your diet to workout routines and goals. I highly recommend picking one up if you're trying to bounce back from massive stress weight loss. It's a life saver.

fitbook food log

Here are other remedies you can use to get rid of stress-related weight loss:

  • Eat more: Skipping meals or eating less food is common when you're stressed. During high-stress times, you might be too busy to have a chance to eat. It is advisable to plan breaks in your busy schedule to have time for meals. You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you when it's time to eat.
  • Reduce stress levels: One of the most efficient ways of managing weight loss involves focusing on reducing your stress levels. Certain foods and nutrients may help you calm down when you're going through anxiety. An increase in healthy carbohydrates intake may lead to enhanced production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Increased levels of serotonin in the body can improve your mood. Foods that may stimulate the production of serotonin may include yogurt, whole grains or milk.
  • Exercise regularly: Workouts can improve your mental and emotional health when you're stressed. You're able to let go of the day’s worries, and instead focus on the tasks at hand. Regular exercise can also increase your confidence levels. Studies have shown that workouts can lessen feelings of anxiety and stress. Physical activities such as running, yoga and meditation can help reduce stress levels.
  • Slow you metabolism process: This can be achieved by having enough rest, relaxation, and sleep. Slowing down your body’s metabolism rate will reduce its fuel consumption. If you struggle to sleep, try aromatherapy or sleep supplements.

Stress does not always cause weight loss. For some people, stress may lead to weight gain. Body weight changes can be a result of many factors besides stress. If you're stressed out and continue to see weight fluctuation after trying the tips above, consider visiting a doctor to discuss the changes in your body weight and rule out serious causes.