How to Manage Diet Fatigue and Stress

Causes of Diet Stress

Verywell / Jiaqi Zhou

Does your weight loss program drag you down? Do you suffer from diet fatigue and feel stressed most of the time? You're not alone. Trying to lose weight can be exhausting. And the pressure to lose weight can cause anxiety. To manage weight loss fatigue and stress, target the cause so that you can tackle the source.

Causes of Diet Stress

It can be helpful to know why you are feeling tired and stressed. Understanding the source will help you find a solution. See if any of these common causes of diet stress sound familiar.


When you decrease your energy intake, your energy levels can plummet. And if you add a new exercise program to the mix, it's not unusual to feel chronically tired.

Your exercise program can eventually help you to feel energized, but the initial loss of energy can also cause a dip in your mood.

Low-Calorie and Liquid Diets

If you've chosen to go on a very low-calorie diet (VCLD) or liquid diet, you may experience stress simply from being deprived of good nutrition. You should only undertake a VLCD under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

Even if your health is being monitored, your body will likely react to the significant loss of calories. Liquid diets can cause stress simply because you no longer experience the satisfaction of eating a meal.


Clinical trials have demonstrated that calorie restriction increases the body's level of cortisol, the stress hormone. While the hormone plays an important role in the proper function of your body, chronic elevations in cortisol can cause unhealthy changes, like higher blood pressure, decreased immunity, and impaired cognitive functioning.

Over the long term, increased levels of cortisol may put you at higher risk for depression.

Binge Eating

In a perfect world, people who have changed their diets would never fall off the wagon. But, in many cases, long-term calorie restriction causes people to binge, sometimes repeatedly. Researchers found that those who binge-eat often experience worsening body image and shame over time and are at a greater risk for depression.


Prescription weight loss medication is helpful for some people. But there are potential side effects, including anxiety and depression.

  • Alli or Xenical (orlistat): People taking this medicine can experience oily stools that may become severe if they eat too much fat. The condition can be embarrassing and stressful.
  • Qysmia: This medication also carries the risk of side effects, including depression, mood problems, trouble sleeping, and poor concentration.
  • Wegovy: This once-weekly injectable weight loss medication can cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, indigestion, dizziness, abdominal distention, belching, hypoglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes, flatulence, gastroenteritis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can cause anxiety in some people.
  • Contrave: Contrave can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, headache, dizziness, insomnia, and dry mouth. Buproprion, an ingredient in Contrave may induce suicidal and manic thoughts, especially when beginning the medication.

Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking and how they may be affecting your mood and stress levels.

Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Loss of Comfort (Foods)

The act of eating promotes a feeling of comfort. When we no longer experience the joy of eating, it's not unusual to feel a loss. One small study found that people on a diet became more preoccupied with thoughts about food, had strong urges to eat more frequently, and were more likely to feel out of control of their eating.

People who are restricting calories may also experience internal struggles when faced with decisions about eating foods that they used to enjoy.

Unrealistic Goals

If you set up your weight loss program properly, then you defined specific short and long-term goals at the outset. However, if your goals are unrealistic, they could easily backfire. Not reaching your goals can cause feelings of frustration, depression, or failure.

One analysis found that this is more likely to happen if you go on a very low-calorie diet. Researchers found that people who go on VLCDs are more likely to underestimate their post-diet body size.

A Word From Verywell 

Weight loss can be hard, but building confidence in yourself and finding the motivation to keep working toward your goals can help. Look for resources that will help you manage the specific and unique anxiety that happens when trying to lose weight. Seek professional help if you are struggling with weight loss, mood changes, or stress.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tomiyama AJ, Mann T, Vinas D, Hunger JM, Dejager J, Taylor SE. Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosom Med. 2010;72(4):357-64. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c

  2. Cargill BR, Clark MM, Pera V, Niaura RS, Abrams DB. Binge eating, body image, depression, and self-efficacy in an obese clinical population. Obes Res. 1999;7(4):379-86. doi:10.1002/j.1550-8528.1999.tb00421.x

  3. Contrave. Contrave.

  4. Warren C, Cooper PJ. Psychological effects of dieting. Br J Clin Psychol. 1988;27 ( Pt 3):269-70. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8260.1988.tb00787.x

  5. O'Neil PM, Jarrell MP. Psychological aspects of obesity and very-low-calorie diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;56(1 Suppl):185S-189S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/56.1.185S

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.