How Hormones Affect Weight Loss and How You Can Manage Them

Masthead Image
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Wednesday January 20, 2021

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 

If your battle of the bulge has waged longer than the Hundred Years War, you probably wonder why it’s so challenging for you to shed unwanted pounds — and keep them from creeping back. Could your hormones be the culprit? 

Your hormones do influence your weight, although that doesn’t exonerate you from following a healthy diet and exercising. However, understanding one of the reasons you struggle empowers you to take proactive measures to treat the underlying cause of those stubborn pounds. Here’s how hormones affect weight loss and how you can manage them. 

6 Hormones That Can Make You Gain Weight

The human body contains dozens of hormones, and many play a role in weight gain or loss. Let’s take a look at the top six that may influence what notch you use to buckle your belt. 

1. Cortisol

People often overlook this stress hormone’s role in weight gain, instead focusing on sex or thyroid issues. However, millions of people are under undue stress, and the results often show on the scale. 

Under ordinary circumstances, cortisol decreases appetite as it helps prepare you for fight or flight. The mechanism works if you have to run from an angry bear. It’s not as easy to escape bill collectors and micromanaging bosses. 

When cortisol levels remain high for extended periods, your body becomes immune to the effects. It’s similar to how long-term alcoholics seem sober after the same amount of drinks that make others more than tipsy. Like an addict, your body tries to prepare you for the continued stress onslaught by prompting you to eat more. 

Unfortunately, excess weight gain from cortisol tends to accumulate around your waist, where it can put additional strain on your internal organs, like your heart. It also leads you to crave readily accessible calories like starches and fats — a salad won’t satisfy like a Ho-Ho. 

2. Estrogen

According to Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of “The Hormone Reset Diet,” 99% of weight-loss resistance stems from hormones. Having too much estrogen in your body can make it challenging to shed unwanted pounds.

It may also cause moodiness, heavy periods and PMS in women. In men, it can lead to gynecomastia — or, in the common tongue, “man-boobs” or “moobs.” 

3. Testosterone

If you’re a guy, TV infomercials about “low-T” or low testosterone may intrigue you with their weight-loss promises. Low levels of this male sex hormone may cause you to gain weight, particularly around the middle.

Worse, fat speeds up testosterone metabolism, meaning the more you accumulate, the harder it is to balance your levels. Hello, vicious cycle. 

4. Leptin

Leptin is a tricky mistress. This hormone decreases your appetite — it signals when you feel full. The problem occurs because levels of leptin drop when you begin losing weight. It prompts you to exercise less and eat more.

This mechanism kept our primitive ancestors from starving to death by getting too cozy with famine. However, in modern times when food abounds on every street corner, low levels lead to extra pounds. 

5. Insulin 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 100 million Americans live with a prediabetic condition. If left uncorrected, it will lead to the disease within five years. 

The problem occurs with how your body processes insulin. Your pancreas produces this hormone to stabilize your blood sugar levels. However, when you tax supplies with a steady stream of refined carbs — a staple of the American diet — you can’t keep up with demand. 

Like a laborer coerced into 80-hour weeks, your body’s ability to do its job well flags as it grows exhausted. When the condition does lead to full-blown diabetes, the disease strains various organs, including the heart and kidneys. 

6. Thyroid 

Your thyroid gland lies in your neck and helps to regulate your metabolism. If it produces too little hormone, weight gain often results. 

While hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, doesn’t lead to massive weight gain, it can be challenging to shed excess pounds. Fortunately, your doctor can perform a blood test and prescribe medication to restore balance. Even better, these prescriptions often cost little, even without insurance. 

How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally 

While some hormonal imbalances require medical intervention to treat, you can correct minor problems by improving your lifestyle. Try taking the following seven steps. 

  • Exercise: You need to move to burn calories, but keep workouts under an hour in length to avoid spurring excess cortisol production. 
  • Eat more plant-based foods: Plants have far fewer calories than meats and most processed foods, and they’re chock-full of fiber and nutrients that keep you fuller longer. 
  • Control your blood sugar: Reduce your consumption of white flour and sugar. Your body instantly converts both substances to glucose, making your levels spike. 
  • Practice yoga: This ancient form of exercise treats chronic pain and eases stress-related cortisol production. 
  • Meditate: This practice is another excellent way to manage your stress levels. 
  • Freak in the sheets: While much of the evidence is anecdotal, regular sexual activity may balance your estrogen and testosterone levels. 
  • Get enough sleep: Too little sleep disrupts your hormonal balance and can lead to gain. Strive for at least seven hours nightly. 

Hormones Affect Weight Loss — Manage Them With These Tips 

Your hormones can affect your weight loss and make shedding those last stubborn pounds seem akin to scaling Mt. Everest. Now that you know the science, talk to your doctor and modify your lifestyle. 

Previous Article8 Natural Ways to Induce Labor Next Article8 Foods That Support Heart Health
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!