Can Anxiety Lead to Weight Gain?

Can Anxiety Lead to Weight Gain?

When you have too much belly fat, chances are, you’re also stressed and anxious.

Emotions and eating are joined at the hip—or the waist—according to a study published in the journal Menopause. Researchers found that women who are generally anxious also have larger waistlines.

Scientists enrolled 5,580 middle-aged women and used an accepted anxiety-depression scale to evaluate their level of anxiety and measured their waist-to-height ratios. The researchers then divided the women into three waistline groups based on their waist-to-height ratio: smallest, middle and largest. Nearly 55 percent of the women with the smallest waistlines were anxiety prone; 59.7 percent of those in the middle group had anxiety; and a whopping 68.4 percent of women with the largest waistlines contended with anxiety and physical symptoms.

Which came first the chicken (waistline) or the egg (anxiety)? We don’t know. But we bet excess visceral fat around the waistline stokes up inflammation and possibly neuro-emotional responses such as anxiety. And there’s mounting evidence that excess fat correlates to a disrupted microbiome—where gut feelings, like anxiety, are a real result.

The good news? By eliminating inflammatory, gut-disrupting processed foods, added sugars and red meat from your diet can help shrink your waistline. Exercising 150+ minutes weekly can also help you reduce belly fat and bring balance back to your gut, so you have a calmer and more positive outlook on life.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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