Weight gain caused by hormones usually comes with these telltale signs:
- You suddenly start putting on extra pounds (especially around the belly and hips).
- Your weight refuses to budge no matter how much you exercise or cut back on calories.
If any of the above resonates with you, then you’re most likely dealing with hormonal weight gain.
Even though calorie-counting and restrictive eating can sometimes help with weight loss, they also suck the fun out of life and are not sustainable!
In fact, eating very few calories and cutting out entire food groups can actually slow down weight loss.
This is particularly true when your hormones are out of whack.
So then, how can you successfully get rid of hormonal weight gain without losing your mind?
It boils down to supporting your weight loss hormones and turning on your natural, fat-burning engines (yep, they do exist)!
In this post, you will learn:
- how your hormones impact weight loss.
- the best foods, supplements and lifestyle habits that will help you get rid of hormonal weight.
So, without further delay let’s dive in!
Note: this post contains affiliate links and I may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.
5 HORMONES THAT AFFECT WEIGHT GAIN
Some of the main hormones that control weight gain and weight loss are:
- Thyroid hormones
We’re going to look at each of these hormones more closely in just a moment.
But before we dive in, it’s important to remember that these hormones are not BAD.
They are our allies and they play very important roles in the body.
However, when they’re out of balance, there’s a ripple effect that can cause rapid weight issues.
So, with that out of the way, let’s look at how each of these hormones impact our weight.
Your adrenal glands produce cortisol whenever you’re exposed to any kind of stress.
Cortisol is absolutely essential for our survival. Without cortisol, you wouldn’t survive any stressful situation at all.
The thing is, cortisol works great when it comes to short-term stress.
However, when we face chronic stress, that leads to chronic inflammation and chronically high levels of cortisol.
The end result of chronically high cortisol tends to be “stress” eating and excess weight gain (source).
So, what sort of things create high cortisol anyway?
Some common causes are:
- Busy lifestyle.
- Emotional worries.
- Processed food.
- Lack of sleep.
- A weak immune system.
Another common, and often ignored, source of stress is low calorie diets.
In fact, one study shows that women who eat very few calories (1200 calories a day) have higher cortisol levels.
These women also experience more stress as a result of having to watch their calories (source).
Other studies also show that women who carry excess belly weight tend to produce higher levels of cortisol (1, 2).
Ironically, the high cortisol can eventually increase belly fat even more.
Insulin’s main job is to help your body use the glucose from carb-containing foods.
Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your body and brain. So, from this perspective, insulin is a must-have hormone.
However, when there is insulin resistance – i.e. your body is not able to absorb the glucose from the food you eat – then the glucose gets converted to fat.
So, how does insulin resistance occur in the first place?
Well, it can result from having chronically elevated cortisol, as well as from consuming too much processed sugar, refined carbs and other artificial ingredients (source).
This hormone has a really cool job: when you’ve had enough to eat, leptin tells your brain that it’s time to stop eating.
So, you can think of leptin as a natural appetite suppressant. When it’s working right you won’t have to rely on willpower.
However, when there’s any kind of leptin resistance, then you end up eating past the point of being full.
One common ingredient that messes with leptin is the food additive, MSG.
This ingredient interferes with leptin, causing you to continue eating even when you’re technically full. (You can read more about how MSG affects the body in this article about MSG, Hormones and Weight Loss).
Your body needs estrogen to break down cholesterol, maintain healthy bones, regulate insulin sensitivity and much more.
Yet, too much estrogen – i.e. estrogen dominance – can quickly lead to weight gain (not to mention PMS, heavy periods and cognitive problems).
It’s important to note that estrogen dominance is always about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.
This means that estrogen dominance can result from one of two things:
- Excess consumption of artificial estrogen (toxins in food, estrogen in birth control or even artificial estrogen in water supply).
- Low progesterone production, which makes estrogen “dominant.”
Now, having said that, very low estrogen can also contribute to weight gain (yes, this whole hormone thing isn’t fair at all!).
