Hormones and Weight Loss

Posted: September 14, 2021

Your weight is largely controlled by hormones.

Research shows that hormones influence your appetite and how you store fat.

This blog is going to discuss four main hormones and their effect on your weight.

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.

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.

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.

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 fat around the belly, it’s a lot worse than having the same amount of fat around the hip.

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 of your hormones. In other words, those crazy trendy diets do not work.

The good news is, you can lose weight in a way where you are eating plenty of food and nutrients while losing weight HEALTHILY and SLOWLY.

Want to learn how?

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

And if you’re someone who is looking to find support in weight loss, then you may benefit from working with a Registered Dietitian (RD). 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.