Why Do People Lose Weight When Stressed?

A feeling of physical or emotional tension is called Stress. Stress can occur from unpleasant thought or event such as anger, frustration, and nervousness.

Stress is a reaction of the body for a challenging or demanding situation. In short, it can be a burst of positive, or negative feeling such as meeting a deadline or fear of something. When stress occurs for a longer time, it will cause health problems.

Stress causes your body to release hormones, which help to lower the stress. One of the stress hormones restricts appetite while reducing stress. Stress can cause your weight loss or weight gain. It completely depends on the eating habit and stress levels.

Anybody can suffer from stress. However, there are two major kinds of stress.

Acute Stress

Acute stress is short term stress that becomes normal quickly. This stress occurs when you have arguments with a family member or partner or ski from a steep slope. It helps to control harmful situations. It may also occur when you do something exciting and new.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress remains for a longer time. You may suffer from chronic stress in situations such as money problems, work trouble, or an unhappy marriage. Stress that remain for weeks or month is considered as chronic stress. You will become used to the chronic stress that you will not recognize it as a problem. If you don’t manage stress, then it will affect your health and creating different problems.

Your Body and Stress Effects

Whenever you get stressed out, your body release hormones. These hormones alert your brain to increase pulse and tense your muscles. Managing stress can help you stay healthy. Here are the major effects of stress.

Cardiovascular systems and Respiratory

Stress impact on your cardiovascular and respiratory system. When you are stressed, you will breathe fast to circulate the oxygen blood cells in your body. Having a breathing problem like emphysema or asthma will make you hard to breathe.

During stress time, your heart also gets excessive work to pump the blood faster than usual. Stress hormones affect your blood vessels to tighten and engage more oxygen to your muscles so you will have more power to take action. This condition can also lead to raising blood pressure.

Digestive system

During stress time, your liver produces excess blood sugar to promote energy level. Having chronic stress can make your body unable to manage with excess glucose spike. Chronic stress also increases the risk of getting type-2 diabetes.

The flood of hormones, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing cause to affect your digestive system. You will experience acid reflux or heartburn. Although stress may not cause the H.pylori a bacterium ulcer, it will increase the risk.

Stress can also impact on the ability of food moves in the body, which result in constipation, nausea, stomach-ache, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Muscular system

After getting stress, your muscles will get tense to protect against injury. They get released again when you become relax. Constantly getting stress will not give your muscles a chance to relax.  Having tight muscles cause you a headache, shoulder pain, back pain, and body pain. Gradually, it will set off an unhealthy habit and require medication to relieve the pain.

Stress affects the reproductive system and sexual health

Stress can make your body and mind exhausted. It is common to lose desire during constant stress. Having short-term stress can lead to the production of more male hormone that is testosterone. This effect may not remain longer.

If you get continue stress for more time, a male’s testosterone levels begin to reduce. It can impair sperm production and leads to erectile dysfunction. Chronic stress also raises the risk of male reproductive organs infection such as testes and prostate.

For women, stress may hugely impact on the menstrual cycle. It can result in heavier, painful, and irregular periods. Chronic stress can also raise the menopause symptoms.

Immune system

Stress triggers the immune system, which can be an immediate situation. This trigger assists to repair wounds and infections.  Increasingly, stress hormones decrease the immune system capacity to return to foreign agents in the body.

People experiencing from chronic stress are more inclined to get a viral illness like common cold and flu. Stress also hinder the recovery time of injury or illness.

How to Know Your Weight Loss Has A Link with Stress?

Stress may lead to unexpected weight loss and shows signs such as


When you have high-stress levels, you will have signs of constipation and diarrhea.  Stress is more prone to those people who have digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome. These are identified by bloating, stomach pain, constipation, and diarrhea.

Remember, different factors affect digestive systems such as dehydration, diet, infection, activity level, and medications.


Normally, stress doesn’t cause a headache, but it can make worse the existing headaches.  Suffering from any emotional stress is a general cause of getting headaches during stressful events.

When you are stressed, different chemicals in your brain are released to manage the situation. This release of chemicals causes the blood vessel to change and trigger migraines. Repressed emotions accompanied by stress such as worry, anxiety, fatigue, and excitement raise migraine.

