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Hormones and weight gain go hand in hand. I have a pituitary disorder from an accident that injured my brain. That injury also affected my hormones which in turn affected my weight. I also was diagnosed with the Epstein Barr Virus at 15 years old. The EBV has a negative impact on the thyroid, which also affects weight, energy levels, and mood.
I know so many of my clients struggle with weight gain and suspect their hormones are to blame. If you feel like your hormones are making it harder for you to lose weight, chance are you’re right!
But there’s good news! You can regulate your hormones and lose fat quickly when you give your body what it needs. That’s what this post is all about!
I’m going to break down everything you need to know about hormones and weight gain. Then I’m going to share tips on how to balance hormones naturally to feel more motivated, get healthy, and burn stubborn fat.
WHAT ARE HORMONES?
Hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate all of the bodily functions throughout your body. Your hormones are responsible for making sure you get the right things you need to function properly and stay healthy.
Hormones circulate through the bloodstream to tissues and organs and are responsible for feelings and many different life functions, including:
- Growth and Development
- Hunger Patterns – If you feel hungry, full, or in control of food
- Metabolism – How your body uses energy and nutrients from food
- Sex Drive and Reproductive functions
- Mood and Energy levels – Motivation and feeling happy
Hormones also influence weight gain because they are a part of the metabolism. The metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions happening within you.
That means if something is going on with your hormones it’s also impacting metabolism, which is how it starts affecting your weight and can cause weight gain.
When your hormones become affected and they starts to disrupt the metabolism. Whenever hormones imbalance the metabolism’s normal functions start to dysfunction which is when weight gain typically starts.
If one hormone becomes imbalanced they can have a domino effect and cause imbalances in other hormones. If you’re experiencing issues with your reproductive hormones, menopause, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, PMS, and your weight there is a big chance that your hormones may be imbalanced.
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Hormones and Weight Gain
It’s difficult to get motivated to lose weight, eat healthy, exercise regularly, and lose weight when hormones are being affected. Hormones have an impact on mood, energy levels, and your ability to burn fat and feel control over food. It’s difficult to lose weight when you don’t feel great and you’re hungry all the time, you feel me?
Keep in mind that it’s possible to lose weight when hormones are imbalanced. You have to be in a calorie deficit to burn fat BUT, it’s possible to gain weight even when you’re in a calorie deficit when your hormones are imbalanced. Hormones can cause weight gain even if you’re dieting and exercising like a pro!
7 HORMONES THAT CAN CAUSE GAIN WEIGHT
There are 7 main hormones I focus on when my client’s are struggling with stubborn fat, motivation, mood swings, and weight gain. They are the hormonal superstars that regulate metabolic functions, namely hunger, satiety (feeling satisfied), and if you’re burning or storing it. These 7 hormones literally make or break your ability to lose weight and feel great. If any of these hormones is imbalanced, you can gain weight because they start to impact others.
This is an overview of how these 7 hormones impact your mood, energy, metabolism, and food choices which can ultimately lead to weight gain and stubborn fat. Too much stress and sleep affect these hormones that trigger weight gain, too! (more on this below) That means dieting and exercising like a pro, but you can gain weight if you’re not sleeping enough or you’re too stressed.
HORMONE #1 – LEPTIN
Leptin tells your brain that you’re full and regulates metabolism so you burn more fat when your body needs to. You need at least 7 solid hours of sleep so your brain knows you’re okay and will sustain natural metabolic (hormones) functioning and balance.
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded sleep duration influences leptin production, because “sleep modulates a major component of the neuroendocrine control of appetite.” That means poor sleep can affect your hunger and eating before bed can affect your ability to sleep!
Avoiding food before you go to sleep may help balance leptin levels. It’s important to keep leptin levels stable because a leptin imbalance adversely affects other hormones like cortisol…
HORMONE #2 – CORTISOL
Cortisol is a stress hormone. It’s responsible for a temporary adrenal burst for ‘flight or fight responses.’ It’s also released when you’re feeling stressed out: stuck in a traffic jam, freaked out about finances, or because you’re not getting enough sleep.
Chronic exposure and elevated cortisol levels trigger your body to store fat and break down muscle which can make your metabolism slow down. Stress can also cause food cravings! That’s because when fight or flight is activated, other survival instincts like ‘feast’ are activated, too! Stress makes the body activate survival mode. Sugar is the #1 thing you’ll crave in survival mode! Ever hear ‘stressed spelled backwards is desserts?” That’s why!
