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Dear Luba: Cortisol

Dear Luba,

Does stress contribute to weight gain?

The answer is … yes.

When we are involved in stressful or dangerous situations, cortisol (the stress hormone) gets released into the bloodstream. When cortisol levels go up, we will experience its effects such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, slowing down of digestion, as well as the release of blood sugar from the liver. Continuous cortisol release increases insulin production, leading to insulin resistance and eventually weight gain. Interestingly, when cortisol goes up, any carbohydrate intake at that time will immediately be stored as fat (especially in the abdominal area) and will not be used as a source of energy.

We can’t avoid stress(it’s present in our daily lives ), but we must learn and develop ways to deal with it positively and counteract its harmful effects. Chronic stress, such as working at a job you hate, financial difficulties, and toxic relationships, lead to long-term elevated cortisol levels, which in turn leads to weight gain. Of course, it’s easier said than done. However, reducing stress, therefore reducing cortisol levels, is vital to weight loss and overall health. This active and ongoing practice can be achieved through daily morning sunlight exposure, meditating, practicing yoga, spending time outdoors, deep breathing, and exercising.


1. Try to implement at least one of the above practices into your daily routine (even if it’s just for a few minutes)

2. An excellent meditation app to try is Insight Timer.

3. Try to keep the consumption of foods that are high in sugar low during stressful periods.

Luba Surman is a Doctor of Pharmacy and has been practicing as a registered pharmacist for 17 years. 

Using a holistic individualized approach to healthcare, wellness, and nutrition, she empowers and educates patients on how to achieve and lead a healthy lifestyle.