Is Stress Making Me Gain/Lose Weight?
But more likely, stress is affecting your behaviors. And eating behaviors affect body composition.
But how does it work?
When you’re stressed, your physiology changes—at least temporarily.
Your body’s acute stress response and the accompanying spike in adrenaline releases stored glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream so you have the energy to deal with whatever challenge you’re facing.
This increase in blood sugar can reduce your appetite, making you push away your sandwich even if you haven’t eaten all day.
The stress response also dampens digestion.
Even when you do eat, food might feel like it’s just sitting in your gut not moving anywhere, or it might blast through you so fast that you’re afraid to stray too far from a washroom. Because digestion is compromised, you also may not adequately absorb your food.
It’s through both loss of appetite and loss of absorption that some people lose weight during periods of stress.
On the other hand, weight gain during periods of stress is just as common.
Especially when stress becomes chronic, the stress hormone cortisol increases. Cortisol can increase appetite, especially for carbohydrate- and calorie-rich foods.
Most people find eating pleasurable and soothing, so turning to food during times of stress is a common (and understandable) coping mechanism. Of course, when this becomes a habit, excess calories over time can lead to weight gain.
So if you’re someone who gets stressed easily or has a stressful event or time coming up, being aware of how stress affects your eating habits can make a difference. Awareness is your greatest strength.
Try to limit stress during meal times by walking away from work, phones, emails, and screens and focusing on enjoying the foods you’re consuming (texture, flavour, temperature).
Don’t rush through your meals. Savour them.