Understand Hormonal Weight Gain And What You Can Do To Lose It

Did you know there is a direct link between your hormones and your weight? This often slips our minds when we’re traveling the long and difficult road of weight loss. Our bodies need a delicate balance of hormones to maintain a healthy weight for our body makeup.

It’s important to have a clear understanding of how your hormones work so you can lose weight and keep it off. Once you recognize the relationship between weight gain and hormones, you can balance your hormones and lose weight healthily and efficiently.

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How can I lose hormonal weight gain?

Generally, the accepted way to lose weight is through the CICO diet, which stands for "calories in, calories out." This approach estimates the calories that will meet your nutritional needs. However, if your body has a hormonal imbalance, calculating your calorie intake won't be very helpful for you. If the scale is not moving after all your efforts, it may be time to try a new approach.

As you age, maintaining a healthier body weight becomes challenging. Most women gain weight as they transition into menopause. While you’ll likely gain weight during menopause, you can reverse and control this by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes exercising more often.

Several healthy lifestyle strategies can help you lose hormonal weight:

1. Exercise more

Being more physically active can help you shed extra pounds. Exercise can include vigorous aerobic activity (cardio), walking an average of 150 minutes every week, jogging, swimming, and strength training. Strength training doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio, but it improves muscle mass, directly contributing to your health and metabolism. 

2. Be mindful of your nutrition

To gradually lose hormonal weight and maintain your ideal weight, you may have to reduce your calorie intake while monitoring the nutritional value of your food.  Avoid processed foods and sugars. Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as fiber keeps your digestive system healthy.

Ensure you’re consuming enough protein as this macronutrient keeps you fuller for longer and helps you maintain muscle mass, vital for a healthy metabolism. Healthy fats are also important for satiety and vitamin absorption, so don’t shy away from fatty fish, avocados, seeds, and nuts. 

3. Limit your alcohol intake

Alcoholic beverages add more calories to your diet and can lead to weight gain when consumed to excess.

4. Get enough sleep

Poor quality sleep can lead to increased hormone imbalances. Aim for seven hours of uninterrupted sleep to ensure your body runs optimally.

How can I balance the hormones that affect weight?

Once you understand the various hormones’ roles in your body, you will see how to balance them.

1. Insulin

Insulin plays a key role in weight loss and weight gain. Secreted in the pancreas, insulin stores sugar and uses it depending on the body’s needs. The hormone stores fat and decides how much fat the body will hold or convert to energy.

To maintain balanced insulin levels and avoid insulin resistance, eat regularly, but don’t eat too much. Reducing your carbohydrate intake can also keep your insulin stable. Increased insulin levels eventually lead to weight gain.

2. Leptin

Leptin is the appetite suppressant hormone. Ideally, this hormone "talks" to your brain, telling it when you are hungry or full.

Just like insulin, keeping leptin levels balanced requires you to be on top of your diet. Remember to eat less processed sugar, include more fiber, exercise more, and consume anti-inflammatory foods.

3. Ghrelin

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It sends signals to the brain telling it to eat. Every time the stomach is empty, the body releases ghrelin into the bloodstream.

One way to keep ghrelin levels balanced is to consume more protein. Protein makes you feel full, so you should incorporate it into every meal.

4. Cortisol

Cortisol is the stress hormone. Whenever your body is under any form of stress, it releases cortisol into the bloodstream. Studies have linked high levels of cortisol to overeating.

To lower cortisol levels, reducing your day-to-day stress levels is important. Make time for things that relax you, like meditation, taking a walk, your hobbies, or whatever it is that relieves stress for you.

5. Estrogen

Estrogen helps in storing fat.  When the hormone is balanced, necessary fat keeps female reproductive functions working. Nevertheless, too much or too little estrogen often leads to weight gain, hence menopausal weight changes.

To keep your estrogen levels balanced, maintain a regular exercise routine, get quality sleep, and pay attention to your nutrition.

How do I know if I have hormonal weight gain?

You may be experiencing hormonal weight gain if you have signs of hormonal imbalance. A broad range of symptoms could indicate a hormonal imbalance in the body:

You do not feel satisfied after eating

If a meal that used to satisfy you is now leaving you craving more, this could indicate your sex hormones are indirectly affecting your metabolism-regulating hormones. The two main players here are estrogen and progesterone.

You have high levels of stress

Under stressful conditions, adrenal glands release cortisol to manage your body's stress levels. When you are under constant stress, excess cortisol will be released, creating an imbalance.

You only gain weight on your abdomen

Menopause is linked to low estrogen levels, changing the distribution of fat in the body. This causes weight gain in the midsection rather than other parts of your body.

You have increased sugar cravings

If you constantly find yourself craving sugary food, this may indicate your body is fighting insulin resistance. Insulin resistance prevents cells from adequately absorbing sugar, thus increasing cravings and leading to weight gain.

Various tests check for hormonal imbalances in the body, including:

  • Urine test

  • Saliva test

  • Blood test

Why are my hormones making me gain weight?

It is important to understand that hormones influence appetite, the rate of metabolism, and fat distribution. An imbalance in these hormones causes abnormal metabolism, leading to body fat accumulating.

A variety of factors can cause hormonal imbalance. Thyroid and adrenal gland issues are very common causes. Other causes are weight, medications, allergies, and stressful situations.

The lowdown

Unexplained weight gain can be very frustrating, especially if you’re doing everything right and still not losing weight. Many people are unaware of the role hormones play in weight loss and weight gain.

Hormones work together to regulate appetite and fat storage. Fortunately, adopting healthy eating habits and making lifestyle changes can keep these hormones under control.

It’s important to see a doctor if you’re doing everything right and you’re still struggling, as you may need tests to check what’s going on.

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