In this article, we’re going to discuss hormonal health and weight loss. Now, maybe you didn’t know that hormonal health and weight loss were connected, or maybe you’ve been struggling with both. I’m going to give several strategies and tips to support you in achieving hormonal health and weight loss.
My name is Dr. Lisa Lewis. I’m a Naturopathic Doctor, an Acupuncturist, a Wellness Expert, and so many people come to me with hormonal health challenges or weight loss challenges. I think most are coming with both.
People say “I’ve changed my diet. I’ve taken out everything I can possibly take out. I don’t eat anymore wheat, no dairy. I eat vegetables all the time. I’m exercising like crazy, and I’m still gaining weight.”
Or they’ve done so amazing on their weight loss journey, and then all of a sudden, they get to a certain weight, and their weight loss stops. They plateau. There’s a huge connection between hormonal health and weight loss.
Now, the challenge is that, number one, most people don’t recognize the two are connected. Secondly, most people think that they can just work out their way through the weight loss, or they can starve themselves or change their diet through weight loss. But if your hormones are out of balance, it’s going to be very difficult to lose weight.
There are so many hormones that are connected to how your body is able to either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Let’s talk about thyroid.
Hormone imbalance thyroid weight gain
One of the big challenges is that the thyroid needs a lot of minerals and nutrients, and it’s significantly affected by the environment. So, if you have heavy metal challenges like lead and mercury, you’ve been exposed to a lot of pesticides, you’re deficient in zinc or iodine, even your stress hormones, these are many of the different ways your thyroid will be affected.
We’re gonna talk about thyroid in detail in another article in this series, but just know that hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid, could be a significant reason why you may be challenged with weight.
When you test for thyroid and your thyroid results actually come back normal. You go to the doctor, and the doctor says, “well, all your numbers, your labs are normal.” But your symptoms still point to hypothyroidism, you may have “subclinical hypothyroidism.” And so many thyroid challenges, especially hypothyroidism, are either misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed.
So know that, if you’re struggling with weight, thyroid, especially hypothyroidism, can be a huge challenge. It’s important to make sure that you test effectively for your thyroid.
Let’s talk about cortisol.
Stress Hormones and Weight Loss: Cortisol
Cortisol is your stress hormone. If you live a moderately stressful life or you’ve had stress over time, you can expect that your cortisol will probably be out of balance. And as a matter of fact, if your cortisol is out of balance, then it’s almost a guarantee that your thyroid hormones will be out of balance.
It will usually show up as an accumulation of fat around the belly, and it can also contribute to insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, or just challenges metabolizing and breaking down carbohydrates.
Now, if you really are stressed out, you probably are doing some stress eating, which means that you’re craving carbs, as well. And if you exercise too intensely, that can be another stressor and can also send your cortisol numbers through the roof. And if you’ve been stressed out for a long time, what we call chronic stress, then that can actually cause adrenal fatigue. There are several stages of adrenal fatigue.
I discuss weight gain and cortisol in another article, so I hope that you read that article because I go into a lot of detail specifically about how cortisol regulates and creates excess weight, especially around the midsection. But know that cortisol is another hugely important hormone for weight loss.
Hormonal Health and Weight Loss: Leptin the Hunger Hormone
Leptin is another important hormone for weight loss. Now, leptin is what we call the hunger hormone, and it’s released from fat tissue, which we call adipose tissue. It’s controlled by the brain, the hypothalamus, and the more fat tissue you have, the more leptin that your body produces.
If you have too much leptin, your body will just keep signaling you to eat, and to eat and to eat, which is one of the reasons why they call it the hunger hormone. So for people who have an excess accumulation of fat, their body will just keep producing more and more leptin, and then that leptin will then tell them keep eating, keep eating.
Sometimes you might think, “well, I’m full, but why am I eating , or I know I’m not hungry, but I keep eating.” It could be the leptin, and again, because it’s a really important hormone for weight gain, you want to assess whether or not your leptin is out of balance, as well.
Hormonal Health, Insulin and Weight Loss
Insulin is another important hormone, that is responsible for regulating your blood sugar. If your insulin levels are high or triggered by a high-carbohydrate, high-sugar meal, then you’ll continue to have spikes of insulin. It’s gonna go up and go down.
