Hormones Stopping You From Losing Weight?

Are you struggling to lose those last few kilos? Turns out your hormones might be to blame!

For some, a calorie deficit alone is enough to lose weight. But the human body is more complex than this simple equation, which is why, for others, hormones must be factored in. 

The Hormone Factor

Hormones are more than just moody teenagers or menopausal symptoms. Hormones are chemical substances that play a huge role in our health and wellbeing. From elevating our metabolism after a workout to balancing out our blood sugar levels, hormones are very important when it comes to weight loss. 

Estrogen – the primary female sex hormone


Controls the menstrual cycle

Essential for bone health, cholesterol and fertility

Produced mainly in the ovaries, but also in the adrenal glands and by fat.

How it affects weight loss:

Everything in life requires balance – including your hormones. If you have too much foreign estrogen in your body (which may be from the pill, excessively processed soy products or plastics) your liver will be unable to completely process it. This results in it being expelled and reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, causing estrogen dominance and weight gain in ‘female’ areas such as the thighs, bum, breasts and triceps.

What you can do:

Give your liver a break! Ease up on alcohol, choose organic produce and eat liver cleansing foods such as blueberries, beetroot and cruciferous greens, whilst avoiding unfermented soy products like soy milk and tofu. 

Cortisol – The stress hormone


Produced in the adrenal glands.

Released when we experience stress – this could be excess caffeine (more than 2 coffees a day) or consistently being in high-pressure situations.

Releases in time with our circadian rhythm (sleep cycle) and other natural processes.

Almost all our cells contain receptors for cortisol, so it can impact our body in many ways.

How it affects weight loss:

In today’s ‘always on’ society many of us are overstimulated, distracted or busy, and our cortisol levels are suffering. All this stress has to go somewhere, and that place happens to be the stomach. The fat cells in our stomach have more cortisol receptors than anywhere else in the body, which is why we deposit more fat there. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, is the dangerous kind; it lives between your vital organs and can be a precursor to heart disease and diabetes.

What you can do:

Stress less! Meditate, practise deep breathing and don’t sweat the small stuff. Learn how to relax your mind and body – it might save your life!

Get more sleep. Aim to get your eight hours every night so your body has time to recover from the day.

Get moving. Exercise is a great way to destress, get fresh oxygen into your cells, prevent cardiovascular disease and promote weight loss.

Cut down on alcohol, caffeine and high sugar and G.I foods.

Eat enough fibre, lean proteins and healthy fats.

Insulin  – The key to our energy production


Produced in the pancreas

Converts glucose into energy

How it affects weight loss:

When you eat carbohydrates your body breaks them down into sugars (glucose). From here two things can happen. Either your blood sugar levels will spike like crazy or the sugar is converted into energy to burn off. Insulin is the hormone that enables glucose to be taken from our blood and converted into energy!

Weight gain is a result of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when there is too much glucose, caused by eating simple carbs, like starchy breads, pastas or refined grains like breakfast cereals. High sugar foods and drinks are also major culprits! Type 2 Diabetes is brought on by lifestyle habits that result in too much glucose in the body, where the insulin can’t keep up (NB: Type 1 Diabetes is a genetic disease not caused by the individual).

What you can do:

Eat a diet high in lean proteins, fibre, whole grains and leafy green vegetables.

Avoid sugary and processed foods.

Weave exercise and movement into your life as much as possible!

Don’t leave these things to another day! Start early to prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes later in life.

Leptin – The appetite hormone


Leptin is produced by fat cells

It serves many purposes, but the main one is to tell our brain when we are hungry or full.

The amount of leptin in your body is in proportion to how much body fat you have. The more fat you have, the more leptin you also have.

What’s it got to do with weight loss:

When we eat, leptin is released into our bloodstream and travels to our brain communicating when we’ve had enough food and to stop eating. However, if you consistently ignore the signals even when you’re full, just like insulin, you can build resistance to leptin if it is overproduced.

What you can do:

Listen to your body! Eat your food slowly and stop when you’re full. Everything on your plate does not need to be consumed, contrary to what we were told as children.

Improve your gut health. Eat soluble fibres and include probiotic foods as part of your everyday diet. This includes natural yoghurt, kombucha, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables.

Do something every day. Whether that is a 15-minute workout, walking your dog or an evening jog. Just move!

Final note!

Across all these hormones, exercising regularly, having a balanced diet and de-stressing your body all have a positive effect on their performance. So while a calorie deficit is important for weight loss, the types of calories, how you burn them off and how you feel each day play just as big a role, too!