I usually have two polar opposite responses to food when I’m stressed. Either I eat my body weight in pizza, chocolate, and other comfort foods, or I just avoid eating.
While most people relate stress to overeating and weight gain, weight loss due to stress is also common. Losing weight might sound like a positive stress part, but it doesn’t. You never want to hurt your body by losing weight for unhealthful reasons.
Significant weight loss due to stress can lead to problems such as nutritional deficiency, fatigue, muscle loss, and more. So, if you’re on the weight loss due to stress side of the continuum, what can you do about it?
What Causes Weight Loss Due To Stress ?
If you have a weight loss due to stress, here are some of the potential reasons:
Stress Can Cause Nausea
I have already stated that stress can contribute to gastrointestinal and IBS ( irritable bowel syndrome ) disorders, but stress can also cause nausea.
Just like food is super unappealing when you’re bloated, uncomfortable, or have abdominal pain, nausea is a fairly strong appetite suppressant, too.
These are just some reasons of weight loss due to stress, but what can you do about it ?
Stress Can Make You Skip Meals
When I’m extremely stressed about a deadline or managing several tasks at the same time, I tend to get into overdrive work and often forget about food. I get hyper-focused on work, and the next thing I know, it’s four o’clock, and I haven’t eaten.
If you appear to forget or skip meals because you’re tired or overworked by the time you’re finished working, it’s probably too late for daily scheduled meals. This increases your chances of fitting in a fast, unhealthful meal that makes you feel worse.
Stress Can Cause Stomach and Digestion Problems
When the body feels discomfort, it goes into combat or quiet mode. In combat or flight mode, the body receives a burst of energy that increases heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, improves vision, and more.
To sustain this peak in energy, digestion slows down or, in some cases, stops entirely, which can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Gastrointestinal discomfort causes stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or other symptoms.
Chronic stress can also cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or increase the severity of symptoms.
Symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort and IBS usually lead to decreased consumption of food, which in turn leads to weight loss.
Stress Can Cause Anxiety and Depression
Chronic stress can contribute to many psychiatric disorders, including general anxiety disorders. Both general anxiety disorder and lower levels of anxiety also contribute to weight loss.
Anxiety is not the only consequence of stress; stress is often associated with the development of depression. For certain individuals, depression can lead to a reduction in appetite, which can lead to a loss of weight.
Stress Can Lead to More Activity
When I’m stressed, movement is always helpful, walking, biking, yoga, moving my body in some way. And I’m not the only one here.
Physical exercise is known to relieve stress and improve mood and self-esteem. Plus, nervous gestures such as fidgeting, leg trembling, pacing, and more are generally associated with stress.
In certain cases, the use of physical exercise to counteract the effects of stress is safe and recommended. But if you’re too busy, particularly if you don’t eat enough, it can quickly lead to a severe weight loss of stress.
Stress Can Make You Too Exhausted to Eat
I know enough tension and anxiety to have endured more than my fair share of sleepless nights lying in bed, emotionally freaking out. At some point, we’ve all been there.
Stress is known to cause decreased sleep duration and increased sleep disturbance.
If you’re always stressed out or too stressed out, you might get to the point of fatigue where you’re just too exhausted to eat, which can cause stress-related weight loss.
How to Deal With Weight Loss Due To Stress
# Get to the Root of the Problem
While both of these strategies will assist you in combating stress-related weight loss, you must first address the source of your stress. To be stressed out long enough to induce weight loss due to stress, something has to be affecting your life significantly.
You can’t finish your work ? You have to move another place ? Do you have problems in your relationship ? Do you ever feel like you have too much on your plate ? Identify whatever it is and begin working on ways to make it less painful.
# Schedule Meals
If you miss meals while you’re stressed out, start scheduling them by setting a timer on your computer.
To make these planned meals something you can look forward to, let yourself have a short 15 minute break and do something you enjoy while you’re eating, like reading a book.
If you’re struggling to finish your entire meal, you can also plan several snacks throughout the day.
It’s best to prepare your meals about the same time every day. Proper meal timing can help increase stress tolerance, minimize inflammation, improve intestinal health and help control circadian rhythm.
# Choose Healthy Pre-Made Food
I’ve opened the fridge door several times, seen that there was nothing ready to eat, and said to myself, “I’ll just eat later.”
