Weight loss isn’t always as simple as diet + exercise. There’s another huge factor that can interfere with weight loss: your hormones.
Hormones send chemical messages to your body that impact your energy, appetite, metabolism, sleep, and much more.
When your hormones get off-kilter, it can make you pack on the pounds, or make losing weight feel next to impossible.
So, if you haven’t changed your diet or exercise routine, but the scale keeps creeping up – hormonal weight gain could be the culprit.
In this article, we’ll break down five hormone imbalances that can cause weight gain. We’ll then cover what you can do to bring your hormones (and weight) back into balance.
Hormonal Weight Gain 101
Hormonal weight gain is when changes in hormones affect how your body processes food and stores fat, making you put on weight.
Usually, weight gain is seen simply as consuming more calories than you burn. And while there’s truth to that – the role hormones play in weight is often overlooked.
Hormones operate in a delicate balance. When they’re in the right amounts, your body hums along like a well-oiled machine. You sleep well, you have energy, your mood’s bright, and all is right with the world.
But if your hormonal seesaw gets off balance, it can throw your body majorly out of whack – along with your weight.
Unexpected weight gain or trouble losing weight are the hallmark signs of hormonal weight gain.
Other hormonal weight gain symptoms vary depending on the imbalance but may include:
- Brain fog
- Disrupted sleep
- Mood swings
- Fertility issues
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Frequent urination
What Hormone Imbalances Cause Weight Gain?
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, the following are five of the most common hormonal weight gain causes I see in my patients:
Estrogen is best known for its role in the female reproductive system. It helps regulate the menstrual cycle and plays a key role in fertility. But estrogen is also vital for your bones, brain, heart – and yes, your metabolism.
If estrogen gets too high or too low, it can show up on the scale. For example, when women go through menopause, their estrogen levels take a nosedive. This can trigger metabolic changes, leading to weight gain, especially around the belly.
But having too much estrogen, known as estrogen dominance, can also cause weight gain. Estrogen is a “fat-loving” hormone, meaning that when estrogen levels are high we hold on to fat. This makes it difficult to burn fat without balancing estrogen with your other sex hormones.
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that lives inside your neck. It produces hormones that control your heart rate, energy, metabolism, and more.
That’s why when your thyroid function gets thrown off, it can affect your weight. In particular, people with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) often experience hormonal weight gain. This is because when your thyroid gets sluggish, it slows your metabolism down. This can lead to weight gain or trouble losing weight.
To learn more about thyroid imbalance, check out this article.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone that triggers your body’s “fight or flight” response. It’s released from your adrenal glands anytime you encounter perceived threats. In “fight or flight,” your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing pick up – and non-essential tasks like digestion go on hold.
This is all fine when there’s an actual emergency. But modern life throws stress at us every day – which can cause you to get stuck in stress mode and wear out your adrenal glands. (For a deeper dive into adrenal fatigue, click here)
So what does this all have to do with weight gain? Well, when cortisol rises, your blood sugar and insulin production do too. This can make you crave fatty, salty, or sugary foods and overeat. People with high cortisol tend often have ‘stress belly,’ where fat accumulates around their abdomen.
Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas – and it plays a crucial role in your weight. It helps your body convert glucose (sugar) into energy. Anytime you eat foods high in sugar or carbohydrates, it spikes your blood sugar. Your body then releases insulin to process the glucose.
If you eat high-sugar diets for too long, your body may struggle to produce enough insulin to keep up. And that excess glucose has to be stored somewhere. Some is stored as glycogen in your liver or muscles. The rest is stored as body fat, causing you to put on weight.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone imbalance that happens to women during their reproductive years. Many women with PCOS have ovarian cysts, hence the name.
One of the telltale signs of PCOS is insulin resistance, which as we’ve just covered, can lead to weight gain. Women with PCOS also tend to have higher levels of male hormones, such as testosterone. When these two factors are combined, it’s the perfect recipe for hormonal weight gain.