Aches and pains

Pain and aches in the body is a common result of increased stress. Chronic stress is the main cause of back pain and neck pain.  It is a result of inflammation triggered by a stressful situation.

However, there are other factors, which can contribute to chronic pain such as injuries, aging, nerve damage, and poor posture.


The stressful situation causes more sweating. Exercise and stress both situation raise the sweating with palmar hyperhidrosis. Excess sweating also occurs from heat exhaustion, anxiety, and thyroid conditions or medications.

Frequent Sickness

Getting frequently sick can be a trigger of stress. Stress affects your immune system and increases the chances of infections. People with chronic stress have a weak immune system, which may not respond properly to the vaccine and reduce your immunity.

However, watch out weak immune system can be a result of an inactive lifestyle, poor diet, and immunodeficiency.

Rapid Heartbeat

Elevated heart movement can be a sign of prolonged stress levels. Repeated thoughts of fear or unexpected stressful incident can elevate your heartbeat.

However, look for other symptoms too because heart rate also rises from high blood pressure, a heart condition, thyroid disease, and alcoholic beverages.

Other sings include:

  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty falling
  • Short-term memory problem
  • Decreased sex drive

Why Weight Loss Occurs?

Getting stress makes you behave differently than normal time, such as working in lunchtime and getting late to meet the deadline. These agitations cause to worsen your internal body reactions to the stress.

The fight or flight response of the body can promote your metabolism during stress time. It is also known as an acute stress response. This physiological mechanism signals your body to respond to the sensed threat.

Your body gets ready to release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline makes your body for intense activity, but it can also reduce your eating desires.

Meanwhile, cortisol hormone signals your body to suppress functions temporarily, such as the reproductive system, digestive system, and immune system responses.


Your body makes digestion slow during the fight or flight response, so, it adjusts on how to react to the stressor. This condition cause hyperstimulation and gastrointestinal distress, such as:

  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Constipation

Chronic stress causes to raise the symptoms like irritable bowel syndrome. These changes in the digestive system make you eat less, and consequently, you will lose weight.

You may feel less desire to eat

Stress may make you feel less desire to eat foods. It will impact on your eating habits and prevent your hunger. It is possible while feeling stress, you will forget about eating, and it will result in weight loss.

Hyperstimulation can change your body’s capacity to prepare and digest the nutrients

When you’re caught up with a stressful situation?

When you’re stressed, your body treats food differently. Stress impairs your vagus nerve, which influences digestion process, metabolism, and absorption of food. This disorder may lead to unpleasant inflammation.

Nervous system movement burns calories

Some people perform physical workout to reduce stress. Although workout-fueled endorphin move can lessen your stress, performing more physical activity than usual could lead to sudden weight loss.

Sometimes stress induces unconscious movements such as finger clicking, or foot tapping. These conditions may assist your body to process your feelings as well as burn calories.

Sleep disturbance impact on cortisol hormone production

Stress affects your sleep and disrupt the metabolism and causes weight loss. It also affects your ability to get quality sleep and cause you fatigue and sluggish feeling. These sleep disruptions may affect cortisol hormone production and impact on your metabolism. This condition also affects eating habits and cause weight loss.

The Connection Between Cortisol-Sleep

Adaptation to intrinsic and external forces is necessary for survival for all living organism. The HPA – hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis is an adaptive system for controlling dynamic homeostasis or equilibrium frequently with changing the environment. Sleep is controlled by the HPA axis in several ways.

Normal sleep science is consisting of different sleep cycles such as light sleep, deeper slow wave sleep, and REM sleep. Light sleep includes stage-1 and stage-2 sleep cycle, which are the beginning of the sleep – transition time between sleep and wakefulness. This sleep period remains only for 5-10 minutes. It is consisting of the mixed frequency of theta waves – slow brain waves, rolling eye movements, and lightly lowered eye movement.

Sleep stage-2 involves mixed brain waves frequency at rapid rhythmic burst and last about 20 minutes. During this stage, the body temperature lowers down with heart rate.

Deeper slow-wave sleep involves stages 3 and 4. In this stage, the brain waves delta becomes slow. It will make the person enter between light and very deep sleep stage. The sleep stage-4 remain for 30 minutes.

