Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Obesity and Weight Management

I`ve stopped eating, and I feel fine...

10/24/2007

Question:

I am a 29yr old overweight male. I`m about 5`8" and weighed (at the time I started not eating) about 235 lbs. I have a lot of muscle mass as I used to be an athlete, but I have a substantial amount of fat as well.

The thing is this: I have undergone a tremendous amount of stress and personal crises beginning about 2wks ago. Normally my response would be to eat large amounts of food. However I have, through no conscious decision, not eaten in the past 2weeks but for an occasional small meal(250 calories) maybe once a day--but some days eaten nothing at all. Just coffee, cigarettes, and diet coke. I have lost about 15 lbs over these last 2 weeks. Funny thing is that I feel fine. My stomach growls once in a while, but I have not felt hungry for quite some time. My hands don`t shake, I don`t feel weak or woozy. It`s been remarkably easy to give up food.

Is this bad? Am I going to die of internal organ failure or something? I seriously feel physically fine and it just seems very odd to me.

Thanks for your time.

Answer:

Stress can result in either over-eating or it can have an anorexic effect. While they can be psychologically influenced, hunger and appetite are also regulated physiologically by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus receives signals from other parts of the body and then responds by sending its own signals to up-regulate or down-regulate appetite. Stress can cause a disruption in the chemicals involved in hypothalamus signaling, resulting in either over-eating or loss of appetite.

In the short term, loss of appetite is not a problem. Currently you may not be experiencing adverse symptoms; however, chronic stress with loss of appetite can result in result in unintentional weight loss (including muscle loss), nutrient imbalances, a weakened immune system, tiredness, and irritability, all of which can exacerbate already stressful conditions. Chronic stress is also linked to heart disease and diabetes. Your continuing loss of appetite is likely a reflection of a slow down in your metabolism in order to spare energy. The longer you go without food, the more your body will revert to its own fat and muscle for energy, resulting in weight and fat loss, but also loss of muscle tissue, including muscle from vital organs.

If you are losing weight from stress, you need to find a better way to manage your stress. Find ways to reduce your workload so you have more time in your schedule for relaxation. Use that time to do something you enjoy. Exercise is a great way to not only relieve stress but also to control weight and improve health. In addition, focus on maintaining a healthy diet with adequate energy and protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. See a registered dietitian for more specific help on achieving a balanced diet. Caffeine and nicotine act as a stimulant and may cause more stress and anxiety Limit caffeine intake to no more than one or two cups of coffee or soda a day. Quitting smoking would be beneficial not only to reduce stress, but also to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and COPD.

For more information:

Go to the Obesity and Weight Management health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Angela Blackstone, RD, LD
Staff Dietitian
Center for Wellness and Prevention
Clinical Instructor
School of Allied Medical Professionals
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University