Weight Loss – Cortisol Levels Can Impact your Ability to Lose Weight

Cortisol levels can affect your ability to lose weight

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The Summary – a few sentences that summarize this blog

1. Cortisol regulates your blood sugar, blood pressure, metabolism, inflammation and your immune system.

2. Cortisol deficiency results in fatigue, chronic exhaustion and Addison’s disease.

3.  Excessive amounts of cortisol causes you to gain weight, especially around your abdomen, accelerates aging and stomach ulcers and depresses your immune system.

4.  Stress increases your cortisol levels – you must remove stress from your body on a daily basis.

5.  Aim to not allow stress in – do not let or allow other people or events to control your emotions.

6.  Cortisol blockers might be a consideration, but check with your physician first.

The Details:  If you want to know more about how cortisol affects your ability to lose weight and what you can do, please continue reading…


Cortisol levels can impact your ability to lose weight.  Your pituitary gland produces adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH) which in turn causes your adrenal cortex to produce cortisolCortisol is a hormone in a group of steroids called glucocorticoids which regulates blood sugar, inflammation and your immune systemCortisol regulates your metabolism and blood pressure.  Some studies suggest that cortisol levels may be a predictor of fractures for older adults.

A deficiency of cortisol results in fatigue, chronic exhaustion and Addison’s disease.  An overabundance of cortisol causes you to gain weight, especially around your abdomen.  It also depresses your immune system and can accelerate aging and stomach ulcers.

Cortisol and Stress

An increase in any kind of stress leads to an increase in cortisol production.  All these stresses are additive and cumulative in their effect.  Examples of stress are:  physical (overexertion, trauma, infection); environmental (heat, cold, noise); chemical (nutritional deficiencies, refined sugar consumption, drugs); psychological (worry, fear); and/or imaginary stresses.

Cortisol and Fat

Cortisol impacts fat in your body in two ways.  Initially when your stress occurs, fat is broken down to supply the body with an immediate source of energy.  Your brain releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and puts your body on alert to your Fight or Flight responseCRH causes your pupils to dilate, your thinking to improve and your lungs to take in more oxygen.  When this happens, your appetite is suppressed and your digestive system shuts down temporarilyCRH then triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol which helps to mobilize your carbohydrate and fat supplies for quick energy.

Here’s when the problem begins – when you have overcome the stress, your adrenaline levels dissipate, but your cortisol levels remain high to bring your body back into balance.  This balance is achieved by increasing your appetite to replace the carbohydrate and fat supplies that you used up when you needed them.

This whole process sounds logical – and, it worked well before the evolution of modern society.  Today, your body is ‘forced’ into refueling when it doesn’t need to refuelSustained stress keeps your cortisol levels elevated, and causes your hunger to remain unabatedHigh cortisol levels keep your insulin levels elevatedHigh cortisol levels stimulate additional glucose production.  This ‘excessglucose is now converted to fat and is stored as excess fat.

High levels of cortisol make you feel tired and listless.  In order to compensate for being tired or exhausted, you eat to renew your energy level.  How many of you have ever had the ‘need’ for a candy bar, or coke, to take the edge off a temporary feeling of exhaustion?  This extra fat is stored around your waistline because the cells in that part of your body are more sensitive to cortisol.

Your abdomen contains fat cells rich in stress hormone receptors.  The sensitivity to cortisol makes them particularly sensitive to high levels of insulin, which, in turn, makes them very efficient for storing energy in the form of fat.  This is a very dangerous place to store excess fat.  It can lead to metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

Cortisol – Stress – Fight or Flight Stages

The primary function of your subconscious mind is to protect you from harm and injury (real or imagined).  As a result, real or perceived stress causes your adrenal glands to enlarge and secrete large amounts of adrenal cortical hormones.  These hormones suppress inflammatory responses and mobilize your body’s energy reserves.  In the old days, the human response was automatic to Fight or Flight.  Your body responds initially to this first stage of Fight or Flight response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and causing your pupils to dilate.

Your body begins diverting its biochemical resources to survival.  Your self-healing is arrested.  Your immune system is suppressed.  Your glycogen stores in your liver and muscles are mobilized to raise blood sugar levels.  Your digestion and assimilation processes are inhibited.  Your stomach lining becomes thinner and ulcerated and your thymus gland and lymphatic tissue shrinks.

The second stage of the Fight of Flight response is adaptation.  Your adrenal glands enlarge and release large quantities of adrenal cortical hormone.  Your symptoms disappear and you begin to feel better and have the energy necessary to cope with the stress.