Now, if you’ve had blood sugar dysregulation, are pre-diabetic, diabetic, or insulin resistance your body is having a hard time either releasing or managing your insulin effectively.
The important thing about insulin and weight gain is that insulin actually is a fat-storing hormone. So it causes your body to hold fat, even if we’re almost starving, it will still cause you to hold fat.
So it’s really important to make sure that your blood sugar is balanced, that your insulin levels are balanced, and you maintain a healthy carbohydrate, fat, and protein balance in your meals will make sure that you don’t store too much carbohydrate in the form of fat into your body. So making sure your insulin is balanced is exceptionally important for hormonal health.
Sex Hormones and Weight Gain
The last set of hormones are exceptionally important for hormone balance and weight gain, are the reproductive hormones – estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but primarily estrogen, because estrogen is another one of those fat-storing hormones.
Your estrogen being out of balance could mean either you have too much estrogen, or not enough progesterone, because estrogen and progesterone actually balance one another. If you don’t have enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen, then that actually creates an estrogen dominance. If you are estrogen dominant, then that can cause weight gain regardless as to what your diet looks like and how much you exercise.
Estrogen dominance can occur if you are exposed to a ton of xenoestrogens or estrogenic substances. Like in plastics, if you store things in plastics that aren’t BPA free. These xenoestrogens leach into your food, leach into your water, and those estrogens will get stored into your body.
Pesticides, herbicides, and similar chemicals are what we call hormone disruptors, and they will cause increased levels of estrogen.
If your liver is out of balance, because the liver is where most of your estrogen and your hormones are broken down and produced, and but if your liver is congested it’s not really breaking down those hormones the way it should. As a result your body will store excess estrogen in fat cells around your belly, around your hips and around your thighs.
Now especially during menopause, there’s so much more storage happening in the belly, whereas you maybe losing a little weight in your hips and your thighs. But your belly will start to increase because you’re kinda stealing some of the carbohydrates from other tissues. It’s breaking down the proteins from your buttocks and your thighs and, unfortunately, re-depositing it, onto your belly.
So if your hormones are out of balance, and your estrogen, your progesterone, and testosterone are out of balance, they will contribute to hormonal weight gain.
Visceral Fat, PCOS, and Ovary Removal
Now, the belly fat, that fat that is stored around the belly, it can be pretty dangerous fat. Technically, if it’s deposited inside and in between and around your organs, it’s called visceral fat. Visceral fat really increases the incidents of stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and so many other significant challenges are related to excess weight around the belly and especially around the organs.
Some of the conditions, female challenges and female conditions that are related to hormonal weight gain especially are:
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), and that’s when testosterone tends to be a lot higher and estrogen and progesterone a little bit lower, but your body tends to gain weight, especially with PCOS,
- Ovary Removal, especially for women who have had their ovaries removed along with a hysterectomy (uterus removal).
Both tend to suffer from weight gain quickly, especially around the belly. The body’s trying to store estrogen, and it’s gonna store that estrogen again in the belly. Have I said that enough? It’s gonna store that estrogen right around the midsection, and it can happen very, very quickly.
Hormonal imbalance of going into menopause quickly because you’ve had a hysterectomy or had your ovaries removed really contributes significantly to weight gain.
So we’ve talked about the common hormone imbalances that cause weight gain. We talked about thyroid, cortisol, insulin, which again we’ll have additional articles with more detail about each hormone. We’ve talked about leptin, the hunger hormone, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, the reproductive or sex hormones related to weight gain and that contribute to hormone imbalance. PCOS, hysterectomy, and ovary removal. All of these hormones can contribute to weight gain.
So, if you are running on your treadmill, exercising like crazy, eating very little, practically starving yourself, or eating an amazing diet, and you’re still gaining weight, or you simply can’t lose weight, I encourage you to look at your hormones and get tested to understand what hormones are out of balance. So you can achieve your weight loss goals a lot faster.
I have a free gift for you [click the link below] of how to balance your hormones. I encourage you to download it and stay connected because I’m going to have tons more articles about hormonal health coming in the future.
I look forward to supporting you in balancing your hormones and with losing weight easily, more efficiently, and I’ll see you in the next article.