How stress can cause weight loss or weight gain

Stressed Office Worker With Anti Stress Ball Types Email
Office worker typing email on tablet computer. The woman feels stressed and nervous, holds an antistress yellow ball in her hand

Have you encountered a sudden fluctuation in your weight without putting in any of your efforts ? Be it either the unwanted weight loss or weight gain, there may be a reason why you are facing it. It is due to ‘stress’. Yes! You heard it right ! The sudden undesirable changes in your weight can be due to stress. Often, people ignore considering this factor regarding their changes in weight. But I must say that stress can be a leading factor if you had that unplanned weight change. Stress has a serious effect on how much you weigh. It has the ability to regulate your weight and can lead to either severe weight loss or serious weight gain. Keep reading to find out the connection between your stress and altered weight.

1. Cortisol and stress

The hormone responsible for stress is known as cortisol. At times of severe stress, cortisol is generated in large amounts. With the increase of cortisol in your body, insulin levels are raised. When insulin levels are high, your blood sugar tends to drop. This process results in cravings, especially for sugary and fatty foods. So you now seek for comfort foods instead of your regular foods like salads and healthy meals. Eating comfort foods even for a shorter period increases the count of your daily calorie intake and leads to weight gain. You can also observe that people who are often stressed and restless eat more junk than usual and also have a bulge of fat around their tummy.

When cortisol levels get higher, you tend to make poor food choices like skipping meals, overeating to compensate for your skipped meals or just the intense hunger, consuming more of unhealthy foods, not drinking enough water and trying out fad diets like crash diets etc in order to lose your weight. Basically, if you are prone to stress, you metabolism is slowed down and fat oxidation decreases. Fat oxidation is a process of converting large fat molecules into smaller ones so that they can be used as fuel. When this process does not happen, the unburnt fat is stored which eventually lead to weight gain.

2. Adrenaline and stress

Now that we know cortisol is one hormone produced while we take so much stress, unfortunately in some people there is another hormone produced in excess when compared to cortisol. This is called the adrenaline hormone. Due to increase in the levels of adrenaline, you literally have the energy to carry out your extra works. Thinking this is a good thing, right ? Well, actually not! Here comes the catch! The adrenaline hormone eventually minimizes your desire to eat food. As you engage in various tasks daily, your body does not signal you to eat or make you sense your hunger. If you stay working in your lunch hours or stay late at night without getting enough rest for too long, your body’s internal reaction to stress worsens and you end up losing weight.

Check out for signs like headache, fatigue, muscle aches, indigestion, low sex drive, increased heart beats, mood changes, difficulty in staying or falling asleep etc, to find out if your weight loss is linked to stress. Due to excess stress, you body get into the ‘fight or flight mode’, which means it prepares itself for releasing the stress hormones. The change is your weight is the result of how your body responds to stress. When the digestion process in slowed down in your body, you notice certain gastrointestinal discomforts like stomach pain, diarrhea, heartburn and constipation. This hyperstimulation affects your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from your food.

3. How to get back on track

If you have realized that the changes in your weight are due to stress, it’s time for you to ditch those poor eating habits like overeating, emotional eating and skipping meals. Start by eating at a particular time every day. Set an alarm or a remainder in your mobile just in case you forget the time and get occupied with your work. Be mindful of what you are eating. Start eating healthy no matter how badly you crave comfort foods. Once your body gets the nutrition it needs, your craving will automatically get turned off.

Start exercising. Do not go for intense workouts as they can raise your cortisol levels. Opt for aerobic exercises and cardio like walking, swimming, cycling etc. They are a great way to reduce stress, even if you perform them thrice a week. Practice yoga, meditation or breathing exercises. They are popular for relieving your daily stress. At least 15-20 minutes of these exercises regularly can contribute a lot to your lifestyle.

My last tip for you – ‘write it down’. Make a list of errands you should run in your entire day on the previous day before going to bed or after you wake up in the morning. Maintain a journal and write down how your day has been if you have time. It is a great technique to relieve stress and anxiety.


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