3 ways stress impacts fat loss

Did you ever hear that stress could be getting in the way of seeing results?

It’s true – but like, how does that even work? 🙃

Welp, read on to see a few mechanisms by which it can happen.

cortisol causes blood sugar dysregulation

Under stress, cortisol triggers the body to release energy quickly from cells. Your quick energy source is carbohydrate, which is normally stored in the liver and muscle cells as glucose. In the presence of cortisol, the blood floods with glucose and your blood sugar levels rise.

Normally, insulin comes along and clears that glucose right up out of the blood and into the cells. But, in the presence of cortisol, insulin action is suppressed.

This means when you’re stressed, glucose is dumped into the blood and insulin is not available to shuttle it back into cells. As a result, you experience elevated blood sugar levels for prolonged periods of time. This environment makes it difficult to access fat for fuel which would normally lead to fat loss.

cortisol causes stress eating

Cortisol has a way of fueling cravings for high carbohydrate and/or high calorie foods because the same cellular responses that keep your blood sugar up also send signals to the brain that they are “starved” for energy and therefore in desperate need of fuel.

Your body is smart! It knows that celery and carrots won’t cut it for quick energy. You’ll crave easily digested and rapidly absorbed fuel – think candy, cookies, sweet beverages, cereal.

When your cells are starved for energy, signals get sent to the brain to eat the types of foods that will provide not only the most immediately accessible energy (carbohydrates), but the most rich energy (fat) by volume and weight. Ultimately, this combo, (especially if you’re not tracking macros and staying within your needs), can lead to body fat gain due to overconsumption of calories.

cortisol causes visceral fat gain

Visceral fat is the fat that surrounds the important organs in the abdomen. Fat cells are not inherently “bad,” but when they pad the most important organs of our body, it can change the way those organs function – which is problematic.

Elevated cortisol stimulates the breakdown of fat, but then that fat gets relocated to the fat cells that surround the internal organs of the abdomen.

Cortisol basically acts like a child playing with legos: taking the neatly stacked legos from one pile and haphazardly putting them together in another. The legos no longer resemble a little town with buildings and skyscrapers, but rather a construction zone of half-built buildings and rubble.

Many of you will tell me “I don’t feel stressed” all while using coffee as a meal substitute before rushing off to HIIT bootcamp class, forgetting to break for lunch between taking care of everyone else (except yourself). Then it’s wine to wind down and social scrolling right before drifting off to do it all again tomorrow.


Your body reads and responds to stress the same way despite what you’re going through. This means that you might be getting a promotion, moving in with your s/o or working on a fun project that has you up early and in bed late – and your body doesn’t see that much differently than messy breakups, horrible bosses, or even chronic undereating and overtraining. Without intentionally trying to mitigate that stress through building habits that promote resiliency, you might still struggle to get strong and lean.

This is an often overlooked part of the health journey – and that’s what we’ll be talking about in the next few posts. I hate leaving you feeling like “you’re not doing enough” with my content, so I’ll be sure to share the habits and behaviors that make the biggest difference in the area of stress management and resiliency building because I know you don’t really want to slow down on your full, fun life 🤜🤛


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