Understanding The Link Between Cortisol & Weight Loss

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

It's no secret that losing weight can be complex — it can sometimes feel downright impossible. But many people don't realise that there's more to weight loss than just calories in and calories out. Cortisol, a hormone the adrenal gland produces, plays a key role in how our bodies process, store or burn fat, as well as how our bodies respond to stresses and experience a host of other symptoms. Understanding the link between cortisol and weight loss can help you achieve your goals more effectively and efficiently.

What is cortisol?

Controlled by the pituitary gland, the adrenal gland releases measured amounts of cortisol, a steroid hormone, in times of stress. It’s an essential compound as it helps our body respond to stresses through a fight or flight mode, increases glucose metabolism, manages blood pressure and reduces inflammation.

Stresses can include anything that responds with a panicked response, including loneliness, physical and mental ailments, emotional health, financial health and job security. If you’re on a mission to shred some kilograms, it’s crucial to understand how your body responds to stress and manages cortisol for weight loss.

How high cortisol levels keep you from losing weight

When your body releases an imbalance of cortisol, it can have a massive impact on your weight. Too much of anything is never a good thing — too much cortisol can lead to weight gain that is difficult to budge. It’s very normal and expected to experience stress in life, with temporarily elevated cortisol levels having no real effect on your health. If you aren’t able to reduce cortisol for weight loss, increased levels for a prolonged period, otherwise known as Cushing's Syndrome, may incur additional symptoms such as:

People with high cortisol levels tend to experience weight gain in the abdomen and face in particular, and its effects tend to encourage the over-consumption of foods rich in fat and sugar to self-soothe and comfort oneself in a stressful event. This further compounds issues of obesity.

A study of 340 adults showed that people with high levels of cortisol that went untreated experienced increased food cravings, which was a predictor of future and continuous weight gain. While unbalanced diets and physical activity play a role in maintaining your health, it can be just as essential to manage cortisol for weight loss.

How to reduce cortisol for fat loss

While overeating and snacking can result from reacting to hormonal stimuli, it’s crucial to lower your cortisol to lose weight. While many cortisol supplements and pills for weight loss are on the market, their effectiveness is unsubstantiated. However, there are several ways you can help manage your cortisol and create the momentum to shred kilos for the long term; they include:

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About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.