Next comes sleep stage-5 called rapid eye movement sleep when a person can see dreams. During this stage, the person has high brain activity and respiration rate. This sleep stage may last 90 minutes.

A 24 hours cycle (circadian rhythm) of cortisol hormone secretion has a waveform pattern with bottom of cortisol occurrence in the midnight. The cortisol level begins to rise after a sleep of 2-3 hours and keep rising till morning.

When you don’t get sufficient sleep due to stress, the glucocorticoid receptors get stimulated partiality and increase Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). It will raise the EEG frequency of sleep and diminish quality sleep, which causes unhealthy weight loss.

When should you worry about weight loss?

Losing weight of one or two pounds is not cause to worry. Sudden or undesired weight loss can impact on your body.

Consult a doctor or other health expert if you lose 5% or more of your entire body weight in a 6 – 12 months.

You should also consult with your doctor if you get the following symptoms.

You should also discuss a doctor if you:

  • Losing weight without exercise
  • Chronic headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Taking drugs or alcohol to manage

Your health specialist can help to advise you symptoms of stress and other hidden health conditions. Healthcare specialist can help you plan healthful strategies with prescribed medications.

How to track your meal?

If you are getting affected by stress from your eating habits, then you should take the necessary steps to maintain a healthy routine. Managing a regular eating routing helps to improve energy levels, mood, and restore the immune system.

Set reminder for mealtime

It can be difficult to find meal time when you are stressed over something. Stress cause to alter your hunger feelings and make you miss the meal. Setting an alarm for meal time can help you eat on time.

Eat something small

Having a regular meal schedule helps to manage your blood glucose levels. Having small bites while mealtimes help to prevent stress and reduce further mood swings.

Add foods containing high protein and fiber helps to give you a healthful boost. Remove unnecessary sugary foods and caffeine from your diet, which can cause to increase the energy levels and cause energy impairment.

Choose fresh and healthy foods to improve your mood and control your stress. Try to skip sweets and other fast food treats and substitute healthy snacks to have a noticeable influence on your body.

Functional favorites

Carrot and oranges contain good immune system promoting antioxidants. Adding leafy vegetables provide vitamin B, which helps to control your nerves.

Eat more whole grains, which provide serotonin promoting complex carbohydrates. It increases your serotonin levels, which provide a calming effect.

Adding healthy fishes in the diet like tuna and salmon, which provide essential omega-3 fatty acids, and helps to lower stress.

Adding seeds and nuts also provide stress preventing omega-3 fatty acids.

Avoid blood sugar spiking foods

Although high sugar foods quickly boost the energy level when the sugar leaves the bloodstream, it will make you feel worse than earlier.

The foods containing high sodium and fat also worsen the stress. Try to avoid the following foods until you learn to manage stress.

  • Baked goods
  • Fried food
  • Candy
  • Chips
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary drinks

Try to consume pre-prepared meal from your local market instead of taking out. If you don’t feel like cooking, then visit your market to have fresh foods like fruits.

Having salad is healthier food for vegetable filled lunch and dinner.  Some grocery stores provide hot bars where you can have egg sandwiches or burritos breakfast to prevent sugary food in the morning.

If you are following a workout plan, then make an eating habit of post-workout snacks to restore your burned energy.

Avoid skipping your meal or snack because initially it may seem harmless, but later it causes you unpleasant side effects such as low blood sugar and light-headedness.

Burning more calories, then you eat can also a result of sudden weight loss.

Add healthy carbs and high protein food in your diet including

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Nut butter
  • Trail mix
  • Rice cakes
  • Greek yogurt

Weight Loss and Eating Patterns

If you gain weight while stressed, you are possibly a restrained eater under normal situations said by a study issued in Physiology-&-Behavior in 2006.

It means you can manage the diet in stress time. Your choice of foods is off-limits during diets such as high sugar or high-fat foods.

Similarly, if you are unrestrained eater, then you may not possibly eat as much as required while under stress.

The appetite loss by and unrestrained eat may lead to weight loss while experiencing stress. Eating less and perform huge function may make your body to lose weight over time.

