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Handling Rapid Weight Loss from Anxiety

November 26, 2020 Court Rundell

I recently experienced rapid weight loss from anxiety, and it felt like a vicious cycle that would never end. My anxiety worsened with every meal I missed, and every pound I lost. It was completely overwhelming and scary, but I got through it. Read on to learn how I was able to stop the cycle of rapid weight loss and return to a healthy weight

How My Anxiety Caused Rapid Weight Loss

Anxiety is cyclical in nature, as was rapid weight loss from anxiety for me. I felt like no matter what I did to try to solve the problem; I couldn't stop losing weight. My daily challenges felt insurmountable:

  • Loss of appetite -- Foods I previously found irresistible weren't even remotely desirable.
  • Digestive problems -- When I managed to choke food down, it went right through me.
  • Severe insomnia -- I was barely sleeping, so I was burning more calories from being awake.1
  • Elevated heart rate2 -- My heart was beating as if I was working out even when I was sitting still.  

Even when I was able to eat, I couldn't get enough fuel in my body to keep up with how fast I was burning calories. At the height of my anxiety, I lost 10 pounds in a week. 

How I Stopped Losing Weight Rapidly While Still Anxious

The other horrible side effect of not eating was my mental health. My mental illnesses were much worse when I skipped meals. My psychiatrist demanded I eat three meals a day, but how?

I am neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, just a person who got to the other side of rapid weight loss from anxiety. For me, breaking the cycle was all about baby steps:

  1. I was put on an antidepressant that treats panic disorder along with an anti-anxiety medication for sleep. I couldn't get through the anxiety on coping skills alone.
  2. Eating three meals a day required a redefinition of what I considered to be a meal. A protein bar, a smoothie, or nutrition shake now counted as a meal.
  3. Soup became a staple food.
  4. When I became too anxious before eating, I used whatever coping skills I could to calm the anxiety enough so I could eat. 
  5. If a food I normally wouldn't eat sounded appetizing, I ate it. 
  6. I ate foods that were high in fat, and I didn't care whether they were healthy or not. Yes, I'm talking about pizza, milkshakes, and cheeseburgers. (I warned you, I'm not a nutritionist.) 

It took about three weeks to regularly eat three solid meals a day and about two months to get back to my healthy weight. I still occasionally have anxiety before eating. Healing isn't linear, and setbacks are part of the process. Above all else, I must be gentle with myself on the road to recovery.

Have you experienced rapid weight loss from anxiety? What tools helped in your healing and recovery? Please share your story in the comments below. 

Sources

  1. Marcin, A., "How Many Calories Do You Burn While You're Asleep?" Healthline, September 2018.
  2. Fletcher, J., "Fat Burning Heart Rate: Everything You Need to Know." Medical News Today, August 2019.

APA Reference
Rundell, C. (2020, November 26). Handling Rapid Weight Loss from Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, January 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2020/11/handling-rapid-weight-loss-from-anxiety



Author: Court Rundell

Deborah
December, 13 2020 at 5:58 am

This is me. Right now.
I lost my husband a few days ago, after a long illness . The last few months have been full of acute anxiety and sleeplessness, always worrying what was going to happen to him next. I’ve dropped over a stone in weight in a few weeks, going from a healthy weight to skinny underweight.
All the things you write about are very real for me. I’ll try some of your advice, I’m keen to get back to a strong and healthy weight quickly.

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