Anxiety and Weight Gain: How Stress Can Cause You to Put on Weight

woman in distress anxiety and weight gain

There are a few feelings that are universal to us all. Anxiety and stress are emotional reactions we all have, in some to a larger degree than others. However, what differs is the way our body responds to these feelings of anxiety.

It has been established that there’s a correlation between our psychological health and our physical health. This is where researchers have drawn the link between anxiety and weight gain.

So why does this happen to some of us? And what can we do about it?

Let’s take a look.


Coping With Food

The truth is, stressful situations cause changes in our behavior. For some of us, eating is a coping mechanism. When we feel particularly anxious about something we may turn towards comfort food to ease our pain.

Comfort foods like chocolate, ice-cream, and other high-calorie foods are not the best for our physical health. Over time the calories add up. While these foods may provide us with temporary comfort, in the long run, when we continually turn to food for comfort it can result in weight gain. If it’s an old habit, we may not notice it about ourselves. That’s why it’s important to be more mindful of why we eat as well as what we eat.

Poor Sleeping Habits

Anxious people are less likely to have good sleeping habits. Whether you have generalized anxiety disorder or a high level of stress over a prolonged period of time, it is likely to disturb your sleep.

Lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits are likely to cause an increase in calorie intake. This lack of sleep has also been linked to higher levels of cortisol, hyperactivity and increased fat storage.

On the other hand, not everyone’s sleep may be affected by stress. In fact, some of us might oversleep to avoid facing our stressful, anxiety-driven realities. In consequence, our bodies get less exercise and burn fewer calories.

Both of these responses are extremely unhealthy for our bodies.

It is recommended that adults get between 7-8 hours of sleep, and it is important to maintain a good balance between the two.

Cortisol and Fat Storage

When we are put in situations of high-stress or panic, our body goes into what is called fight or flight mode. This kind of response triggers the release of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline.

Unlike adrenaline, cortisol takes longer to get back to its normal levels within the body. This higher level of cortisol is linked to an increase in cravings for unhealthy foods that are high in calories and lower in nutrients. In fact, it has been associated with changes in our insulin levels and increased fat storage.

You can see how continuously feeling stressed out or in a constant state of panic can then prolong the effects of cortisol in your body, thus leading to significant fluctuations in your weight.

Inactivity or a Sedentary Lifestyle

Being crippled with anxiety or anxious thoughts can also push is deeper into a sedentary lifestyle. We exercise less, we skip our visits to the gym, we don’t move anymore. The prospect of making it to the gym when you have so much on your mind can seem overwhelming.

We don’t want to stop thinking about our stressors, so we do not distract ourselves.

An inactive lifestyle is one of the surest ways of putting on a few extra pounds. The less we move the fewer calories we burn, and so we slowly, but surely put on extra weight over time. If you find it particularly difficult to get in some exercise on your own, it might be time to consider fitness coaching.

Anti-Anxiety Medication

If you have a particularly severe case of anxiety, you may have been prescribed anti-anxiety medications like Xanax or Lexapro have been associated with weight gain. These SSRIs play a role in stimulating serotonin.

As a consequence, an increase in serotonin can often lead to a sudden increase in appetite. This increase in appetite may then cause a gradual increase in weight over the course of time.

However, it is also important to remember that not all bodies react this way. It also depends on other parts of our lifestyle. For example, a person taking anti-anxiety medication, who also regularly exercises may not experience this kind of weight gain.

Coping With Alcohol

Higher levels of stress may also trigger a higher consumption of alcohol in some people. It is not uncommon for alcohol to be used as a suppressant for our emotions. Due to its unique effects on the brain, it is often used as a way for people to escape their anxious, everyday realities.

Like food, being dependant on alcohol is also a very unhealthy coping mechanism. In addition to the effect it has on our internal functioning, it also contributes heavily to weight gain. These high-calorie drinks are easy to consume quickly and in large quantities.

Additionally, over time, our tolerance for these drinks increase. The higher our tolerance, the more we consume, in turn leading to higher calorie intake.

Addressing Anxiety and Weight Gain

Recognizing the link between your anxiety and weight gain is the first step to making progress. It is important to address your anxiety with a qualified professional, and it is also important that you get your weight down to a healthy range.

UnCraveRx is a fantastic program that allows you to address your weight in a holistic manner. Check out our latest blog post to find out if our medically assisted weight loss program is right for you.

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