When I’m stressed, I often have two contradictory responses to food. I can eat pasta, chocolate and other comfort foods according to my body weight, or I stop eating.
While most people associate stress with overeating and weight gain, stress-induced weight loss is also common. Weight loss sounds like a positive component of stress, but it’s not. You never want to harm your body by losing weight for unhealthy reasons.
Significant weight loss due to stress can lead to problems like undernutrition, weakness, muscle loss, etc. So if you’re on a trend of stress-induced weight loss, what can you do about it?
What causes weight loss due to stress?
If you are experiencing weight loss due to stress, here are some possible reasons:
Stress can cause stomach and digestive problems
When the body is under 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 rate, blood pressure, enhances eyesight, etc.
To sustain this spike in energy, digestion slows down or in some cases stops altogether, which can lead to digestive upset. Digestive disorders that lead to stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or other symptoms.
Chronic stress can also cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or worsen the severity of symptoms.
The symptoms of digestive disorders and IBS often lead to reduced food intake, which in turn leads to weight loss.
Stress can cause anxiety and depression
Chronic stress can lead to many psychological disorders, including general anxiety disorder. Both general anxiety disorder and less severe levels of anxiety often lead to weight loss.
Anxiety is not the only result of stress; Stress is also linked to the development of depression. For some people, depression can reduce appetite, leading to weight loss.
Stress can lead to more activity
When I’m stressed or anxious, being active always helps, walking, running, yoga, moving my body anyway. And I’m not the only one.
Physical activity is known to reduce stress while improving mood and self-esteem. In addition, nerve movements such as restlessness, leg tremors, back and forth, etc., are often associated with stress.
In many situations, using physical activity to counteract the effects of stress is healthy and encouraged. But being too active, especially when not eating enough, can quickly lead to significant stress-induced weight loss.
Stress can make you too exhausted to eat
I know the stress and anxiety to go through more than the sleepless nights lying in bed, filled with anxiety. We’ve all been there at some point.
Stress is known to decrease sleep time and increase sleep disturbances.
If you’re constantly stressed or over-stressed, you can get so exhausted that you don’t want to eat, which can cause stress-induced weight loss.
Stress can cause you to skip meals
When I’m extremely stressed about deadlines or working on multiple projects at once, I tend to overwork and sometimes forget a meal. I was so focused on work and the next thing I knew it was 4pm and I hadn’t eaten.
If you tend to forget or skip meals when you’re stressed or overworked, then by the time you’re done with work, it may be too late for regularly scheduled meals. This increases your chances of being cornered into a fast, unhealthy meal that makes you feel worse.
Can stress cause nausea?
I mentioned that stress can lead to digestive disorders and irritable bowel syndrome, but stress can also cause nausea.
Just like eating is extremely unappealing when you’re bloated, upset, or have an upset stomach, nausea is also a pretty effective appetite suppressant.
These are just some of the many ways stress-induced weight loss occurs, so what can you do about it?
How to deal with stress-induced weight loss?
1. Schedule meals
If you skip meals when you’re stressed, start scheduling them by setting a timer on your phone.
To make these scheduled meals something you can look forward to, give yourself a quick 20-minute break and do something you enjoy while you eat, like reading a book.
If you’re having trouble completing an entire meal, schedule several snacks throughout the day.
It is best to schedule your meals at the same time each day. Proper meal timing can help increase resistance to stress, reduce inflammation, better manage gut health, and help regulate circadian rhythms.
2. Bite the baby
If your stomach feels tight or you feel nauseous when stressed, eating large or even normal-sized meals can be a challenge, so start small. .
Instead of trying to eat a giant bowl of pasta for lunch, eat a delicious bean salad with avocado and eat small portions.
If even tackling three small meals a day feels like too much at the moment, then drink your calories, but in a good way. Make healthy smoothies filled with fruits, vegetables, and nut butters.
You can replenish your calories by snacking throughout the day, just keep it healthy, such as a bowl of grapes or a handful of nuts.
When you manage to eat small meals and snacks, you can help your body prepare for tackling larger meals.
