Emotional eating, as many of us know, is a real thing. And singer Barbra Streisand claims she’s experiencing it. Why? Donald Trump, according to a recent tweet.
On the other hand, Lena Dunham has a message for people who are complimenting her on her recent weight loss: She’s not happy about the reason behind it.
The Girls creator appeared on Howard Stern’s SiriusXM radio show Monday morning and revealed, “Donald Trump became president, and I stopped being able to eat food.” After the radio host admired her look, she said, “Everyone’s been asking like, ‘What have you been doing?’ And I’m like, ‘Try soul-crushing pain and devastation and hopelessness, and you too will lose weight.’”
Streisand and Dunham aren’t alone. Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and an obesity medicine specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Yahoo Beauty that she’s heard similar accounts of stress affecting her patients’ weight since the election. “With really stressful events, especially with the magnitude of the recent election, a person’s weight may be affected one way or another. You can see big fluctuations,” she says, adding that some people may respond to stress with weight gain, while others like Dunham lose weight.
“I’m having quite a few patients report different extremes,” Stanford says. Unfortunately, she adds, you can’t decide whether your body reacts to stress with a weight gain or a weight loss.
When people are stressed, the hormone cortisol is released in their body, Stanford explains. When that occurs, typically people retain more adipose tissue, which the body uses to store fat. “Cortisol tends to increase the body’s desire to retain fat but also causes the body to want to eat and crave things that we might not have otherwise,” she says. But cortisol can also make your stomach feel upset, clinical psychologist John Mayer, PhD, tells Yahoo Beauty, which may explain why some people eat less when they’re stressed.
Stress can also cause people to be less in tune with their appetite and hunger cues, New York-based registered dietitian Jessica Cording tells Yahoo Beauty. “Part of this is the body’s physical responses to stress, where the body releases fight-or-flight hormones to help us, say, run away from a bear or deal with an emergency,” she says. “It’s meant to be a helpful biological mechanism but can numb us out to those cues.”
If you find that you’re suddenly losing or gaining weight and you suspect that stress is the cause, Stanford says, it’s important to try to get your stress levels under control before doing the same with your weight. “Often just a shift of that sort can be what is needed,” she says.