Are you struggling with excess weight that won’t come off, no matter what you try?
Maybe you’ve questioned your eating habits. After all, these do play a big role in maintaining a healthy body weight.
However, there is another factor to consider. If you’re struggling to lose weight, your hormones could also be to blame.
After they hit age 40, around 2/3 of women are overweight; by age 60, that number grows to nearly 3/4. This comes from a fluctuation in hormones, or what we call “hormonal weight gain.”
In order to lose the weight (and keep it off), we need to take a closer look at hormone imbalance, weight loss, and how nutrition factors in. Read on for our complete guide on the causes of hormonal weight gain.
Table of Contents
Calories Vs. Hormones: What’s Really the Culprit for Weight Gain?
You’ve probably heard the popular explanation that weight loss is about calorie deficit. In order to shed the extra pounds, you’d simply need to burn off more calories than you consume on a daily basis. But why does this theory work so much better for some than it does for others?
The real reason is much more complex than that, and it all comes down to hormonal weight gain. In other words, individuals with different levels of certain hormones are naturally more able to lose weight. They’re also more able to maintain a lower body weight in general.
For example, studies have shown that men have an easier time losing weight than women, even when following the same diet and lifestyle. These gender-specific discrepancies are mainly caused by hormonal weight gain, since men and women have very different hormonal structures. Plus, women are more prone to hormone imbalances in general, especially during menopause.
Estrogen and Hormonal Weight Gain
One of the main culprits of hormonal weight gain is estrogen, which is primarily known as a female sex hormone. A number of conditions affect this hormone, including menopause, childbirth, breastfeeding, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves more than limiting calories. Estrogen is thrown off balance by improper nutrition and extreme calorie restriction. So, if you’re restricting calories in your diet, you might be pushing things too far.
Also, estrogen doesn’t just affect women; in fact, a study linked estrogen levels to metabolic irregularities and weight gain in men, too.
Other Hormones Responsible for Weight Gain
While estrogen plays a big part in hormonal weight gain, there are also others to consider. If you’re struggling to lose weight, it could be due to one (or more) of these hormones.
Thyroid Hormones T3, T4, and Calcitonin
The thyroid gland produces three hormones: these are T3, T4, and calcitonin. Together, they help regulate your metabolism and your sleeping schedule. They also aid in proper heart rate and brain development.
When these are thrown off balance, they can cause hormonal weight gain. When the thyroid can’t produce the correct amounts of its hormones, this leads to a condition known as hypothyroidism. This can slow your metabolism and make weight loss extremely difficult.
While hypothyroidism is difficult to treat with diet alone, you can significantly improve the condition by eating foods that are rich in specific nutrients.
Here are the top nutrients for improving thyroid function:
- Iodine is a necessary mineral when it comes to producing thyroid hormones. To make sure you’re getting enough of this vital nutrient, try consuming iodized table salt, dairy products, fish, and eggs.
- Zinc works to activate the hormones in the thyroid. You can get more zinc in your diet by eating foods such as beef, chicken, and shellfish such as oysters.
- Selenium is also an activator for thyroid hormones. To get more selenium in your diet, try eating foods such as legumes, Brazil nuts, eggs, tuna, and sardines.
Hypothyroidism can cause a number of issues, especially with your metabolism and body weight. By giving your body the proper nutrients, you can help it maintain the proper production of thyroid hormones.
Leptin is the hormone responsible for letting your body know when it’s full. This signals you to stop eating and also helps prevent hunger throughout the day.
However, in cases of chronic overeating, your body can accumulate excess fat cells. These sabotage your diet by also producing leptin, which can desensitize your body to the hormone. As a result, your body ignores the “I’m full” signal and continues to eat.
In order to maintain a healthy response to leptin, it’s important to avoid foods that are high in sugar or highly processed. These often trigger you to overeat, leading to a vicious cycle of hormonal weight gain.
Cortisol is also known as the “stress hormone.” It’s secreted by the adrenal glands as a response to extreme stress, depression, anxiety, anger, and injury.
In healthy amounts, this hormone helps regulate your energy levels. When the body produces too much cortisol, however, this can cause it to hang onto extra pounds, especially in the abdominal area.
To stabilize cortisol levels, it’s vital to manage stress in your life. Try exercise, meditation, or whatever outlets work best for you. It’s important not to ignore symptoms of stress and anxiety when you’re trying to lose weight.
You can also incorporate certain foods to regulate cortisol. These include bananas, dark chocolate, green tea, and probiotic-rich foods such as kefir and yogurt.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for carrying glucose for energy consumption or storage in the fat cells. When it’s blocked, glucose can linger in the blood, leading to hormonal weight gain and even diabetes.
Your diet plays a big part in insulin production: if you eat too much sugar, processed foods, fruit, and alcohol, this can cause insulin resistance. To keep normal levels, be sure to limit these foods in your daily diet.
Start Losing Weight Now
If you’re struggling with weight loss, it may be beneficial to consider your hormone levels as well as your nutrition. Now that you know more about hormonal weight gain, start taking the steps to lose weight now.
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