3. Eat foods that fight stress and improve your mood
Food is truly medicine, and while it is a healing tool for the body, it is also a healing tool for the mind.
Many foods can help reduce stress and put you in a better mood, such as B vitamins. B vitamins help reduce stress and can be found in whole grains, seeds and nuts, and green leafy vegetables. bold, citrus fruit, avocado, banana, etc
And a simple bowl of oatmeal can reduce stress and release serotonin.
But my favorite option is pure, all-natural cocoa. Pure cocoa or chocolate without many artificial ingredients and too much sugar has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, memory, immunity and can reduce depression.
Speaking of cocoa, if you have a chance to attend a cocoa ceremony, do it! I promise you won’t regret it.
4. Notice what upsets your stomach
When your stomach hurts from stress, it’s more important than ever to be present and notice how everything you eat impacts your stomach.
A few months ago, I started developing strange stomach symptoms. I won’t go into the details, but my stomach hurts most of the time, and I’ve gone from wanting to eat to never being really hungry.
After I started paying attention, I realized I was just traveling around the tropics with tons of fresh fruit everywhere coming winter in NY and less fruit around me. I also ate more rice.
So I changed my eating habits and ate oatmeal with fresh fruit for breakfast every day and ate less rice. My stomach started to feel better after a few days and returned to normal after over a week.
So, try to keep track of when your stomach is at its worst and make a list of the things you’ve eaten that could be causing it so you can adjust your diet.
In addition to raising awareness about dietary issues, food tracking can help you make better food choices, and it’s one way to practice mindful eating.
5. Choose Healthy Prepared Foods
There have been so many times when I opened the refrigerator door, found nothing to eat and thought, “I’ll eat later”.
When you’re stressed and exhausted, preparing food is probably the last thing on your mind. Not wanting to prepare food can easily make you lose your appetite and lead to weight loss due to stress.
So, instead, find some local health food stores that offer door-to-door delivery, or visit your local health food store and buy some fresh meals. or frozen to keep for the week.
If your stress comes and goes, or you suddenly have a burst of energy or take time to rest, you can also try getting in the habit of preparing meals.
6. Always Refuel After Exercise
If you manage stress through exercise but don’t eat enough, chances are you’ll lose weight due to stress. So make sure you always eat something after exercising.
Eat something right after your workout so you don’t forget. This doesn’t have to be a big meal, but focus on foods that are high in protein or carbohydrates, like avocados, nuts, yogurt, bananas, applesauce with nut butter, rice cakes, or protein smoothies.
You can even buy ready-made protein drinks at the store, to make it as easy as possible.
Eating after exercise helps prevent stress-induced weight loss and has other benefits, like increased muscle protein synthesis, reduced protein breakdown, and more efficient muscle recovery.
Eating protein after exercise can also help improve your performance the next day.
7. Rest and de-stress
Schedule an hour a day for you to focus on reducing stress. I know it feels impossible sometimes, especially when you have a mile-long to-do list, but an hour is only a small part of your day.
Even if that means waking up an hour earlier for more time in the day, it’s important to set aside time just for you to focus on de-stressing.
Here are some ways you can reduce stress every day:
- Spend time outside: Spending time in nature reduces stress and anxiety and improves overall health, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
- Practicing Yoga: There are many benefits of yoga, including stress relief. I love to immerse myself in a restorative stream or relaxing sound at the end of a long day.
- Practice self-care: There are many helpful self-care habits that you can practice on a daily basis. One of my favorites is the hot tub, candlelight, steaming combined with some inspirational material.
- Unleash your creativity: Creativity lowers cortisol levels. You don’t have to create a masterpiece, just create anything. Draw, draw, color, write a poem, etc.
8. Get to the root of the problem
While all these tips will help you lose weight due to stress, you have to find the root of the stress. Usually, for stress to last long enough to lead to stress-induced weight loss, something must have had a sizable 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 finding ways to make it less stressful. Remember, while some stress in life is inevitable, you don’t have to be stressed all the time and you can always get help.
If the tips above and other stress management and lifestyle changes don’t help, it may be time to look at other potential causes of weight loss.