March 31, 2024

Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain?

You’ve probably heard of cortisol, the main stress hormone, but do you know how it affects your body? This powerful chemical messenger influences everything from digestion and mental health to sleep and immunity. But does cortisol cause weight gain? And how can you best manage this?

What Cortisol Does to Your Body

Cortisol is released from your adrenal glands whenever you are under stress. The stress we encounter nowadays is very different from what we experienced millions of years ago. Back then, it was woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers giving us stress! Now, we feel stressed out by busy traffic, credit card debt, and an overflowing inbox.

However, the effect of stress on the body is the same. Your adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, and you move into the “fight, flight, or freeze” response, which is part of the sympathetic nervous system.

Cortisol has several main actions:

  • Raises blood sugar levels by breaking down sugar stores in the liver and muscles.
  • Breaks down fatty acids and proteins for energy.
  • Raises blood pressure.
  • Diverts blood away from the digestive system so that more blood and oxygen are available to large muscles in the limbs to help you fight or flee from the source of stress.


In the short term, these actions help you deal with an immediate danger. However, modern forms of stress are chronic and not easily dealt with. Instead, your body remains in a state of near-permanent fight or flight, with chronically elevated cortisol levels.


Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain?

One of the key signs of dysregulated cortisol levels is weight gain around the belly area. This is because cortisol promotes the growth and differentiation of fat cells. Visceral fat cells that lie deep within your abdominal cavity are much more sensitive to cortisol than fat cells that lie just beneath the skin (Duclos et al, 2012). So, higher cortisol levels encourage the fat cells in your belly and abdomen to grow much larger.

Chronically elevated cortisol also interferes with the delicate balance of thyroid hormone activity. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism and play an important role in weight management. Thyroid dysregulation can lead to weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

Signs and Symptoms of High Cortisol

Some of the common signs of chronically elevated cortisol include:

Weight gain around the belly area.


Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Lowered immune response.

Gut problems like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, bloating, indigestion, wind, constipation, and diarrhea.

Headaches and migraine.

High blood pressure (hypertension).

Muscle tension.

Brain fog, poor memory, and poor concentration.


How To Get Rid of Cortisol Weight Gain

To get rid of cortisol-induced weight gain, you need to work on your diet and lifestyle. Just changing your diet alone will not be enough if you continue to feel stressed by work, family, finances, or other factors. You probably can’t make these problems disappear – most of us have to live with a certain degree of stress! – but you can change how you respond to them.

The Eat Burn Sleep program will help you build resilience to stress and achieve a healthy weight balance.

The meal plans, recipes, and food lists are designed to support blood sugar regulation and hormone health. These foods help you avoid blood sugar crashes (another form of stress!) and provide a balance of protein, fat, and the right kinds of carbohydrate to keep you energized between meals.

Our meditation guides for morning and night help you switch from the sympathetic nervous system into the parasympathetic response. This side of your nervous system promotes healing and repair and the release of calming mood chemicals.

Plus, our workout sessions help you stay strong and flexible without stressing your system and triggering more cortisol. It is important to keep active but exercising too intensely is another form of stress that must be avoided.


This is what EBS member Sharon has to say about our program:

I feel the best in years, with a flat tummy and much less with bloating. I try to follow the program as much as possible and when socializing, I enjoy a few treats, then get back on the green food list.

I’m slimmer around my middle and have a lot of energy. My joints feel so much better. I can tell I have less inflammation in my body.

The workouts are great, and because they are short, I can always fit them into my day.

I will be subscribing for another year in May, thanks Yalda for all your work, in helping yourself, you are now helping so many people.


Would you like to experience the same benefits as Sharon?

Now is the time to take control of stress, lose weight, and strengthen your resilience. Check out what’s on offer in our membership options here and begin your journey to optimum health.


You might also like to tune into these podcast episodes:

Using Sounds to Calm Your Mind



And dive into these articles:

Heart Health: Do You Have a Heart Healthy Lifestyle?

Depression, Anxiety, and Gut Health


Wishing you peace and calm,

Yalda x


Yalda Alaoui


Eat. Burn. Subscribe.

Join the Eat Burn Sleep email newsletter and be the first to hear about new tips, and recipes!

Continue Reading

Can Diet Help Relieve Hay Fever?

Habit Stacking – The Key to Making Your Health Habits Last

How Does Sleep Help With Inflammation?