Preparing food is probably the last thing on your mind when you’re exhausted and tired. You can easily stop eating if you don’t want to cook food, which can lead to weight loss due to stress.
Instead, look for natural food stores that sell in your city, or go to your local health food store and pick up a few fresh or frozen meals to keep for the week.
You should also try to get into the habit of meal prepping if your tension comes and goes, or if you have unexpected bursts of energy or downtime.
# Eat Foods That Fight Stress and Improve Mood
Food is actually medicine, and it is not only a healing tool for the body but also for the mind.
Vitamin B is one of the foods that can help you relax and feel better. Vitamin B is present in whole grains, seeds and nuts, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, avocado, bananas, and other foods that help to relieve stress.
A simple bowl of oatmeal can also help to relieve tension by releasing serotonin.
Yet all-natural, pure cacao is my favorite ! Pure cacao or chocolate that isn’t loaded with artificial additives or sugar has a calming effect on tension, inflammation, memory, and immunity, as well as the ability to alleviate depression.
# Take Baby Bites
Eating large or even normal-sized meals can be difficult if your stomach is in knots or you have nausea when you’re tired, so start small.
Instead of tackling a big bowl of pasta for lunch, make yourself a good bean salad with avocado and eat small portions.
If even three small meals a day seems like too many right now, drink the calories in a healthy way. Make nutritious smoothies of strawberries, berries, and nut butters.
Snacking during the day will help you eat more calories; just keep things safe, like a bowl of grapes or a handful of nuts.
You can help the body prepare for larger meals by eating small meals and snacks regularly.
# Always Fuel Up After Exercising
Weight loss due to stress is most likely if you handle stress by exercise but don’t eat enough. As a result, make sure to eat something after your workout.
So that you don’t forget, eat something as soon as you finish exercising. This doesn’t have to be a large meal; instead, choose foods that are high in protein or starch, such as avocado, almonds, yogurt, a banana, an apple with almond butter, rice cakes, or a protein smoothie.
To make it even easier, you can buy premade protein drinks at the supermarket.
Eating after you exercise will help you avoid weight loss due to stress while also providing other benefits such as increased muscle protein synthesis, decreased protein breakdown, and improved muscle reconditioning.
# Notice What Hurts Your Stomach
When your stomach hurts from tension, it’s more important than ever to be present and pay attention to how what you eat affects your stomach.
I started having odd stomach symptoms a few months ago. I won’t go into detail, but my stomach hurt almost all of the time, and I went from loving to eat to never being truly hungry.
I noticed I had gone from roaming around tropical countries with lots of fresh fruit everywhere to winter in New York with a lot less fruit around me until I started paying attention. I’d also increased my rice consumption.
So I changed my eating habits and started eating oatmeal with fresh fruit every day for breakfast instead of rice.After a few days, my stomach began to feel better, and after a little more than a week, it was back to normal.
So keep track of when your stomach hurts the most and make a list of what you ate that could have contributed to it so you can adjust your diet.
Food monitoring will help you make healthier food decisions and is a way to practice mindful eating in addition to raising awareness of dietary issues.
# Take a Break and Relax
Set aside one hour each day to concentrate on de-stressing. I know it can seem impossible at times, particularly when your to-do list is a mile long, but one hour is such a small portion of your day.
Putting aside time that is solely for you to concentrate on de-stressing is important, even if it means getting up an hour early to get more time in the day.
Here are a few ways to avoid stress on a daily basis :
- Go Outside: Even if it’s only for 20 minutes, spending time in nature decreases stress and anxiety and improves overall health.
- Do Some Yoga: Yoga has many advantages, including stress reduction. After a long day, I enjoy sinking into a soothing restorative or yin flow.
- Exercise Self-Care: There are many helpful self-care practices that you can indulge in on a regular basis. A steamy hot, candle-lit bath paired with some inspiring literature is one of my favorites.
- Let Your Creativity Run Free: Creativity lowers cortisol levels. You are not expected to create a masterpiece; simply create something. Draw, paint, draw, fill a coloring book, compose a poem, and so on.
Although some stress is unavoidable in life, you don’t have to be stressed all of the time, and it’s never too late to ask for support.