Anxiety & Weight Loss
Metabolic Health
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How Anxiety Can Cause Weight Loss or Weight Gain

It is a well-known fact that the mental health of a person often affects the physical health of that person. You may have heard the terms, “nervous eater” or “binge eater” often. These are indications that when a person is anxious or nervous, he or she turns to food for comfort. Apart from this, there are many other effects of your mental stability on the functioning of your body.

Many people believe that if a person is anxious or suffering from anxiety, the only outcome is weight gain. However, it is possible for a person to lose weight due to anxiety as well. Anxiety affects your metabolism, bowel movement, food intake, and many other factors that can lead to weight loss. Here are the causes of anxiety weight loss mentioned in detail. Also know about the weight loss plateau.

How can anxiety cause weight loss?

Reduced appetite 

Most of us have experienced that whenever we are upset or anxious, we barely tend to eat. The number of skipped meals increases and there is no interest in the normal favourites that you would otherwise savor. When you do get around to eating, you feel fuller faster. Research has shown that the body produces a particular hormone when you are stressed out which interferes with your desire to eat. This coupled with a faster metabolism causes weight loss. 

Anti-anxiety medication

If you are on medications that help you manage your anxiety, they could be causing your weight loss too. This side effect is seen after prolonged consumption of these medications. 

Faster metabolism

There have not been substantial human studies but whatever experiments were conducted, showed that the metabolic rate of the body increases when it is under stress. It means the muscles are tenser and your body does not relax and the functioning of the body is affected. 

Gastrointestinal problems

When your body is not getting enough serotonin, it affects the health of your gut. You may have bowel issues and end up dehydrated too. 


A lot of people turn to expel their nervous energy in the form of physical activity. Even if they are not going to the gym, there are behavioral changes that cause the body to burn more calories. For example, some people cannot sit calmly in one place and need to keep pacing in order to calm themselves down. Also read about are dates good for diabetes

How can anxiety cause weight gain?


Anxiety often disrupts sleep schedules and sleepless nights. There was an extensive study conducted that showed that those who slept for 5 and a half hours instead of 8 and a half lost lean mass rather than fat. It also showed that due to anxiety those staying up felt puckish and consumed unwanted and untimely calories. Even if there is a substantial increase in the duration of sleep, the quality remains low and it adds to the fatigue. Both these factors contribute to resistance to weight loss and more cravings for unhealthy foods. 

Cortisol increase 

Although the metabolism gets faster and there is a reduction in appetite, cortisol levels spike when the body experiences extreme stress. Higher levels of cortisol make it more difficult to lose weight. Cortisol is a hormone triggered by stress that releases more sugar in the body. It can cause your appetite to go up and the craving for sugar increases substantially. 

Decreased attention to health and healthy foods

Anxiety causes cravings that you would otherwise have lesser times. There is an increase in cravings for sugar, fried foods, quick and easy-to-make and eat foods and things that add up to empty calories. It is easier to lose track of how hungry you actually are and keep munching because you are feeling uneasy. 

Harder to motivate yourself

Even when you do realize that you are gaining weight and you want to go to the gym, there is a chance you won’t find the willpower to do so. The ones with anxiety also often overthink and avoid social interactions and situations as much as possible. At such times it is hard to get up and even go for a run. 

How to manage your anxiety and weight fluctuation?

When you are trying to manage your weight, it is important to treat the root of the problem. There are many people who look towards reducing food intake or over-exercising. The root cause of this issue is anxiety. The best way to manage your weight and ensure you have a healthy relationship with weight loss is to manage your anxiety. Anxiety weight loss can be managed by following the below tips. 

  1. Eat regularly – Yes, that’s right. When you are spending your days pacing, the first sign is you start skipping meals. The best thing is to set an alarm for yourself or ask your friends or family to remind you to eat. Ensure you create a routine for yourself where you eat and do not compromise on the quality of food. 
  2. Maintain a diary – This is a suggestion given by most experts. Maintain a diary and see the power of writing your thoughts down. This helps you calm down and assess your day logically. It is recommended you do this exercise before going to bed so that you can rest peacefully at night. 
  3. Meditation – A lot of people have misconceptions about how to meditate and what to expect. Mediation is a personal thing and it can have the desired effect when you don’t put pressure on it to work. Meditation also includes some breathing exercises that you could do. You don’t have to force thoughts out of your mind when you are meditating. All you need to do is focus on your breath, allow any thought that comes to you to pass, and refocus yourself. 
  4. Small exercise goals – It can be difficult to start hitting the gym suddenly. You can set smaller goals for yourself. For example, you can start by walking to the nearby stores instead of relying on your vehicle. Once you are confident enough to do that, include a walk in your daily routine and then you can head to the gym when you are comfortable. 
  5. Restrict your caffeine intake – It is no secret that coffee stimulates the brain and gives you an energy surge. Coffee can also keep you awake for longer than you want and cause even more sleeplessness. 
  6. Consult a doctor – If you feel you are unable to handle the effects of anxiety and have trouble managing it, it is advisable to consult the doctor. If you are already going to the doctor then be transparent about the hardships you are facing as your doctor may change your medication. Also know about the psychology of weight loss.
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No matter if you are struggling with weight gain or weight loss due to anxiety, the solution for both is to find mental peace in a way that doesn’t harm you. You can try going to spa retreats or on vacations closer to nature to take a break, rejuvenate, and start working on yourself again. 


Can stress cause rapid weight loss?

Stress can affect your eating habits, sleep, schedule, and overall health of the body. If you do not tend to your body in trying times, your body can respond by causing rapid weight loss. 

Can thinking too much cause weight loss?

Although the brain is a muscle, thinking does not cause too much weight loss. In the case of mental issues, overthinking may cause weight gain according to a recent study. 

What are the first signs of weight loss?

One of the first signs of weight loss is lower blood pressure, feeling dizzy, chronic pain in various parts of the body, changes in the fitting of clothes, and so on. You can further evaluate your situation and understand if there is a loss in appetite or if your eating habits have changed drastically & improve your blood pressure levels.




This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.