- Sleep and/or digestive issues
- Restlessness, difficulty concentrating
- Sweating, trembling, rapid breathing, increased heart rate
- Overwhelming sense of danger and panic
- Muscle weakness and tension
- Out of control worry
- Avoidance of social situations
- Unexplained weight gain
Weight issues? On some level, we know such a connection exists. But it’s not automatically connected to anxiety. Everything else on the list is a textbook anxiety symptom. Unexplained weight gain (or loss) requires a little more exploration.
How anxiety negatively impacts our weight
- Experiencing stress and anxiety often sends us into a subconscious but desperate search for ways to ease the discomfort. Overeating is a common example. When we consume large amounts of food in a short time period, we (very) temporarily create a sense of relief.
- In other cases, anxiety causes an increase of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is a stress hormone with the unfortunate side effects of causing increased fat storage around the midsection.
- A third component is physical inactivity. Anxiety can figuratively paralyze us. When we feel utterly overwhelmed, we often choose to do nothing. Meanwhile, our bodies crave movement. The lack of movement is shown to contribute towards weight gain.
6 Ways to Calm the Negative Effects of Anxiety On Your Weight
1. Start and follow a program of regular self-care
Any body-focused effort begins with the basics. There are eating and exercise habits but they’ll each get their own listing. Besides that, you have:
- Regular sleeping patterns: The importance of steady, healthy sleep can never be overstated. Not only can proper sleep help when dealing with anxiety, it’s also been shown to prevent weight gain. Our bodies regenerate in sleep, give everything a fighting chance and go to bed!
- Relaxation techniques: From yoga to Tai Chi to meditation to breathing exercises and beyond—this is a foundational form of self-care.
2. Educate yourself about healthier eating choices
It’s not easy to simply stop binge eating. An important first step is to focus on the foods from which you seek comfort. Whether you do the research yourself or you seek the help of a nutritional expert, it’s essential to know what fuel you need.
3. Get active and stay active
Being active helps us burn calories and release those exercise endorphins. We address anxiety and weight issues in one shot. Imagine using a climbing session at Great Western Power Co. in Oakland as a replacement for eating in moments of high stress.
4. Learn to recognize your triggers
Journaling comes in handy here. Keep track of what events, scenarios, environments, and people trigger you. Also, keep track of your reaction to such triggers. This record will help you avoid and/or manage situations that provoke binge eating.
5. Practice mindfulness
Living in the moment helps us detach from regrets about the past and fears about the future. In the present, we can feel less anxiety and discover deeper perspectives. Always go back to the breath, check your body for cues that you want to relax more.
6. Re-examine your needs vs. society’s norms
Not all weight gain is something to be “fixed.” Society embeds many unhealthy forms of self-image. It’s always a good idea to take time to contemplate your wants and needs vs. manufactured wants and needs.
Healing from the inside out
Contemplating anxiety and weight issues are daunting. In fact, such a contemplation can help feed the anxiety cycle. If this is the case, you may wish you could find someone who’ll listen and understand and offer guidance. Meet with a therapist who also works on body-related issues as a productive first step. Anxiety is best addressed from a mind-body perspective. Counseling this way is effective and self-empowering.