Anxiety and Weight Gain: Is There a Link?

Overweight and obesity are issues that must be treated in a multidisciplinary way, due to their complexity. Most of the time, due importance is not given to psychological variables and how they affect this process.

Although few people are aware of it, there is a direct relationship between anxiety and weight gain. This happens due to changes in the individual’s organism and behavior, affecting both the amount he eats and the way the body deals with what is ingested. Understand more about how this happens in this post.

Can Anxiety Cause Weight Gain?

In a study with 55 male and female twins, functional magnetic resonance imaging was performed before and after a standardized meal and then they ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, in order to assess food intake according to sex, BMI (index of body mass) and anxiety levels.

The result was that in women, anxiety scores were positively related to BMI, emotional food scores and kilocalories consumed at the buffet. While men obtained results opposite to those of women.

Furthermore, the MRI revealed that, among women with low anxiety, the standardized meal reduced the activation of certain brain areas that are linked to eating signals. However, those who had high anxiety, this reduction did not happen, causing them to eat more.

The researchers concluded that anxiety can alter the feeling of satiety being a risk factor for weight gain in women, and those who had higher anxiety had a higher BMI.

So, see the main reasons that relate anxiety and weight gain:

Causes hormonal changes

The main hormonal alteration that anxiety causes is in the concentrations of cortisol, the stress hormone, which has as one of its effects to stimulate the production of fat in the body.

The reason is because in stressful situations the body understands that we are being attacked and it is necessary to produce more energy reserves in order to increase its stocks, so that, in an emergency, it has enough energy to carry out basic physiological functions. Thus, cortisol causes fat to accumulate in the abdominal region.

In addition, there is a reduction in serotonin in the brain, increasing hunger, and testosterone, which is responsible for building muscles. With this, the body burns fewer calories and increases their consumption, which in turn are transformed into fat, causing weight gain.

Causes binge eating

Binge eating is associated with hormonal imbalance, as the need to store energy caused by the increase in cortisol, together with the reduction in serotonin, increases hunger and the desire for foods that are mainly more energetic, such as sweets, bread, pasta and other sources. rich in carbohydrates.

One of the reasons is that foods rich in carbohydrates stimulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter related to well-being and a reward mechanism, temporarily alleviating anxiety.

However, not everyone experiences this reaction or the difference is very subtle, which is why not everyone who suffers from anxiety gains weight.

Reduces motivation

Generally, people suffering from anxiety tend to sleep more or become more sedentary than they used to be, after all this mental condition can be very draining, both physically and mentally.

In this way, motivation is reduced and the individual does not have the courage to practice physical activity or care about a healthier lifestyle.

Once again, one of the reasons is excess cortisol, which gives the body a feeling of tiredness and despondency. With that, less calories will be spent during the day and consequently contributes to weight gain.

Causes metabolic changes

Anxiety increases metabolism, which does not promote greater caloric expenditure, but rather physical and mental exhaustion, even leading to difficulty concentrating.

Thus, in the long term, anxiety is associated with weight gain and obesity. In chronic cases, this acceleration of metabolism can lead to psychosomatic illnesses such as migraines, gastritis, fibromyalgia and heart problems.

Weight gain can cause anxiety

Just as anxiety can trigger weight gain, the reasons why people gain weight can trigger anxiety. The reasons are:

  • Sedentarism: the body was made to move, so those who do not exercise are more likely to develop anxiety.
  • Bad Breathing Habits: Weight gain can lead to poor breathing habits, which are known to trigger anxiety symptoms and panic attacks.
  • Loss of confidence: Some people lose self-confidence when they gain weight, which can also lead to anxiety.

How to manage anxiety-related weight gain

In a way, it doesn’t matter which came first: anxiety or weight gain. One of the first things that have to be done are lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a balanced diet as they are effective tools to combat both.

In addition, there is a need for medical and psychological follow-up, and it may even be necessary to use medication, depending on the severity of the situation.

The key point is personal care, improving well-being and, as a consequence, hormonal control, reduced food compulsion and greater physical and mental disposition.

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