Losing Weight Due to Stress: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Losing Weight Due to Stress: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Stress does strange things to your body without you realizing it. An example of this is that you lose weight without making any effort.

Sometimes you are so stressed that you simply forget to eat. Maybe you only eat fast food because you don’t have time. Others simply don’t have an appetite left because of the stress and so don’t even want to eat.

Are you stressed and notice that your clothes are starting to fit looser and you are losing weight? Then read this article and find out how stress and weight loss are related.

Weight Loss Due to Stress: What’s the Connection?

If you experience a lot of stress for a long time, your body is continuously producing adrenaline and cortisol. These influence, among other things, digestion, your sleeping pattern, and your immune system.

A scientific study has shown that adrenaline and cortisol have an effect on digestion, sleeping pattern, and your immune system.

Adrenaline prepares your body for a coming danger, but it also makes you less hungry to eat. In daily life, you will be continuously alert and therefore also burn more nutrients. So you eat less and burn more.

Cortisol switches off the systems in your body that are not needed during a dangerous situation. These systems include your digestive, immune, and reproductive systems. In addition, it will use your fat reserves to provide more energy to your body so that you can concentrate even better on what you are doing.

Cortisol production is also accelerated by poor sleep patterns, which in turn is caused by stress. So this is a vicious circle.

Composition of cortisol

Because you are restless, you burn calories because of stress. This can manifest itself in, for example, adopting a different position more often when you are sitting on a chair, moving your foot nervously or restlessly doing something with your hands.

Another psychological effect is that you simply forget to eat because you don’t think about it. You are so busy with other things that you are not hungry, or just forget about food altogether.

All this together can accelerate weight loss from stress.

Libra that helps with weight loss

What are the signs of weight loss due to stress?

You can notice weight loss due to stress if you have three of the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • mood changes
  • physical aches
  • Tired of your neck muscles
  • palpitations
  • Decreased appetite
  • Less sex drive
  • Biting your nail or lip
Woman bites her nails due to stress
  • Repeating tasks obsessively (such as washing hands)
  • restless feet
  • small pupils
  • Foggy feeling in your mind
  • Heartburn
  • stomach cramps
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
Man suffering from constipation with a sign in front of his face

Is weight loss due to stress dangerous?

Excessive weight loss is always a cause for concern; it can indicate a life-threatening illness. If your symptoms persist for a longer period of time and you lose 5 to 10% of your body weight, it is possible that something serious is going on.

Other indications of a dangerous condition are chronic headaches, prolonged stomach cramps, or chest pain that just won’t go away.

With these symptoms, it is time to see your doctor.

With a lot of stress go to the doctor

Stress is in no way the ideal method of dieting. In the long run, it disrupts your digestion, which can lead to serious illnesses.

Losing weight through stress experiences

Tina :

“I used to love food. I cooked extensively for my husband and children, often tried new recipes, and went to a good restaurant once or twice a week.

It was my hobby. I was never really fat, but I was what you call chubby.

Pushing food into the oven

This continued until I got a new job. Well paid, but the boss demanded a lot more from me than I could afford. I often had to work in the evenings and weekends, which meant that I no longer had time to cook, usually not for other things.

More and more we went to take away what I had never really liked, and because of the stress I forgot to taste it.

Without realizing it, I ate less and less. I lost my pleasure in cooking and even eating. I was often too tired for it. The pounds flew off.

Weight loss due to stress with woman measuring her waist in pants that are way too big

Finally, my husband said, “Now quit your job or work less, you’re way too thin and the kids want their mother back.”

Only then did I see what I was doing. I called my boss the next day that I wanted to work part-time or quit my job from now on.

Strangely enough, “the slave driver” (that’s what I’d called him in my mind) didn’t mind at all. He was very understanding of my situation.

Man in suit raising his thumb in approval

Since that day I have been much more careful with my time. The pounds have come back; my pleasure for food and my family too.”

John :

“It happened just after I moved. I had a nice house, but I thought it had become a bit too small. After a long search, I finally found a new one where I planned to stay for the rest of my life.

