Hormones and Weight Loss

Posted: September 14, 2021

Hormones and weight loss go hand in hand and your weight is hugely dependent on hormones.

So many women struggle with weight loss because they don’t understand how hormones affects their body.

Meaning it’s NOT lack of willpower.

Understanding hormones and how different types of nutrients releases these hormones will help you make better food choices without feeling like you are need to follow a set of rules.

And in case you did not know, there are MANY different kinds of hormones like sex hormones and thyroid hormones.

There are also THOUSANDS of diets, books and articles discussing the secrets to weight loss and the magical food you need to eat to lose weight, but none of them are backed by SCIENCE.

So what does the research say?

The truth is there are many overlapping ways to lose weight and there is not a clear cut answer.

Many diets DO work, but only for the short term.

This is what gets you stuck in the diet cycle. You try something unsustainable and drastic to lose weight and soon enough you go back to eating like you did before and you regain the weight.

Having said that, there are many factors that play a role in your weight loss like your diet, how much you’re sleeping, stress levels, when you eat, your gender, age, etc.

However, the number of burned calories and where you store fat (for example, belly fat) are largely determined by hormones.

Living a healthy life is more than just the food you are eating and I will be touching on this throughout the blog.

Hormone Imbalance

Hormone imbalance is a result of an imbalanced lifestyle (of course there are a few exceptions). Therefore reaching a body weight that makes you feel good and gives you energy is a result of finding a balanced way of living.

This includes your diet, your thoughts, movement, stress levels and sleep hygiene.

Hormones and Weight Loss

Hormones and Weight Loss

Leptin

This is a hormone that reduces hunger.

Leptin levels are directly correlated with body fat levels. This means that as the amount of body fat increases, so does the level of leptin, therefore suppressing hunger.

You might be thinking, “Well if leptin suppresses hunger with higher body fat, why are people still struggling with weight loss?”

A concept known as leptin resistance, happens when people have normal or increased levels of leptin but the feeling of hunger persists and they do not decrease food intake. 

This is because the body stops responding to the hormone due to overstimulation.

The body has natural hunger suppressants that when ignored for prolonged periods of time, we develop resistance.

Consuming a well-balanced diet, completing moderate physical activity and getting enough sleep is the best way to improve leptin resistance and encourage weight loss.

Insulin

This hormone is similar to leptin in that insulin suppresses hunger and insulin levels increase in proportion to body fat.

Insulin is the hormone that manages your blood sugar levels.

One of its key roles is to move glucose (and nutrients) from the bloodstream into cells. Consuming excess calories, especially from high-carb, sugary foods – triggers an insulin response and the excess calories get converted into body fat.

As body fat increases, the body’s insulin response starts to malfunction, progressing from insulin sensitivity to insulin resistance.

At the insulin resistance stage, cells stop responding effectively to insulin and this is when you may be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

This results in a cycle of high blood insulin levels and more fat deposited in your body. It becomes harder to control and reverse.  Medication is needed at this stage.

A very effective way to lower insulin levels is to choose high-fiber carbs whenever possible and go for walks after meals to help your body use up some of the blood sugars.

Ghrelin

You know when you feel physically hungry? That is Ghrelin stimulation happening in the stomach.

This hormone secretion increases between meals when the stomach is empty and falls when hunger is reduced. 

Interestingly, with increased body fat, the reduction of Ghrelin does not occur and may contribute to overeating. 

Furthermore, when you go on a restrictive diet and you drastically cut calories, Ghrelin actually INCREASES.

That means when the body is in a state of eating a low-calorie diet, you feel hungrier.  This is a survival mechanism and it is your body’s way of protecting you.

Engaging in restricting calories, yo-yo diets, or crash diets will increase the levels of ghrelin in your body, which again, makes you hungry and all the more difficult to stick to a low-calorie diet.

how hormones affect weight loss

Cortisol

Cortisol is one of the body’s primary stress hormones and it triggers “fight-or-flight” mode.

This hormone affects every cell in the body and it is a catabolic hormone. This means that it breaks down fat and protein into their building blocks to fuel the body during stress, infection, illness, etc. 

While this process is essential for survival situations, it also increases your appetite.

Elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods because your body is looking for a quick source of fuel to cope with the breakdown of nutrients in the body.

Cortisol also affects fat distribution by causing fat to be stored centrally around the organs and your belly area.

This distribution of fat leads to an increase in health issues like high cholesterol, inflammation, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In fact, when you have excess belly fat, it’s a lot worse than having the same amount of fat around the hip.

Lowering cortisol is usually done through techniques that directly lower stress levels, like meditating, taking a bath, getting regular massages.

Take some time to figure out what helps you feel good and do more of that. Schedule it in and pamper yourself.

tips to lose weight healthily

So what does all of this information mean to you?

Using willpower and trying to drastically reduce calories in order to lose weight does not work long-term because your hormones fluctuate and will either help you or makes things harder for you. 

The good news is, you can lose weight by eating plenty of food and nutrients while losing weight HEALTHILY and SLOWLY.

Focusing on eating more high-fiber carbs, protein and healthy fats can help you feel full, help balance hormones, and promote weight loss.

Also, stress reduction techniques and correcting sleep deprivation is critical for weight loss.

As you probably figured by now, a broad-based approach is going to be much more effective than changing one thing.

Weight gain usually results from numerous lifestyle habits rather than a single cause. Therefore looking at your overall lifestyle will be beneficial.

For some, working on reducing stress makes a huge difference in results whereas in others a high fiber and protein approach is helpful.

It is very dependent on the individual.

To summarize:

Hormones and weight loss are very much connected. Simple sugar stimulates insulin secretion quickly and frequent high insulin secretion can lead to insulin resistance leading to weight gain.

Hint: fiber can help reduce the insulin-stimulating effects of high-carb foods.

To help balance leptin and ghrelin, balancing nutrient intake like healthy fats, protein and high fiber carbs is helpful.

Want to learn more?

You can check out my Instagram and you can read these articles: this one and this one are a great starting place.

You can also read an article I wrote for Poosh for more information: click here

To help reduce cortisol, prioritize sleep and reduce stress levels.

If you feel like you eat pretty well and still don’t know why you are having a hard time losing weight, it could be you’re sleep deprived or you have high cortisol levels.

If these are the major areas in your life that need to be addressed, then they must be directly taken care of through proper techniques.

These techniques include proper sleep hygiene, meditation, message, reading, etc.

If this all seems overwhelming, start slow. Choose one thing to focus on for a month and make it your goal. If it is to eat one high-fiber fruit a day, then focus on that for a month and build up from there.

Your health is a lifelong journey. There is no finish line, so you don’t need to feel rushed. The more you try to do all the things, the less consistent you will be and more likely to fall back into old habits.

Something that will be very helpful as you start on this journey is to keep track of your food intake. If you have no idea what kinds of meals you eat during the day and if you are eating enough nutrients, it would be wise to keep a journal for at least a few days.

I am a huge believer in tracking habits so you can learn from them and for you to do better in the areas that you want to improve in.

Dedicate a journal  (this is a personal favorite) to track habits and get clear on your goals. When you track, you are more likely to improve your habits.

Are you looking for a personalized and customized weight loss approach?

If you’re looking for support in weight loss, then working with a Registered Dietitian (RD) may be beneficial. An RD can help you create a specific and unique-to-you plan. I am always here to support you, so head to my WORK WITH ME page to learn more about becoming a client.