Stress is often associated with weight gain, but sometimes it has the opposite effect. A 2018 review published in Cureus explains that acute stress can suppress appetite. Short-term stressful events trigger the fight-or-flight response, increasing the release of norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter that inhibits hunger. Prolonged or chronic stress, on the other hand, stimulates the appetite and triggers cravings for appetizing foods, especially those high in sugar and fat.
According to Medical News Today, episodes of acute stress can cause your heart to beat faster and burn calories. Stress also increases the body’s demand for oxygen and nutrients, notes the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Thus, you may experience a temporary increase in metabolism, potentially leading to weight loss.
Healthline adds that certain stressful situations can cause you to skip meals, causing you to lose weight. In some cases, stress can also cause heartburn, constipation, gas, and other digestive issues, making it difficult to eat.
Overall, it’s common to lose a few pounds when you’re stressed. Your appetite decreases, your metabolism increases, and you may not feel like eating. If the stress persists, your body will remain in fight or flight mode, which could lead to weight gain. Harvard recommends trying meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques to calm your mind and banish stress. If you continue to lose weight without trying, Medical News Today suggests seeing a doctor.