How to Treat Hormonal Weight Gain
If you’ve put on some weight and suspect hormones are to blame, testing your hormones is always a good place to start.
This can help identify which hormones are causing issues and give you a baseline to monitor treatment. And while at-home hormone testing is now available, interpreting the results yourself can be tricky.
Working with a functional medicine doctor can help customize a treatment plan to reverse hormonal weight gain. That said, simply shifting your diet and lifestyle can have a massive impact on your hormones.
Here are some simple ways to restore balance to your hormones naturally:
The average woman exposes themselves to 186 chemicals from personal care products every day. And that’s not even including toxins from air, food, water, and cleaning products! Many of these chemicals disrupt hormone production.
Using natural cleaning and beauty products lightens your toxic load, to promote better hormone balance. Need some guidance on going non-toxic? Check out this database.
Plastics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as BPA, phthalates, and PBCs. These chemicals can leach into your food and water and wreak havoc on your hormones. So toss the plastic water bottles and food containers and opt for glass or stainless steel.
Keep your blood sugar balanced
Eating foods high in carbohydrates or added sugars takes your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. And when your blood sugar is unstable, your hormones are too.
To balance your blood sugar, ditch sugary foods or those with refined carbs. Opt for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and lean protein.
Skipping meals can also majorly mess with your blood sugar. So, to keep your blood sugar steady, aim to eat every 3-4 hours.
One of your liver’s jobs is to detox excess hormones, such as estrogen. But if your liver’s too busy processing alcohol, it won’t have the resources needed to detox hormones effectively.
Alcohol also disrupts your sleep, which is crucial for hormone production. So to maintain hormone balance, keep alcohol to a minimum – or avoid it altogether.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sleep raises cortisol levels, which can in turn throw off other hormones. That’s why getting 7-9 hours of sleep isn’t a luxury – it’s essential.
If getting to sleep is tricky for you, cleaning up your sleep hygiene may help. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule is a good place to start.
Blue light from electronics can also confuse your circadian rhythm. So steer clear of screens 1-2 hours before bed. Instead, use that time for a relaxing bedtime ritual. Read, journal, meditate, take a bath, or listen to some relaxing music.
Keep stress at bay
Managing your stress makes everything in your body work better – including your hormones! So set aside time for daily relaxation, whether that’s yoga, meditation, or spending time in nature. No need to go to extremes, even taking a few minutes to do some deep breathing can help.
Reverse Hormonal Weight Gain with Shape ReClaimed
Choosing a weight loss program can be overwhelming. Between Weight Watchers, Atkins, and keto – there are endless options out there. Unfortunately, since many weight loss programs aren’t sustainable, they often fail.
At Anchored in Health, we use the Shape ReClaimed program to help clients drop hormonal weight gain. But weight loss isn’t the goal of Shape ReClaimed. It’s simply an after-effect.
Shape ReClaimed is a health restoration program that helps lower inflammation and cleanse your body of toxins. Through this process, hormone balance is restored, and excess weight is shed naturally.
The program is divided into three phases: cleanse, stabilize, and maintain. Each phase serves a purpose, helping you cleanse your body of toxins, identify trigger foods, and balance your blood sugar.
So, if you live in Orland Park, IL, or the greater Chicago area and are ready to get control of your weight for good, follow these steps:
- Contact us to speak with our holistic functional medicine doctor
- Schedule your first Shape ReClaimed appointment
- Discover how this healthy lifestyle and weight loss program can transform your health!
Other Holistic Health Services at Anchored in Health in Orland Park, IL
Shape ReClaimed isn’t all we do at Anchored in Health. We offer a variety of wellness services to people in the Chicago area to help you live your healthiest life. This includes functional medicine, thermography, and genetic testing to identify the root cause of imbalances. Holistic chiropractic care, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage are also offered to ease pain and relieve stress. We look forward to supporting you on your health and wellness journey!