Maintaining a healthy weight is important. But if you are above your most healthy weight, how can you change this situation? And how much of a role do our hormones play in weight gain? Weight gain and hormones – is there a link?
The short answer is yes. Hormonal imbalance can cause weight gain. And if our hormones are out of whack, it can be hard to lose weight. The best approach is to focus on well-being before weight loss. As you work towards balancing your hormones and improving your health, weight loss will follow. You are more likely to notice a result from any weight loss strategies once your hormones are balanced.
Which Hormones Cause Weight Gain?
Have you noticed weight gain at different stages of your menstrual cycle? Or during adolescence or menopause? The following hormones are often the cause.
Estrogen increases weight gain in the buttocks and upper thighs. However this is a normal physiological response. Women of childbearing age are biologically designed to store weight in these areas to provide energy for breastfeeding. Aren’t women wonderful, amazing creatures? However, if your saliva hormone test indicates your body is estrogen dominant, you may have a challenge in this area.
A decline in estrogen levels after menopasue can also lead to a change in body shape. When ovarian production of estrogen reduces, the body will try to compensate by increasing production of estrogen in other ways. The adipose cells of the abdominal region are a secondary source of estrogen production. The body will try to increase these cells for their ability to produce estrogen. This can lead to a shift in weight distribution and a thickening of the waist.
Low progesterone can cause sugar/food cravings in the week before your period. Pre-menstrual weight gain and fluid retention is common. For this reason I recommend you avoid weighing yourself or taking body measurements frequently throughout the month. For peace of mind you may wish to stop altogether. Focus on how you feel and how comfortable your clothing is. Focus on making healthy life choices rather than the number on the scales. If you do wish to weigh/measure your body choose a day mid-cycle and leave it a full month before you re-measure.
An under-active thyroid slows the metabolic rate. This can cause weight gain. It can also make you feel tired, sluggish, depressed and unmotivated to exercise. An overactive thyroid often leads to weight loss as the metabolism speeds up. This is often a temporary state. It is very common for women with an overactive thyroid to eventually develop an underactive thyroid. The symptoms of hypothyroidism may then occur including weight gain.
Some women find they have an increased appetite when they are under stress. You may gain weight easily at these times. For other women, appetite and digestion shut down and they find they lose weight. We now know that persistently elevated cortisol levels predispose women to insulin resistance. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones. This can disturb blood glucose regulation. It often contribute to weight gain around the abdominal area.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
For women with PCOS, weight gain is common. Again, it is often around the abdominal area. The weight gain is caused by insulin resistance combined with altered production of cortisol, androgens, estrogen and progesterone.
A final note…
Please remember that you are so much more than your body size, dress size or the number on the scales. You are a beautiful whole person. You are intelligent, funny, loving, kind. You are a friend, lover, mother, daughter, sister, employee and employer. You play many roles in your life, but you are also more than these. You are not only a physical body, but also a social, spiritual, thinking and emotional being. You deserve inner peace and a peaceful relationship with your body. Focussing only on your physical body can create a limited and distorted version of both your body image and your self-concept. Be kind to yourself and show yourself the same degree of appreciation and love that you happily share with others. Focus on feeling good. When we feel good, we are naturally attractive and fun to be around. This will help you to restore balance to your hormones, your mood, your weight and your life.