The Link Between Anxiety and Weight Gain

The Link Between Anxiety and Weight Gain

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, and is more than just feeling Stressed or worried.

Anxiety is something that develops over time, and the symptoms sometimes are not very obvious.

The link between Anxiety and weight gain is not well evidenced.

However, we do know that Anxiety causes in the release of the Stress hormones, Adrenaline and Cortisol.

Cortisol makes you crave certain foods, especially calorie dense foods like junk foods.

This extra fuel can cause weight gain.

What you eat has a significant impact on your moods and emotions.

When you starve yourself or control your eating, that’s when you experience the release of Cortisol (the harmful Stress hormone) and this affects your eating.

Cortisol negatively influences your brain chemistry and biochemical hormones and leads you to replenish your body, until fully satisfied.

This means behaviours of:

  • Overeating;
  • Eating out of control or Binge Eating;
  • Eating large amounts late at night, and/or
  • Eating calorie dense junk food.

You cannot fight your brain chemistry to improve your eating patterns with any of the following:

  • Willpower;
  • Discipline, and
  • Self-control.

These patterns will always lead you to feelings of restriction, punishment, deprivation, starvation and lead you to not properly nourish your brain, mind and body.

This will end up creating more Anxiety and the release of the Stress hormones, Adrenaline and Cortisol.

Your body and brain chemistry will again react to the release of Stress hormones causing the disordered eating behaviours to occur all over again.

Therefore, Anxiety and weight gain are linked by brain and body chemistry and you cannot manipulate this.

The more you try to strong arm this connection with negative patterns, the more you will keep yourself in the negative cycles that you so desperately want to break.


Anxiety and Disordered Eating

People who have Anxiety, may also suffer from another mental health issue such as Depression.

They may also suffer from Disordered Eating such as Emotional Eating, Stress Eating, Overeating, Binge Eating or Night-time Eating.

Foods high in fat, sugar and refined carbohydrates comfort, soothe and dampen feelings of Anxiety such as worry, stress, nervousness.

Once the habit of satisfying emotions with food is created, it can be difficult to stop.

The unfortunate flip side of comforting and dampening emotions with food is usually feelings of regret, guilt and shame.

Related: Binge Eating and the B.E.D. Principle

Five (5) Tips to Ease Your Anxiety

Tip #1 – Deep Breathing

Anxiety causes you to shallow breathe or even to hold your breath.

You want to deep breathe to help you let go of negative Stress hormones and allow your brain to replace these with the relaxation hormone Serotonin.

To help with relaxation and letting go of Stress, take several breaths into your lower lungs or belly.

Do this slowly to the count of 3 seconds, hold it for the count of 2 seconds and then slowly exhale to the count of 3 seconds.

Once you have practiced the pace of breathing then on the out breath, instead of counting, tell yourself to ‘relax and let it go’.

Repeat at least 5 times.

Deep breathing can be done anywhere, anytime.

Tip #2 – Get Moving 

Anxiety can be very draining on your energy.

You may feel as though you want to stay at home and sleep.

However, this is actually the opposite of what you need to do.

By moving and being active, you are releasing the Stress hormones and producing the relaxation hormone Serotonin.

By not moving and being active, you are allowing your system to stay in a Stress response.

This will increase cravings for junk food, slow down your metabolism, increase fat cells and decrease muscle mass.

All of this will lead to weight gain.

Moving every 20 minutes or 1 hour will help to improve your Stress, concentration and health.

  • Fill up your water bottle;
  • Do some stretches, and
  • Get up and go and see a colleague rather than phoning them.

Tip #3 – Switch off Social Media

Social media is not going anywhere soon!

How you use social media and how much time you spend on social media is up to you.

Social media has been proven to make people feel more Anxious, Depressed and worse about their body-image.

Learn to use it wisely and understand that everything you see may not be ‘real’, true or right for you.

Realise what is making you feel Anxious or drags your mood down and what lifts your mood up.

Get rid of or don’t pay attention to anything that drags you down or makes you feel Anxious.

If you are overwhelmed by social media, remove your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts from your phone.

This will make you have to check in on a PC, and will give you an opportunity to check in and ensure you are emotionally prepared for it, and it is not so readily available to you.

Tip #4 – Practice Mindfulness

Practice mindfulness will not only help reduce cravings, but improve your overall mental health.

Simple and effective techniques include:

  • Deep breathing;
  • Taking breaks;
  • Listening to music;
  • Moving and stretching, or
  • Going outside for a change of environment a few times a day.

Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way.

When you practise mindfulness, you can:

  • Be in the present;
  • Be calmer and more relaxed;
  • Focus on the positive aspects (self, others and situations);
  • Have a clearer mind that enables better problem solving and decision making;
  • Communicate more clearly and kinder with yourself and others;
  • Acknowledge and praise yourself, your achievements and milestones;
  • Live a life based on your unique values which gives you meaning and purpose, and
  • Make small behavioural changes to help you become the person you want to be.

Tip #5 – Address Your Underlying Issues

Anxiety isn’t caused by just one thing, as a number of factors play a role such as:

  • Family history of Anxiety;
  • Personality traits – perfectionists, control issues etc.;
  • Ongoing Stressful events such as relationship problems or work problems;
  • Physical health problems;
  • Mental health conditions such as Depression;
  • Grief & Loss;
  • Substance Abuse, and/or
  • Abuse and trauma.

If you do not deal with the emotions, feelings and memories that may be causing your Anxiety, you will continue to have Anxiety.

It is important to remember that mental health issues such as Anxiety are medical conditions and can be treated.

Seeking professional help for your mental health and/or Eating Disorders and underlying issues is courageous.

Seeking professional help shows your true strength and commitment to your health and happiness.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic offer a unique integrative approach that helps develop a healthy mind and body.

This will support you towards true change for your psychological, emotional and physical health.

We will guide you towards self-nurturing for a more relaxed, happier and healthier lifestyle filled with acceptance, balance, happiness and purpose.

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