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7 Ways Anxiety Is Affecting Your Weight Loss Goals

By Holly / October 4, 2016

If you’re dedicated to an exercise regimen, you may find when you’ve had a bad day or things haven’t gone your way, your first instinct is to jump on the treadmill or head to the weight bench to lift your troubles away. Scientifically, this is because your body has begun to associate exercise with feeling good. A good workout releases endorphins and all sorts of other feel-good chemicals.

If you suffer from anxiety, that is just the sort of boost you might be looking for to help you manage your symptoms, but anxiety can also make it harder to achieve your weight-loss goals. How can your anxiety affect your ability to lose weight?

  1. Lose Your Desire to Exercise

For a lot of people, getting up to go to the gym is a chore.  For people with anxiety, it can be a nearly impossible task. Going to the gym and working out in front of people can be utterly terrifying. If you don’t have a way to work out at home, it can stall your desire to exercise. This can, in turn, end up stalling out your weight loss goals.

If heading to the gym seems like too daunting a task, consider starting by working out in your living room. You can get a full-body workout without ever leaving home, even if you don’t have the room for any equipment.  Any workout is better than no work out at all and you’ll be surprised at the progress you see even with just simple body-weight exercises.

  1. Seek Solace in Comfort Food

Comfort food is the bane of our collective existence. It’s the food, usually fatty, greasy or starchy, that you turn to when you’re having a bad day. All of those extra calories are the quickest way to stall out your weight loss goals, since so much of it depends on your diet.

There are two things you can do to help quell the comfort food cravings. First, try figuring out why you’re turning to the comfort food in the first place. Is it because of your anxiety, or is there another reason altogether? Often finding your triggers can help you figure out what’s causing the comfort food cravings.

Second, you can try going for some healthier comfort food options instead. Many have all the flavor of the real thing, with fewer calories.

  1. Damage Your Self-Confidence

Anxiety and low self-confidence go hand in hand. During an anxiety attack, you may feel terrified or worthless, and many other negative emotions may go through your head.

Getting up to work out takes a certain amount of self-confidence, especially if you are heading to the gym. No one wants to walk into the gym and think everyone around them is judging them or looking down on them for not making enough progress.

Don’t let anxiety scare you away from working out, and don’t let it hurt your self-confidence. Instead, consider options such as therapy to help you deal with the anxiety that you’re feeling and the damage to your self-confidence. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be a great tool, because it teaches you to take these negative feelings and turn them into something more positive.

  1. Spark Cortisol Buildup

There is actually a scientific reason your anxiety might be preventing you from reaching your weight loss goals. Its name is cortisol. This “stress hormone” is released during times of fear and anxiety, and it causes the body to retain fat, especially around the body’s midsection.

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It’s also one of the main reasons people who live in stressful environments or work stressful jobs have trouble losing or maintaining weight. Unfortunately, the only way to mitigate the buildup of cortisol in your body is to prevent the things that cause it to be released.

  1. Result in More Anxiety When Weight Is Gained

Since your ultimate goal is to lose weight, the idea of gaining weight can be extremely stressful. Gaining more weight or hitting a plateau in your weight loss goals can cause additional anxiety, which in turn will make it harder to jump-start your weight loss again.

It may seem like an endless cycle, but taking the steps to keep up with a good exercise regimen can actually help you reduce your anxiety about gaining weight.

  1. Feed an Addiction

Anxiety is often hard enough to deal with on its own, so when you throw in the wild card that is addiction, things get really complicated.

Studies have shown people who suffer from anxiety have a 30 to 35 percent chance of developing an addiction to alcohol and a 25 to 30 percent chance of developing a drug addiction as a direct result of the anxiety.

The temptation here is to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol when it becomes difficult to handle the symptoms of anxiety or even just the stresses of everyday life. While an occasional drink can be a way to unwind or spend time with friends, if it becomes hard to separate that occasional drink from a weekend in a bottle, that is a good sign alcohol is becoming a real problem.

  1. Make It Harder to Sleep

For someone with anxiety, sleeping can be difficult or impossible without the help of sleep aids. Anxiety and stress are both known causes of insomnia, but did you know your lack of sleep could also be stalling out your weight-loss plan?

Getting a poor night’s sleep isn’t just going to leave bags under your eyes. It can cause problems with your diet, alter your fat cells, and even slow down your metabolism, making it harder to burn calories while your body is at rest. If getting a good night’s sleep is impossible for you, you may want to consider talking to your doctor to see if there’s any advice they can offer.

When it comes to dealing with the cards that we’ve been dealt, anxiety is a tough card to draw. Now that you know how it can affect your weight loss journey, you have all the tools you need to take the next step and improve your overall wellbeing.

Author Bio

Jennifer Landis the writer and blogger behind Mindfulness Mama. She writes about healthy living, fitness, yoga, and parenting. She loves peanut butter, drinking tea, distance running, and Doctor Who. Follow her on Twitter @JenniferELanids.

About the author


Thank you for reading my article! I am Holly Nunan, a mother of three daughters aged four, six and eight. I'm an Exercise Physiologist with a passion for exercise, fitness, raising healthy children and natural and alternative remedies. I have a simple mission to help each reader that comes to our website to take away one new piece of healthy information that they can immediately apply to their life. If I've helped you find that today, it's mission accomplished!