Whenever we are under stress, our bodies release cortisol. Cortisol is our primary stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is also known as the "fight-or-flight" hormone because of its effects in increasing blood pressure and blood sugar levels to help us run away from or fight off a predator or other stressful event. Cortisol plays an important role in the body's regulation of cardiovascular function as well as fat, protein and carbohydrate utilization. When the body experiences stress, cortisol secretion increases, causing a breakdown of muscle protein and the release of amino acids to form glucose. Chronic stress has been found to be a major contributing factor in obesity. Cortisol is a potent signal to increase appetite and store fat. The increased cortisol in our body tells our brain that we're hungry, at the same time telling our fat cells to store as much fat as they can and hold on to it as tightly as possible. Chronic stress can lead to cravings for high fat, high carbohydrate foods such as cookies, candy and chips.