You can also experience stress internally if you exercise too much, eat too many toxic, inflammatory, acidic, processed foods, or think too many negative thoughts. Consumable products, environmental factors, and ‘things’ can trigger cortisol and so can your thoughts!
A study titled “Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening” found that cortisol levels should occur in the morning so the effect can taper off throughout the day. High cortisol levels could increase stress more, further impairing your ability to think clearly, cope with life events, sleep, and metabolize food properly, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and more metabolic dysfunction.
All of which, can slow the metabolism and have you tossing and turning well into the next night… this keeps you stuck, struggling to lose weight and feel motivated and energized. People that are tired tend to eat more to cope, which negatively affects the next hormone, ghrelin.
HORMONE #3 – GHRELIN
Ghrelin kinda sounds like ‘grumbling’… as in, my tummy’s grumbling. Which is exactly what ghrelin does… it signals hunger.
Normal ghrelin levels make you feel hungry. But too much ghrelin can cause chronic hunger, cravings and the urge to overeat. Women who get little to no sleep, are overly stressed and have hormone imbalances are more susceptible to higher than normal ghrelin levels.
Excess ghrelin can be responsible for cravings and mood swings. Ever feel more hungry when you get stressed, cranky, ovulating or about to get your period? Yep! That’s ghrelin!
A study in the Journal of Sleep Research showed that just one night of sleep increased ghrelin levels and hunger in healthy normal-weight men. Stress and reproductive hormones spike ghrelin, even more, making it harder to stay motivated and lose fat.
HORMONE #4 – ADIPONECTIN
This anti-inflammatory hormone helps regulates several metabolic processes including breaking down fat.
Inflammation can occur from over-exercise, eating processed foods, acidic foods, and trying to heal an injury. You can also get inflamed when you’re too dehydrated, stressed and tired! Whenever inflammation occurs, the adiponectin hormone slows the metabolism, stops fighting fat and starts trying to repair, heal and reverse inflammation instead of burning fat!
Studies show optimal levels can reduce your risk for insulin resistance and developing diabetes… If you experience symptoms of aches, pains, or acidity, your body is being triggered to store fat, too. That’s because adiponectin affects…
HORMONE #5 – INSULIN
Insulin is one of the most powerful hormones that affect your ability to gain or lose fat. Increased insulin levels prevent the metabolism from burning fat entirely and can trigger fat storage. Eating too much sugar, literally causes your fat cells to slam shut like a Venus fly trap, trapping fat in your tissues. Every time you eat sugar you’re triggering insulin production.
Plus, insulin affects other fat fighting hormones. A study in The Journal of Applied Physiology concluded chronic stress and poor sleep habits increased hunger and sugar cravings and directly contributes to weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
HORMONE #6 – GLUCAGON
Glucagon does the opposite of insulin. This hormone releases fat from your fat cells to burn for energy. If your insulin is off balance, glucagon has a harder time releasing fat so it can be burned for energy.
A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism concluded that poor sleep and dietary habits also reduce circulating levels of glucagon.
HORMONE #7 – GROWTH HORMONE
Your body makes this “fountain of youth” hormone that is released only during deep stage 4 sleep. Growth hormone (GH) also helps build muscle, boosts energy, motivation, and improves fat metabolism.
A 1991 study in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience showed fewer hours of sleep resulted in less GH.
This is an issue because muscle mass can only be increased during repair or ‘recovery’ and muscle mass helps boosts the metabolism. If you’re not getting enough GH your muscle mass can deteriorate, reducing metabolic rate. When you’re too stressed, eating processed foods, consuming too much caffeine or exercising too close to your bedtime, it can disrupt your deep sleep cycles and ability to maintain metabolism boosting muscle mass. This can lead to weight gain and feeling unmotivated.
Balancing hormones in your 20’s & 30’s may help prevent hormonal weight gain in your 40’s and 50’s
WHEN HORMONE IMBALANCES START
As you enter your 20’s Growth Hormone declines naturally as you transition out of puberty. This is why people gain the ‘freshman 15’ in college.
But, you can imbalance hormones at any age! If you’re too stressed, don’t sleep enough, or eat too many processed foods you can affect hormone function. If left untreated, hormone imbalances can get progressively worse and affect health, mood, and weight as you age.
