Reasons That Stress Can Cause Weight Loss

Can Stress Cause Weight Loss? 6 Major Reasons Explained

Often people complain of a constant reduction in their body weight and that they cannot understand the reason behind it and therefore are unable to treat it well and bring their weight back to normal and healthy.

6 Major Reasons That Stress Can Cause Weight Loss

The answer to this perplexing question could be an intangible factor that they do not even consider as a cause for their sudden weight loss; they could be losing all that weight due to stress. A person could be in stress due to many different factors including but not limited to work, family, monetary troubles, health conditions, etc.

Stress Causes Weight Loss

While many do not know it, stress affects not just the mind but the entire body and can disrupt its normal functioning and can cause sudden weight gain or weight loss. Let us discuss below why this happens:

Change In Dietary Habits

A lot of times people who are stressed out do not realize that stress causes major changes in their dietary habits and eating patterns. People can start eating a lot more than their usual appetite or stop having any appetite at all. Latter is often a reason behind their sudden loss of weight. People often start intentionally skipping meals and the body goes under “starvation mode”, stores fat, and eats away at muscle. Or sometimes people can even forget eating altogether. This causes a drop in body weight.

The Fight Or Flight Response

Stress-related weight loss is often attributed to what is known as the human body’s fight or flight response. Under stressful situations, the body undergoes a physiological mechanism known as “acute stress response” that prepares the body to face a stressful situation by mainly releasing two hormones called adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline can often minimize and suppress hunger and cortisol signals the body to suppress any functions and processes that are dispensable for the time being. These functions include digestive activities as well that are slowed down under stressful situations. This is why someone going through stressful situations often appears weak and poorly nourished.

Gastrointestinal Distress

As mentioned earlier, when under stress, the body’s digestive system is forced to change its workings. This causes digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, frequent puking, stomach ache etc. Over time, these symptoms tend to reduce the desire to eat which then causes weight loss. 

Body’s Inability To Absorb Nutrients

By now we know that stress disrupts the digestive system and can heavily reduce appetite however, even the food that a stressed person does consume is not always absorbed usefully by the body. Under stress, the body could fail in being able to absorb all the nutrients from the food that is essential to maintain healthy body weight.

Unknowingly Burning Calories

Some of the most common symptoms of being under stress are a frequent unconscious movement of the body such as foot-tapping, walking to and fro at a place, clicking fingers or tapping with them on a table etc. While these are not extensive movements but overtime they amount to a calorie reduction which when coupled with the reduced food intake causes weight loss.

Disrupted Sleeping Patterns

Stress does not only affect a person’s dietary habits. It also has major unhealthy impacts on their sleeping patterns and habits. Stress can make it difficult to sleep or wake up. This is also the reason why people who experience stress feel tired more often than others. These unnatural sleeping patterns affect the body’s cortisol production and also the metabolic functions that can eventually cause a significant drop in weight.


Each person’s body reacts differently to a stressful situation. For some people, it means a major change in their eating habits and patterns such as skipping meals altogether or even forgetting to eat, disrupted sleep schedules, poor digestive system, etc. all these responses of the body can and often result in significant weight loss. The body’s metabolic functions and its release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol change and mess up when under stress. The body can even stop absorbing nutrients from the food effectively. If one is noticing a drop in their weight they must see if this could be due to stress. Being aware of it can help better manage the symptoms and control the body weight. However, if self-management doesn’t work one should definitely seek help from a doctor.

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