How Does Stress Affect Your Appetite?

Not everyone responds to stress the same way. Ask yourself: do you usually eat more or less whenever you’re feeling the pressure? If your office desk is always littered with sinful snacks, you probably lean towards binge eating. However, ask any of your colleagues the same question and their answer may not always be the same as yours. While stress drives most people to overeat, others may instead find that they usually lose their appetites. Neither outcomes are particularly ideal in spite of the inclination that some may have to envy those who experience the latter. Read on to discover why stress is so intricately tied to our appetites and its effect on our physical and mental well-being.

 

Increase In Appetite

Let’s first talk about those who seemingly eat in direct proportion to their stress level. On a psychological level, stress eating usually happens to those who associate food with comfort. Apparently, people who experience this seem to use food as a form of coping mechanism for stress. More interestingly, though, stress may initially cut off appetite for most people when the body first releases a particular hormone known as adrenaline. This hormone is a key part of our natural fight-or-flight response, tasked with signalling certain reactions in our body, such as increasing the flow of blood to our muscles. During this time, our body appears to press pause on our appetite in order to focus on allowing us to respond quickly to a perceived threat to our survival. However, if the threat persists, our body then releases yet another hormone — cortisol. Quite unlike its predecessor, cortisol may instead elevate appetite by increasing the production of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. Cue gurgling stomach.

The Dark Side Of Stress Eating

Most of us are aware of the effect of overeating on our body weight. Stack up far too many calories than we burn and it inevitably leads to excessive weight gain. However, not enough of us truly understand the impact that stress eating may also have on our skin. When we indulge in stress eating, we may end up thinking with our stomachs and unwisely snack on the least healthy foods imaginable. Think foods such as milk chocolate bars and even certain cereals. Foods that are high in refined sugar are especially cruel to our skin, causing it to age more rapidly. These sugars create a certain compound known as advanced glycation end-products, aptly shortened to AGEs, when they meet in a chemical reaction with protein. As a consequence, our skin becomes more susceptible to wrinkles and fine lines. Find out what you should do to combat stress eating here.

 

Decrease In Appetite

With the knowledge that stress hormones tend to indirectly stimulate hunger, the fact that some people only continue to exhibit a loss of appetite does sound quite baffling. What went wrong with this minority? Is there something inherently wrong with the way their body works? Not entirely. Experts believe that other symptoms of stress may simply override the effect that ghrelin may have. For instance, some people experience intense nausea whenever they feel stressed, which makes them less inclined to eat. Even if they force themselves to do so, they may not even be able to keep any of it in their stomachs long enough. Another explanation for why some people may lose their appetites could be due to their individual inclination to focus entirely on the cause of their stress. Such people find that they are completely unable to think of anything else but the stressor itself, which may lead them to forgo their meals.

The Dark Side Of Poor Appetite

In many ways, loss of appetite as a result of stress could be just as harmful as an overt increase in appetite. Some people who reportedly experience this symptom may even forget about the need to eat until it is too late. This can present numerous immediate health risks, such as dangerously low blood glucose levels. People with low blood glucose levels may in turn exhibit extremely worrisome symptoms, including sweating, confusion, and may even feel dizzy or lose consciousness. In the long run, people who suffer from a loss of appetite may inevitably see sharp decreases in body weight, and consequently, find themselves saddled with additional health conditions. These may range from nutritional anaemia to early osteoporosis. Women, in particular, may also find that their menstrual health begins to suffer as a result.

 

The Takeaway

With such potential repercussions on our health, it is evident now that neither a sharp increase nor decrease in appetite amounts to any good at all. This is why it’s so important for you to find ways to manage your stress levels, rather than allow it to linger. Consuming a healthy, well-rounded diet at all times is critical, even those who are desperate to lose weight. In fact, some foods can also be particularly helpful in aiding the elimination of belly fat. Never, ever resort to starvation.