How Stress Can Cause a Loss of Appetite—And 5 Ways to Handle It

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During this unprecedented time, we’re all processing stress differently. But for many in lockdown, the realities of socially distanced living are having a dramatic impact on our eating habits.

“When experiencing stress, appetite can be affected in a few different ways,” explains Joi Britt, a clinical social worker and therapist at DRK Beauty Healing. “Some people find themselves binge eating as a way to cope with the feelings of being overwhelmed, while others find themselves not eating for extended hours or days.” If it’s the latter, you may find that no matter how much you meal prep, cook, or try to stock the house with the necessary foods to keep your body healthy, it’s still difficult to maintain a healthy appetite. If this is the case, begin the process of rebuilding your appetite by identifying your stressors. “Once you have done that, gauge ways that you might be able to reduce the stress; be it asking for help, support, or taking a break,” Britt says.

Similarly, culinary and integrative dietitian Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, says that appetite loss can be “your body’s fight-or-flight response to acute stress and anxiety,” and that long term, some people might turn to food as a source of stress relief. Ultimately, what it comes down to is “tuning into how stress affects your body specifically,” says Moore. This is especially important for those within the Black community, who are experiencing heightened levels of stress in the face of the current racial uprisings; emotions that are only compounded by the fact that Black people are dying from COVID-19 at higher rates. Here, Britt and Moore offer their tips on handling loss of appetite in the face of immense stress.

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