Cortisol is the new catch cry in conversations about obesity and weight loss and the impact on overall weight management, and stress and weight gain may be bedfellows in that discussion.

According to a report done by International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the fitness industry revenue in 2018 was a staggering $94bn.

The term ‘weight loss’ is one heard in daily conversation, but so is the word ‘stressed’ and according to fitness coach, Robin Du Toit, people aren’t correlating the two factors together to form a healthier lifestyle.

Mr Du Toit is a fitness trainer and founder of Artisticfit. He says that the reason most people struggle to lose weight is a factor doctors do not consider enough, and that someone’s cortisol levels.

Stress-related hormones


‘Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, because excess cortisol has been linked to promote weight gain within the body. So, if you are stressed out, you are producing too much cortisol, which in turn can prevent weight loss and actually encourage weight gain.

‘Not only does stress enhance the production of more cortisol, but it also encourages emotional eating and overeating as part of a coping mechanism. But it isn’t just stress that causes an excess of cortisol in the body.

Mr Du Toit  says stress may be a factor contributing to more cortisol within the body, but there is also a range of diseases and conditions that can produce abnormal levels. It is important for people who are experiencing weight gain even after changing diet and exercise routines, to see a doctor about their cortisol levels.

Mr Du Toit says doctors don’t always think to make the connection.

Ways to reduce cortisol


Lowering cortisol levels for those who are experiencing a higher gain due to stress need to look at the ways they reduce the amount of stress they currently experience.

‘One of the best ways to lower cortisol levels, to ultimately enhance weight loss is exercise,’ says Du Toit. ‘Forming a solid exercise program will help lower those high cortisol levels while at the same time, promote the burning of calories. Practices, including meditation and other forms of relaxation techniques, will also help.

‘Keeping motivated and on track with fitness goals can be challenging. Incorporating a Personal Trainer or some accountability is the best way to stay focused on a solid exercise routine’.