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The Connection Between High Cortisol Levels, Stress, And The Inability To Lose Weight

Posted by Kelsey Juntwait on

We've ALL been there...

We try to lose weight — but no matter how hard we work out, how hard we focus on our meal prep, how much we cut out sugar and alcohol and carbs... nothing works!

But why!?

If you're feeling stressed about your weight loss goals than you might want to focus less on your actual lack of weight loss and more on the reason behind your lack of weight loss.

Let's talk about Cortisol!

Cortisol levels can be the bane of our existence, but they are also a necessary evil. This hormone is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress (which is why it's known as the "stress hormone"). The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys, and cortisol helps regulate many important bodily functions. For example, it plays a role in keeping glucose levels in the blood stable, suppressing inflammation, and regulating blood pressure. However, when cortisol levels get out of whack, we can experience a range of unpleasant symptoms like fatigue and irritability, along with the inability to lose weight. 

Signs & Symptoms Of High Cortisol:

  • Acne
  • Brittle Skin
  • Easy Bruising
  • Flushed Face
  • Difficulty Healing Wounds
  • Muscle Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Blood Sugar
  • Headaches
  • Brain Fog
  • Irritability
  • Weight Gain In Mid-Section & Face
  • Inability To Lose Weight

The relationship between Cortisol and stress.

Have you ever felt like you were about to explode with stress?

Well, blame cortisol.

This hormone is released when we're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, and it wreaks havoc on our bodies. Cortisol increases our heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. It also helps to suppress our immune system, which can help us to focus on the stressor at hand.

Thus, it's clear that cortisol levels play an important role in our response to stress. A sudden surge in cortisol can give us the energy boost we need to tackle a challenge head-on. However, when cortisol levels remain high for an extended period of time, it can wreak havoc on our health. 

So, essentially...

Long-Term Stress = Long-Term Cortisol = Unwanted Health Issues

What does Cortisol have to do with weight gain and weight loss?

Recent studies have taken a closer look at the link between cortisol levels and weight loss, to figure out if it's a hindrance or a helper. So, what exactly did these studies find?

Well, it turns out that cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone", can actually hinder weight loss efforts. When cortisol levels are high, our bodies are more likely to have an increase in appetite as well as the heightened ability to retain fat, especially in our midsection.

In the short term, these effects can help us to cope with stressful situations. But in the long term, they can lead to health issues like unwanted weight gain and the inability to lose weight, as well as the increased risk of heart attack or stroke. 

How to manage stress-related weight gain.

Cortisol levels can be the arch-nemesis of those trying to maintain a healthy weight. So managing (and lowering) those cortisol levels is the key to keeping a healthy weight in check.

Somatic exercises are a great way to lower cortisol levels in the body. These exercises involve gentle stretching and movement that help to relax the body, reduce stress, and restore balance. In addition, they can help to reduce cortisol levels by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body. Additionally, somatic exercises can help to reduce inflammation, improve sleep, and boost the immune system. Finally, these exercises can help to improve mental health and emotional well-being, as well as reduce anxiety and depression. All of these benefits can help to reduce cortisol levels and improve overall health.