There’s really nothing worse than working your booty off and then not seeing the results you want. ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to lose a few pounds or lose some body fat. UGH. It’s really hard to put so much work into maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle only to feel like you’re STILL not doing something right.
But maybe you’re not doing anything wrong at all.
Calories in vs. calories out is definitely important, but hormones play a huuuge role in weight gain and weight loss too – especially for women.
So what are some of the most common hormones that might be causing trouble for your body? Let’s find out!
I know you’ve heard of this one! It’s known for regulating women’s menstrual cycles, but it can also cause weight gain when it’s too high or low. Estrogen also affects WHERE you tend to store fat. For example, estrogen drops when women go through menopause and that shifts fat storage from the hips and thighs to the stomach for most women. So interesting!
So what can you do if you think your estrogen is out of whack? Well first, see a doctor to confirm and follow their advice. Then, focus on a healthy diet with lots of fiber and get plenty of exercise!
Cortisol is a stress hormone. It’s usually higher in people who are stressed (obviously) and people who aren’t getting enough sleep. When cortisol is high, it can increase your appetite and cause weight gain. It is actually known to cause weight gain specifically in the abdominal region.
If you’ve gained some weight unexpectedly or you’re struggling to lose weight, cortisol might be the issue. Try eating a balanced diet, managing stress with exercise or meditation, and get enough sleep!
When leptin is around, it makes you feel full and satisfied by communicating with the brain to let it know you have plenty of fat stored. However, sometimes that communication doesn’t work as well as it should, and your brain doesn’t get the message. That causes increased appetite and potentially overeating. This system is more likely to fail for people who are already overweight or obese, which makes it even harder to lose weight.
Leptin levels can also decrease when you lose weight, which makes your brain think you need more food. This is why it’s sometimes realllllly hard to maintain weight loss!
So what can you do? Some experts think inflammation plays a role in leptin’s miscommunication with the brain. So, try to avoid inflammatory foods like sugar and trans fat and eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods like salmon, turmeric and berries. Finally, exercise and getting enough sleep may help regulate leptin levels.
When you’re truly hungry, your stomach releases a hormone called ghrelin. That sends a signal to the brain that you need food! After you eat, ghrelin levels drop and the hunger signal goes away. However, ghrelin doesn’t always decrease like it should for some people, especially those who are overweight.
Avoiding sugar and getting plenty of protein can help lower ghrelin levels and prevent overeating after a meal.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, and it’s usually associated with diabetes. But insulin is a big deal for all of us! After we eat, it’s insulin’s job to help glucose from our food get into our cells so they can use it for energy. It also controls fat storage.
But insulin doesn’t work efficiently for everyone. Your body can become insulin resistant, and even the slightest resistance can cause big problems. You’ve probably heard of insulin resistance for people who have type 2 diabetes, but the truth is ANYONE can be a little insulin resistant without having diabetes. Basically, this causes high insulin levels in the blood, which leads to weight gain.
You can prevent insulin resistance by limiting sugar and other refined carbs. Instead, just fill up on protein and healthy fats! And of course, get plenty of exercise!
That’s it for your mini-lesson on hormones! Hopefully this helps you understand how hormones play a role in metabolism and weight maintenance. I think it’s really cool to know how everything works, and of course it’s super helpful to know if you’ve hit a plateau. Remember to take care of your body in all of the ways and to be kind to yourself!