MENOPAUSE AND WEIGHT GAIN
Menopause can make you gain weight, too. As you age, hormone production slows down, slowing the metabolism along with it. Estradiol which is a form of estrogen decreases naturally during menopause as a woman’s body transitions out of the reproductive cycle and child bearing. Estradiol helps to regulate metabolism and body weight. Lower levels of estradiol may lead to weight gain.
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TOP 3 REASONS WOMEN GAIN WEIGHT DURING MENOPAUSE
A lot of women gain weight and feel awful during menopause for a few main reasons.
- They had other hormones off balance prior to shifts in reproductive hormones. Once estrogen levels drop, they have a trickle down affect on other hormones that affect hunger, mood, and energy levels that make it harder to stay positive, motivated and in control over food.
- They were too stressed and/or weren’t getting enough sleep or essential nutrition needed to regulate and sustain natural hormone and metabolic functions after estrogen declines, resulting in metabolic dysfunction and weight gain.
- They didn’t strength train regularly to preserve muscle mass needed to sustain an elevated metabolic rate. If you’re looking for fat burning, metabolism workouts for women, I got you!
HOW TO BALANCE HORMONES TO LOSE WEIGHT AND BURN STUBBORN FAT
A lot of people think they only have to ‘eat healthy’ and ‘exercise’ to lose weight and stay healthy. That’s not true!
You have to drink enough water (water is an essential macronutrient!), reduce stress and get plenty of sleep to keep your hormones balanced and lose fat, too.
When you’re not eating right, not exercising, not getting enough water… if you’re too stressed and not getting enough sleep you’ll disrupt hormone functions.
There are 5 factors that you must balance, to ensure normal hormone production. To stabilize hormones, it’s best to keep these 5 factors balanced. Otherwise, you’ll stay stuck struggling with a slow metabolism, food cravings, fatigue, and stubborn fat.
THE 5 FACTORS THAT AFFECT HORMONES AND WEIGHT GAIN
WHEN THE 5 FACTORS IS OFF, HORMONES MAY BECOME IMBALANCED, MAKING IT HARDER TO LOSE WEIGHT
When you’re not getting enough of one or more of the 5 factors, your body will slow your metabolism and one or more of the 7 hormones mentioned above, will be released to try to correct the problem.
When hormones are released to correct any of the five factors, it can cause a ripple effect throughout the other hormones.
It doesn’t matter if you diet or exercise like a pro… if you’re not drinking enough water or you’re too stressed… you can experience hormone imbalances that cause gain weight.
It can start subtly with one drink or one bite of the ‘wrong’ thing but over time of chronic exposure to the wrong foods and doing the wrong exercises can cause hormone imbalances that can literally turn you into a fat storing machine… I’m speaking from experience. (!!!)
The hormones that are affected by the 5 factors and how they react differently to different things varies and is determined by your bio-individuality (genetic makeup and metabolic reactions to food, stress, exercise, and sleep).
- THE 5 FACTORS AFFECT HORMONES
- HORMONES AFFECT OTHER HORMONES
- HORMONES TRIGGER FOOD CRAVINGS, STUBBORN FAT, AND FATIGUE
- THE FOODS YOU CHOOSE AFFECT YOUR HORMONES (hello too much coffee that makes it harder to get deep sleep!)
HOW TO RAPIDLY RESET HORMONES TO LOSE WEIGHT
There is hope! Hormones can be regulated quickly with food and minimal exercise!
If you already suspect that you have a hormone imbalance, I’d strongly recommend trying my Reset Cleanse… I created it in part to help balance hormones quickly to help people lose weight and feel great fast! (you can lose up to 10 pounds in 7 days!)
I hope this post helped you! Do you think your hormones are affecting your weight? Let me know in the comments. I love to hear what you think! It helps me create more helpful content to help you lose weight and feel great!
Your Coach and Biggest Cheerleader
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Christina Carlyle is a certified Holistic Nutritionist, Sports Nutrition Specialist, Personal Trainer, Health Coach, & Behavior Modification Specialist. After overcoming her own health issues, getting off 7 medications, & losing 40 pounds (& keeping it off for 10+ years) she’s dedicated to helping others get Happy, Healthy, & Fit for life, with science-backed strategies. Christina shares real deal (no BS) weight loss and wellness advice, workouts, and recipes that get results and work in the real world.