Stress is a normal part of life, but prolonged stress can take a toll on our physical and mental health. Weight loss is one of the many physical symptoms of stress that people experience.
While some people may see stress-related weight loss as a positive outcome, it can be a sign of a more severe underlying issue.
Stress-induced weight loss may lead to malnutrition, weakness, muscle atrophy, and other adverse health effects. Therefore, it is crucial to address stress-related weight loss as soon as possible.
Why Do We Lose Weight While Under Stress?
Stress is a well-known contributor to gastrointestinal problems, as it triggers the body's "fight or flight" response which results in an energy surge that speeds up certain bodily processes such as heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and vision. However, digestion slows down or even halts to keep up with this energy surge, which can lead to stomach discomfort, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.
Prolonged emotional or physical stress can exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or even lead to its development. Additionally, weight loss is a common side effect of both IBS and gastrointestinal distress, as they can reduce appetite. Stress can also contribute to the onset of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which are often characterized by decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss.
Reasons you might be losing weight due to stress
Increased physical labour
Stress can be reduced, and mood and self-esteem can be boosted by regular physical activity. Fidgeting, leg-shaking, pacing, and other anxious motions are also frequently linked to anxiety and stress.
As a way to deal with stress is often helpful and recommended to do some kind of physical activity. Yet if you're not careful, excessive exercise and a lack of food might cause you to lose a lot of weight due to stress.
It's well-established that stress shortens the time you sleep and increases the number of times you wake up during the night. Constant or excessive stress can lead to weariness and a loss of appetite, which contribute to stress-related weight loss.
If you forget or miss meals while you're stressed or working overtime, it can be too late for normal meals by the time you finish your shift. In this situation, the likelihood of eating a hasty, unhealthy meal that makes you feel worse rises.
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Just like food doesn't sound good when you're feeling bloated, uncomfortable, or in pain from your stomach, nausea can do the same thing.
How can you avoid stress-induced weight loss?
Meals should be scheduled by setting a timer on your phone if you tend to skip them when you're overwhelmed. Make these regular meals something to look forward to by permitting yourself to relax for 20 minutes and indulge in a favorite pastime like reading a book.
If you're having trouble eating full meals, try spacing out your snacks throughout the day. Eating at the right times of day can improve your ability to handle stress, decrease inflammation, keep your digestive tract in good shape, and keep your circadian rhythm steady.
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If you experience stomach discomfort or nausea due to anxiety or worry consuming large or normal-sized meals may be challenging. Instead, try having a tasty bean salad with avocado instead of a large serving of pasta, and attempt to finish it. If eating three small meals per day appears too much right now, consider incorporating healthy calories in the form of blended fruits, vegetables, and nut butters. Snacking throughout the day with nutritious options such as a bowl of grapes or a handful of nuts can also help increase your calorie intake. As you become more accustomed to eating smaller meals, you can train your body to handle larger ones.
Nourish Your Body with Stress-Busting, Mood-Boosting Foods
The healing properties of food extend beyond their physical benefits to the psyche as well. Vitamin B is only one of several nutrients found in food that can help alleviate stress and lift your mood. Whole grains, seeds and nuts, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, avocados, bananas, and many other foods are good sources of vitamin B, which helps alleviate stress.
Refuel immediately after exercise
Weight loss due to stress is common if you exercise to cope but aren't getting enough calories. Whenever you work out, you should always eat something afterward.
If you don't want to forget, eat right after you work out. Focus on high-protein or high-carbohydrate items like avocado, nuts, yogurt, a banana, an apple with nut butter, rice cakes, or a protein smoothie; there's no need to overeat.
To make things even more convenient, you can buy protein drinks already created. Eating immediately following exercise has been shown to improve muscle protein synthesis, decrease protein breakdown, and speed up the reconditioning process for tired muscles, all of which can help avoid stress-related weight loss. Having some protein the day after a workout is another way to increase your performance the next day.
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Relax and take a break
Set aside one hour each day to relax. It seems impossible when you have a million things to accomplish, but an hour isn't much of your day. You should make time in your schedule to relax and unwind, even if it means getting up an hour earlier to accomplish this.
Take care of yourself
Engaging in artistic activities can be a great way to reduce stress, as it can lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. The best part is that you don't have to be good at it; just let your imagination run wild and create something, whether it's a drawing, painting, coloring book page, poem, or any form of art. It can be a fun and creative outlet for stress, allowing you to express yourself and unwind.
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Stress-related weight loss can be a serious issue that affects many people, and it's essential to understand the underlying causes and how to deal with them. While it may seem like a desirable outcome for those struggling with excess weight, losing weight due to stress can have negative consequences for both physical and mental health. It's crucial to address the root causes of stress and to seek professional help if necessary.