After an extended period of time in the adaptation stage, you will experience exhaustion and enter the third stage.  If you don’t have sufficient reserves to continue fighting the stress, you will soon deplete all your body’s energy’s reserves.  The symptoms return and you no longer have the ability to fight it.  Some people collapse in exhaustion or suffer a nervous breakdown, become dysfunctional or experience a heart attack or stroke.

The fourth stage is death if the stresses continue after stage three.  Your body is no longer able to adapt, rest, regenerate and healing is arrestedDeath is not far behind.

What Can You Do?

Removing yourself from these stresses is the best medicine.  Eliminating the stress allows time to reverse the physiological effectsRest and nutritional support are necessary to begin restoring your body to its original condition.  Peace of mind returns as you near replenishment.

It should be noted that while in stage two, adaptation, you can actually feel or perceive no stress.  Your adaptation stage has led your conscious mind to perceive that you have overcome your stress.  A serious problem while in adaptation is the suppression of your immune system.  You are more susceptible to colds, infections, allergies, flu, etc.  You can also exacerbate any existing diseases and maladies that you have.

Chronically high levels of cortisol lead to the accumulation of abdominal fat.  It is nearly impossible to get rid of this extra fat caused by stress because it is constantly being resupplied with additional stress and more cortisol.  A suppressed immune system can lead to additional health issues.

How do you control or correct your cortisol levels?  One way is to get a cortisol test. Determine if you need to take corrective action.  Another way is to practice stress reduction on a daily basis.  I believe that stress reduction is your most essential and effective solution.  Since stress caused your cortisol levels to rise, removing the stress shuts down your production of cortisolMeditation, exercise, hot bath or shower, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), breathing exercises, improving your time management and self-hypnosis are just a few of the many ways for you to control the stress in your life.

Ten to fifteen minutes of physical activity can improve your mood in the short-term and reduce stressIntense physical exercise is very effective to remove stress.  Work on your attitude and motivation – both are self-initiated.  Find something fun to do.  Listen to relaxing music or read a fun book.  Work with a friend.  Positive relationships with others help to reduce stress.

If you can’t gain control over your stress, you can’t expect any other support measure or therapy to work effectively.  If you are exercising and finding no response to your efforts for weight loss, then you might not be doing the right kind of exercise (type, intensity, frequency, duration, etc.)  Check with a physical trainer or check out the internet.

Positive thinking, positive attitude and affirmations are great options to choose to reduce stressNegative self-talk (I’m too fat, this doesn’t work, I’ve tried this before and, I’ll never look good again, etc.) has a major impact on your ability to cope with stress.  Don’t be overly diet consciousFocus on eating balanced meals and snacks when you are hungry – the key concept here is ‘when you are hungry.’  Stop eating when you are really satisfied, not when everything is gone from your plate.

Dedicate a portion of your day to you.  Ten minutes to simply reflect and relax.  Do something that will revitalize you in the short-term.  Give yourself a foot-rub, do a cross-word puzzle, just do something that is devoted 100% to your relaxation.

Rest is extremely important and should be used as part of your strategy to overcome stressDiet is important also.  Choose a low glycemic diet to remove a lot of the sugar that causes an increase in your cortisol levels.  A comprehensive and complete vitamin and mineral supplement is needed to help control cortisol levels.

Nutritional supplements are also extremely valuable as part of your overall strategy to combat stressPhosphatidylserine (PS) has been shown to be effective in repairing the cortisol receptors in your hypothalamusExceptionally high levels of cortisol have been shown to damage these receptors in your hypothalamus and reduce the ability of your hypothalamus to sense and correct high cortisol levels.

Cortisol Blockers

The jury is on both sides regarding the effectiveness and efficacy of cortisol blockers.  There are many factors contributing to weight gainCortisol is one.  Cortisol blockers may help, but they would be one tool to consider.  The Federal Trade Commission has intervened to stop claims of cortisol blocker manufacturers to state that they, do, in fact, block cortisol or cause weight loss.  There are so many lower cost options to address elevated cortisol.  I would recommend considering this option after seeing the results of everything else you have done that aren’t effective.


Some people react with outrage to someone cutting in line in front of them at the grocery store, or in front of them when they are driving.  Others accept it without concern – just a course of life.  The way you perceive stress in your life also plays a major factor in how your body will react.  It’s not what happened to you, it’s how you reacted to it.  How many people do you know irritate you every time you see them?  Just hearing them talk, or seeing them in person puts you on alert.  Why?  You allowed yourself to react that way.  You made that choice.  Your choice to get upset, or allow it to affect you emotionally, results in elevated levels of cortisol in your body.  Don’t let other people control your emotions.

Red O’Laughlin  aka  The Prosperity Professor

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