Stress & Weight Loss: Is There A Connection?
Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.
While some may reach for a snack or comfort food to self-soothe in times of panic, others may abstain from food and experience weight loss due to stress and depression. Many people can avoid food, falling out of their typical eating routine as a coping mechanism and a way to control their environment and stresses.
Why does stress cause weight loss?
The relationship between stress and weight loss is complex. While it’s common for conflicts to lead to weight gain, they can also be a major factor in weight loss. The key to understanding the link between stress and weight lies in the hormones released in response to stress.
When we feel tense, our bodies release cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate metabolism, appetite and the breakdown of stored fat. In addition, stress can impact our sleeping patterns and eating habits, which explains how stress can make you lose weight.
The pituitary and adrenal glands are responsible for releasing cortisol to help you cope with stresses through a fight or flight response. The stress symptoms affecting your lifestyle and mental, physical and emotional health can lead to an imbalance of cortisol being released into your bloodstream. Too much can lead to weight gain, which can be a struggle to shred, and too little can cause weight loss or difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.
How does stress make you lose weight?
As part of your body’s fight or flight response, your body can shut down or lessen the efficiency of your bodily functions to focus and address your feelings of stress. This is commonly felt in your gastrointestinal system, where symptoms of diarrhoea, constipation, heartburn and aches can be experienced.
But your stress level has more than an impact on your cortisol and weight loss — it has an immense effect on your physical and mental health and can include other symptoms that affect your quality of life, such as:
- Indigestion and gastrointestinal upset
- High blood pressure
- Irritability and mood changes
- Panic attacks
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Difficulty falling or maintaining a deep sleep
- Increased heart rate
- Decreased sex drive
The all-encompassing feeling of stress may affect your appetite, meaning the vagus nerve temporarily fails to transmit signals to the brain assessing whether it is fasting or full. This can cause you to lose all desire to eat at regular meal times or consume a full meal in one sitting. Fidgeting is another response to stress where the constant movement exerts energy that also contributes to weight loss.
How to stop losing weight from stress
If you’re interested in managing your stress and weight loss, there are numerous ways you can maintain your nutrition and a healthy weight to build your resilience to conflict. They include:
- Setting reminders — When you’re focusing on tension, it can be easy to lose time and forget to partake in regular meals. Anticipate this by setting alarms to remind yourself to eat.
- Snack on foods that promote happiness and energy — From antioxidant-rich and immune-boosting fruits and vegetables to Omega 3 fatty acids in nuts and salmon, supplementing your diet with whole foods is a tremendous way you can help manage stress levels.
- Avoid processed and occasional foods — Foods rich in sodium, fats, and added sugar are high on the glycemic index that will soon leave you feeling hungry, tired and sluggish.
- Work in some physical exercise — Fitness in any capacity is a great way to refocus your mind on other areas. Plus, the release of endorphins will help improve your mood and lessen the feeling of stress.
- Decompress — Journaling, yoga, meditation and counselling will help you manage your stress levels and teach you techniques to build your endurance in the face of stress.
Losing a couple of kilos isn’t a huge worry. However, continuous and unwanted stress and weight loss can affect your body, nutrition and health — inside and out. If you have lost more than what would be considered a normal, fair amount, it’s essential to consult your GP.
Manage stress and weight loss with Interval Weight Loss
If you’re looking for an effective weight loss program that will redefine your relationship with food and set you up for success with healthy and delicious food habits, you’ll be in the best hands with Interval Weight Loss. Founded by Dr Nick Fuller from the University of Sydney, you can benefit from a science-backed approach for lasting results. Sign up today to lose some Kgs or for more information, view our resources and try one or two of our recipes with your family.