For example:

If your body needs 1,700 calories per day, but you consume only 1,200 calories every day for one month while under a stressful situation, you will lose more weight than 4-pounds.

Improving from Stress Weight Loss

If your appetite health get impairs when you are going through stress, try to eat small snacks and meals in the entire day to keep your calories stable. Choose nutrient and calorie dense foods. The foods contain high calories with nutrients per serving. Avoid empty calories junk foods than cause to drain your system for nutrients.

Good choice food for managing calorie count include the following foods.

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocado
  • Dairy product
  • Dried fruit
  • Lean proteins
  • Fresh fruits: Mango, Banana, Olives
  • Greek yogurt
  • Olive oil
  • Whole-wheat toast
  • Two hard-boiled eggs
  • Almond butter

Consuming sufficient foods every day helps restore muscle lost in stress weight loss.

Which foods can help to manage stress?

Most of the people struggle to reduce stress while balancing life and work. Those who work out outside feel difficult to manage stress. The pressure of completing everything can be terrifying. If you leave stress unmanaged, then it will affect your health such as depression, and high blood pressure.

Stress also causes you to choose poor foods. When you eat junk foods, it will increase anxiety and cause more health damage. But there are some healthy foods which can help to lower the stress and prevent sudden weight loss.


Adding turkey in your diet provide tryptophan, a kind of amino acid that promotes serotonin production and reduce stress. You can add the turkey in your breakfast omelet or sprinkle slices in the salad.


Spinach is a healthful vegetable to relieve stress. It provides magnesium, which is an essential mineral to boost a sense of calmness. Spinach also provides enough amount of fiber and promote energy levels. You can replace lettuce with spinach at your lunch.


The salmon fish contain rich Omega-3 with essential fatty acids. It helps to promote serotonin production. The docosahexaenoic acid in Omega-3 fats helps to nourish the brain for relieving stress hormones. Additionally, omega-3 lower the inflammation and boost healthy blood flow. You can have Alaskan salmon three times per week.

Nuts and seeds

Adding nuts and seeds in your diet helps to reduce stress. It provides omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to relieve stress.  Consume walnuts, which is an amazing source of omega-3. Eating sunflower seeds and cashews contain tryptophan that promotes serotonin production and creates calmness after a stressful day. You can have a handful of nuts as post lunch snacks.


Oatmeal contains complex carbohydrates, which helps to promote serotonin productions. Additionally, oats provide magnesium and potassium minerals that provide calming effects. It helps to reduce blood pressure. Consume a bowl of breakfast with some cashew and walnuts including cinnamon to manage blood sugar.

Citrus fruit

Citrus fruits are good foods to reduce stress levels. It provides vitamin C, which helps to lower the stress. Additionally, vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that promotes the immune system. You can consume orange, grapefruit as nourishing snacks.

Carrots and Sweet potatoes

Rood vegetable holds a sufficient amount of carbohydrates and fiber. It helps to improve serotonin production. Carrot and sweet potatoes are lightly sweet in taste, which stops sugar craving. They also give a good source of minerals and vitamins for regulating heart health and blood pressure. You can eat a baby carrot with almond butter after lunch or dinner for two times in a week.

How to manage stress?

  • Managing stress at an early stage can help to prevent risky symptoms. Here are the things to manage your stress.
  • Practice regular physical activity
  • Perform meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and relaxation.
  • Have a sense of humor, laugh.
  • Spend quality time with friends and family.
  • Have time to explore your hobbies such as music, book reading.
  • Make a goal to find active and interesting ways to manage stress.
  • Try to avoid inactive ways – watching TV, internet surfing, playing a computer game, which seems relaxing, but they can worsen your stress.
  • Get enough and sound sleep.
  • Eat a healthy and well-balanced meal.
  • Avoid excess caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.

When to consult a doctor?

If you are unable to control your stress with your methods, then it is time to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will do a certain test and find the exact cause of stress. You can also consult with a professional therapist or counselor to find the source of stress and recommend new ways to cope with stress.

If you get chest pain accompanied by breath shortness, back or jaw pain, shoulder and arm pain, dizziness, sweating, and nausea, contact emergency quickly. These are the warning signs of heart attack and not only stress signs.

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