If there’s one thing that is an unavoidable part of life, it’s probably going to be stress. Every day comes with new stressors and even some anxiety, whether it’s at work or at home, and unfortunately, this can greatly affect our health if we’re not careful. When we think about stress in the context of weight, we usually relate it to weight gain. This is because stress releases the stress hormone called cortisol into our blood stream.
When this hormone is released, more often than not, it triggers cravings and increases our chances of binging or overeating. Another effect of cortisol is an increase of insulin levels in our bodies, which causes cravings for foods that are high in fat and sugar in particular. Did you know, however, that stress can actually also cause weight loss in some individuals? There are six particularly common reasons for why stress could actually trigger unhealthy weight loss in some people.
Stress-Triggered Digestion Issues
Remember how we mentioned earlier that stress can take a negative toll on our health? Well, one of those particularly nasty illnesses that can result from stress are stomach and gastrointestinal conditions. Peptic ulcers are one of the more common issues that arise in the digestive system due to stress, and boy are they painful. Ask anyone who has ever had an ulcer and they’re probably going to tell you about how they couldn’t bear to stomach anything while they were healing from it.
Actually, any kind of gastrointestinal issue will likely arise in people who already have poor eating habits to begin with. These poor eating habits will lead to depletion of fat stores as well.
Worsening Eating Habits
While stress does trigger most people to eat, in other individuals, stress can lead to a disinterest in food. The likelihood for this is higher in people who tend to experience anxiety or get depressed when they are stressed out. Intense stress can make many people feel as though they simply have no appetite as well or perhaps make them feel like they won’t be able to keep any food down. The prolonged disinterest in food, which is essentially you are starving yourself, leads to rapid and massively unhealthy weight loss.
Release of Corticotrophin in the Body
Cortisol is the most well-known hormone that is released during periods of stress, but there is actually also another hormone that our bodies can produce at this time called corticotrophin. Which hormone is produced in higher quantities tends to differ in people, though most people produce more cortisol. However, when corticotrophin is produced in a higher concentration, it leads to appetite suppression. For people who are trying to lose weight, this might sound like a good thing, but it’s unhealthy weight loss and you shouldn’t be trying to trigger stress to achieve it.
Getting the Jitters
Have you ever seen someone who develops physical ticks when they’re nervous? These ticks can come in the form of shaky legs, frequent pacing or jerking of random body parts. This kind of physical response to stress is known as hyper-stimulation and is another one of the common causes of weight loss in people who are experience high stress levels.
This stress-response makes it very hard for the individual to relax and get rest, which means that it’s extremely tiring and will likely lead to more problems in the future if not handled properly. The constant movement of the body will also require much more energy which means fat stores in the body could be depleted.
Abrupt Lifestyle Changes
Sometimes, when we’re in high stress situations that can last for prolonged periods of time, it can cause changes in our lifestyles. For example, people who have started to experience panic attacks develop tendencies to stay home or indoors more often and perhaps even consume less alcoholic beverages to minimize the frequency of their attacks. For people who respond to stress through anxiety attacks or panic attacks, there is a tendency to lose weight because they begin to socialize less and also get less physical activity in. This leads to loss of muscle mass, eating far less calories and lethargy in many people.
Less Nutrient Uptake
Not many people know this, but stress actually hinders our body form fully absorbing and processing the nutrients that we’re supposed to be getting from our food. Not only does this make us more susceptible to illnesses due to a weaker immune system, it can also lead to drastic and sudden weight loss.
At What Point Should You Be Concerned?
It’s normal for our body weight to fluctuate regularly and this could be due to numerous factors like water retention or a particularly large meal. However, weight loss caused by stress, when it goes overboard, should definitely be a cause for concern and should be something that you bring to the attention of your health care professional.
If you’re losing over 5 percent of your total body weight monthly for six months or more, then it’s a sign that there’s a legitimate cause for concern. This kind of rapid weight loss, when caused by stress, could indicate that you’re also not properly fueling your body. Other symptoms to look out for include loss of appetite or anorexia, tiredness, fatigue, change in toilet habits and increased infections or sicknesses.
How to Manage Stress Related Weight Loss
If you’re experiencing stress related weight loss, you really need to take extra care in managing your eating habits so that you don’t continue down that road. There are so many more critical illnesses that can arise out from stress induced weight loss, that it’s extremely crucial to get a handle on it as soon as possible. Some tangible steps to take to manage the weight loss would be to eat more, meaning you have to avoid skipping meals as much as possible, find ways to reduce stress levels, eat food that produce serotonin, exercise regularly and try various ways to slow your metabolism process.