During the day it was the ideal place, pretty much exactly what I was looking for.

What the seller didn’t tell me was that the neighbors partied every night until early in the morning. Even during the week.

Group of people toasting and laughing

After a lot of complaining, the police, putting on loud music myself to drown out the noise, but especially many sleepless nights, it started to dominate my life. I slept badly, forgot to eat, and became very thin, at the end I almost couldn’t get out of bed.

One day I got up, happened to look in the mirror, and saw what had become of me. That same day I booked a holiday home in the woods. I stayed there until I calmed down and looked reasonably healthy.

I sold the house a few months later to people who had no problem with noisy neighbors.

House that used to be for sale and is now sold

My current home is less beautiful, but a lot quieter than the previous place. I have also calmed down myself.”

Marit :

“It was gradual…  After college, I had always kept my part-time job that I could barely make ends meet. I wanted to use this income until my own business started to take off a bit.

That happened almost immediately after I opened; a lot faster than I expected. Suddenly I had to work 60 hours for my own company, 10 hours a week for my part-time job, and then my boyfriend broke up with me.

Person behind laptop typing with a pencil in their hand

It became too much. I put all my sorrow into my work.

Food? I just didn’t have time for it. I can’t remember ever feeling hungry or hungry at the time, I wasn’t into it. I often ate quickly in between, briefly, during a telephone conversation or something.

After four weeks I passed out on the side job. My energy was just completely gone, mentally and physically.

For three days I lay in bed, looked after by my mother. Healthy food, lots of rest, little work. I found out that I had lost 15 kilos in four weeks.

Woman lies in bed with a sign with a sleeping face on it in front of her face

Then I slowly picked up some work again until I regained my normal weight.

I have given up part-time work and I am only allowed to spend a maximum of 40 hours a week on my own companyI now have a new boyfriend.”

6 tips for weight loss due to stress

It can go wrong with being underweight due to stress.

Usually, there is something that can be done about it. If you react quickly, your health does not have to suffer.

Woman and girl holding their arms and showing their muscles

The following tips will help:

1. Eat at set times

Set an alarm for the meal times you want to stick to and make sure you actually eat food. Plan not only what time you start, but also for how long.

For example, take 15 minutes to have breakfast. Really sit down and don’t do anything else next to it.

Different alarm clocks on a blue background

2. Take a day off

Make sure you have a day every week where you don’t have to do anything. Use this time to do the things you enjoy or that calm you down.

It is an ideal time to exercise or to sleep in.

This way, your body, and your stress levels can relax, at least for this one day.

Woman sitting outside and reading a book

3. Breathe

One of the easiest ways to relax is to breathe in and out deeply and slowly. Use about 5 seconds for the inhale and 5 seconds for the exhale. Do at least 10 daily.

You can combine this with relaxation exercises and a yoga or meditation course where you learn to calm down and get away from the daily stress.

4. Eat healthily

When you are stressed it is often ‘easier’ to order food or skip a meal. However, this is unhealthy for you and causes you to miss out on essential nutrients. You just get more stressed.

Eat healthy for less stress and a healthier life

Nuts, seeds, fish, and fiber-rich foods have a positive effect on stress. People’s products, vegetables, and fruit are also part of this.

Healthy eating also ensures that you have more energy

Products with a lot of sugar, alcoholic drinks, and caffeine, on the other hand, increase your anxiety. So try to avoid them temporarily.

5. Write down your feelings

Start a journal in which you write down what you are feeling and worrying about. Think of it as pouring out your heart to someone who is a good listener.

Woman writes in her diary where she keeps everything

It is an efficient way to express your emotions that will make them less present.

6. Find the cause

This last tip has the most effect. Look at the reasons that got you into this situation and make sure that a solution is found.

For many people, stress can have a direct impact on their weight. Whether it causes weight loss or weight gain can vary from person to person — and even from situation to situation.

Ask yourself: what is the thing in your life that causes you the most stress and what can you do about it?

Take the free stress test below, get the results and receive the e-book “The Stress-Free Secret” for the solution.


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