Can stress cause rapid weight loss?

We don’t know yet. While there is now ample evidence to show that stress can cause weight loss, the mechanism remains a mystery. One clue came in 2004 after researchers looked into why one group of adults lost more weight than their friends. By comparing the energy expenditure of men and women after a weight-loss intervention (calorie restriction), researchers found that men had a larger amount of energy stored as fat (because they spent that energy in a metabolically active state) and women had a smaller amount of energy stored as fat (because they burned it at faster rates in their muscles). What that suggests is that women may be less motivated by their perceived weight than men; perhaps the women feel more stressed and therefore choose to do less physical activity, which reduces their fat gain.

Other research has shown that men have an advantage on other fat-loss tests—like the ones that measure metabolic rate and blood lipid levels. It’s possible that the differences in men’s and women’s weight gain are simply a reaction to different body processes that can help explain them. For instance, a 2014 study found that the size of the gut in women had a larger effect on their food intake than a woman’s hormones. The researchers hypothesized, therefore, that a smaller gut might help women lose weight.

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Is there a way to reverse weight gain caused by stress?

While scientists can’t yet determine what causes weight gain, they do agree that it can be reversed with stress reduction. That is, if you’ve been experiencing stress at work or in your own life, this can stop your weight gain in its tracks. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly, it could also help you lose fat.

What can I do to slow down my weight gain?

Weight gained through diet and exercise is often temporary, since people gain muscle from the diet while also keeping lean body mass. In fact, the amount of weight you gain or lose after doing exercise is likely dependent on the amount of energy you expend before training. If you exercise after eating, though, you might stop gaining weight and just gain it back. As you gain strength, you get a few pounds back and lose weight more slowly. To achieve these goals, try to focus on simple, targeted daily workouts and eat a smaller calorie allowance.

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