Does Stress Cause Weight Loss?

Does stress cause weight loss? Many of us tend to associate weight loss and stress. The truth is that stress cannot cause weight loss directly, but it can make you feel terrible and indirectly contribute to weight gain. How does stress cause weight loss then?

Firstly, let us look at the connection between stress and weight loss due to stress. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to many things in life. It has evolved with us and remains with us today. When we are stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. This particular hormone makes us feel hungrier than usual, we are more likely to snack and we are prone to overeat. Our immune system also reacts to stress by releasing higher levels of the hormone that can interfere with nutrient absorption and contribute to weight gain.

However, it’s important to note that there is no clear-cut answer to whether stress directly contributes to weight loss or not. Some people may have noticed reduced levels of cortisol after a stressful event, but these results need to be replicated in order to show any significant impact on weight loss due to stress. More likely, reduced levels of cortisol are the direct result of the post-workout meal that you’ve worked out in the gym, rather than an indirect effect of the stress caused by the commute home from work. If you’re wondering whether a post-workout meal can help reduce stress, then you’re right-most dieticians recommend that you eat a large quantity of protein immediately following your exercise.

Does stress cause weight loss? When we are stressed, our bodies release cortisol; when we are fearful, we produce more of the stress-fighting hormone adrenaline. And what we don’t realize is that the hormone adrenaline alone causes our appetite to increase and our brains to become wired for “fight or flight”. Our brains send a message to the hypothalamus telling our stomach that we have plenty of food and energy, which means that we won’t mind eating more.

This is the reason why so many people find that they lose their appetites when they are “under pressure” at work; chronic stress depletes the nutrients in our systems, leaving us depleted and weak. This weakness can translate into serious lack of energy and poor weight loss. When our bodies are continually subjected to physical and mental stress, our brains and hormones continue to operate on auto-pilot. The hypothalamus sends a message to the brain saying that we are stressed and need to take some sort of action. The message to the stomach is that we need to intensify our appetite for food in order to reduce stress.

But how does this relate to weight loss and managing stress? If the hypothalamus and the stomach to continue to operate on auto-pilot despite the fact that the brain and hormones are asking them to stop, then they will definitely continue to operate under the impression that they are “adequate”. This means that, over time, they will add weight. In fact, stress hormones will become so high that your body will begin to store as much fat as possible to ensure that it is protected from any long term effects of stress. As you become more stressed, your cortisol levels will rise and you will become weaker overall. This will lead to an increase in your risk of developing medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Does stress cause weight loss due to anxiety causes weight loss due to increased cortisol? It really comes down to how your mind and your body react to the same circumstances. When you become anxious about meeting up with your friends, your brain sends a message to your cortisol receptors saying that you need to head out now or you will not make it on time. Your body then prepares for imminent physical threats such as hunger, thirst and overheating. Your heart rate goes up and you begin to perspire.

If you eat less because you become worried about your meeting, your brain will send the message that you need to burn up calories before your anxiety triggers a reaction that increases your appetite and makes you hungry again. Your cortisol levels will return to normal and you will gain back some weight, probably in the form of water. This is why that so called “calorie Cycling” method which uses cycles of short-term fasting to trick your body into thinking it is full is very effective in helping people to lose weight. Fasting and reducing stress is the key.