What is Cortisol and Why You Need to Know About It

Mar 23, 2023

Cortisol - we've heard the term before, but we just keep it moving.

It's important. Especially important when it comes to weight loss and living our best life.

In very simple terms, cortisol is a stress response hormone.

Okay, and what what does a stress response hormone have to do with weight loss? For lack of better words: pretty much everything.

When we are stressed, our bodies go immediately into fight-or-flight mode. When that happens, our heart rate, blood pressure and circulation rises, so our body can give us the energy we need to fight or run. Our blunt pain response is compromised - makes sense when we think of people who walk away from terrible car accidents.

Functions that aren't as essential in that one moment in time such as growth, digestion and reproduction slow down. Again, makes sense when we think of people we know who have tried to get pregnant for years, stop because they can't deal with the stress, and those two magical lines pop up on their test the following month.

During this flight or fight time, cortisol helps glucagon release fatty acids and glucose into our bloodstream for the quick burst of energy we need.

Sounds great. What's the problem with that?

The problem is, our body cannot differentiate if we are running from a serial killer, or restricting calories to try to shed some pounds.

Stress is stress is stress.

Whether it is over-exercising, under sleeping, restricting calories, trying to get out of the darks words alive, or sprinting up the basement stairs because you think a murderer is hiding (yes, I'm 32 and that still happens), your adrenaline is pumping, and you have elevated cortisol levels. When your body is continuously releasing cortisol, problems being to arise.

Chronically elevated cortisol leads to preservation of body fat. This excess body fat is targeted to the abdominal area, which leads you with a whole slew of issues. Obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL (good cholesterol) just to name a few.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels wastes away your muscle mass, aka more fat, less muscle. Cool, cool.

Chronically elevated cortisol levels screws up your thyroid function, which leads to slowing your metabolism. Slowing your metabolism, unfortunately, means you pack on the pounds without overeating much.

Long story short? Limit your stress as much as possible, no matter if it's your dietary habits or psychological stress. While the world is currently in this 'hustle' culture where we wear our stress as a badge of honor, it is doing some serious damage to your hormones.

Do you find yourself constantly eating when you're not hungry? Take the Quiz to see what type of eater you are - and get the tips to stop!