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Feb 19, 2012

Does Stress Make You Lose Weight?

Stress generally leads to weight gain, not loss, although you could conceivably lose weight if you were so stressed you stopped eating for an extended period. Stress can send your body and mind into overdrive, which, in turn, creates an amalgamation of conditions that are ripe for piling on the pounds.

Mental Effects

The psychological effects of stress can make you grab for comforting foods, which often consist of high-calorie, high-carbohydrate and highly-fattening concoctions. Your stress level can also send you into a binging state, as it did for Rachel Capaldi. The 26-year-old Michigan woman was so frazzled by her assistant bank-office manager job that she coped with junk food and gained 22 lbs. in eight months, according to "Fitness" magazine.

Physical Effects

Stress sends your body into a fight-or-flight state in which your brain's hypothalamus sends hormonal and nerve alert signals throughout your body. Your adrenal glands react by pumping out a large amount of hormones that include cortisol and adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your blood pressure, heart rate and energy supplies. Cortisol alters systems you don't need in a state of high danger, such as your immune system and digestive system. While the body's response may not directly lead to a weight gain, it can result in depression, sleeping problems and digestive issues that can cause you to pack on pounds. Obesity is one side effect associated with stress.

Healthy Eating and Exercise

Even if you're not binging on cakes and candies, being stressed can make it more difficult for you to adhere to healthy eating habits or keep up your regular exercise. Rather than taking the time to prepare or even seek out a healthy meal, you might instead go for whatever is quickest and easiest. The combination of poor food choices and a decreased amount of exercise is an automatic recipe for gaining weight.

Watching Your Weight

If your stress is so severe that it's affecting your weight, a trip to the doctor might be in order. To help combat a stress-related weight gain, you can also pay attention to what you're eating, when and why. Determine if hunger or anxiety is driving you to eat and find another distraction, such as exercise, if it's the latter. Get rid of the fattening comfort foods and instead keep your kitchen and work desk stocked with healthy snacks. Regular exercise, adequate sleep and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation can also help kick out the stress and keep off the pounds.