This is because our fat cells also make estrogen. And when the body is in a situation where estrogen is low, you will start gaining weight in order to compensate for estrogen deficiency.
This is very common during peri/menopause as estrogen fluctuates.
But it’s important to note that very low estrogen is usually due to something else. For example if you’ve had a hysterectomy (with or without ovary removal) this adds stress to your body. And that stress can increase cortisol.
Furthermore, the adrenals do make some estrogen and they can act as a backup when the ovaries can’t produce estrogen…but if the adrenals are already overworked, then they will struggle to keep up with estrogen production.
And in that case your body will resort to weight gain.
Your thyroid hormones regulate all metabolic processes, which affects your ability to lose weight.
Therefore, if your thyroid hormones are out of balance, your metabolism slows down and weight loss becomes almost impossible.
So, what throws off the thyroid in the first place?
Common allergens, nutrient deficiencies and inflammatory foods can all impact the thyroid.
High adrenal activity also affects the thyroid.
You see, the thyroid and adrenals have a see-saw relationship.
This means if your adrenals are constantly working and pumping out cortisol, thyroid function is dialed down.
If this situation goes on for a long time, then you experience the symptoms of hypothyroidism (such as weight gain).
7 TIPS TO GET RID OF WEIGHT GAIN CAUSED BY HORMONES
1. Drink hormone-balancing smoothies
Smoothies are hands-down, the easiest and simplest way to get more hormone-friendly foods into your diet.
When you make a hormone-balancing smoothie for weight loss, choose ingredients that:
- are nutrient dense.
- support adrenal health.
- are anti-inflammatory.
- regulate insulin.
- free of additives, preservatives and other artificial components.
- support the entire hormone-production system.
Here’s what you need to make a hormone-balancing smoothie:
- Liquid Base: coconut water, coconut milk, nut milks, herbal tea and plain water are great choices.
- Whole Fruits: these can be fresh or frozen; choose from strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, raspberries, avocados, pineapples, peaches, mangoes, oranges, watermelons, cantaloupes, limes and lemons.
- Whole Veggies: spinach is a great choice because it has a neutral flavor. Others to use are kale, cucumbers, carrots, wheatgrass. Use them fresh or frozen.
- Healthy Fats: some of the best to use include avocados, almond butter, hemp seeds and flax seeds.
For more hormone-balancing smoothie tips and recipes check out this post on smoothies for hormonal imbalance symptoms.
2. Reduce exposure to hormone disruptors
Toxins are one of the most common reasons why hormonal weight gain occurs.
You see, toxins cause inflammation, which basically throws your body into a state of confusion.
The most common source of toxins is the food we eat.
Food toxins that contribute to hormonal weight include:
- Processed and genetically modified fats (such as canola oil, soybean oil and hydrogenated fats)
- Processed sugar
- Artificial flavors
- Genetically modified foods
- Processed meats
So, if you want to lose weight fast and reverse hormone-related weight gain, reduce your consumption of these foods and ingredients.
This single step will make a tremendous difference in your body’s ability to shed excess pounds.
3. Take a daily multi-vitamin to support your hormones
Did you know that you would have to eat 8 oranges today, to get the same quantity of vitamin C that previous generations got from ONE orange?
And it’s not just vitamin C that has declined in our food over the last 100 years.
Studies in the U.S and the U.K. show a staggering decline in vitamin A, phosphorus and other nutrients.
So, what does this mean for your hormones and weight gain?
Well, it means that even if you are eating whole fruits and veggies, they still may not have everything your body needs for hormone balance and weight loss.
So, what can you do? Invest in a good quality, daily multivitamin for hormone support.
When it comes to a daily multi, Beyond Tangy Tangerine (BTT 2.0) from Youngevity is a personal favorite.
Not only does it contain all the vitamins and the 90 essential minerals that we need for thriving health, but it also comes with gut-friendly prebiotics and probiotics.
There are so many reasons why this particular product is my top choice for a daily multivitamin!
If you’re curious to know the details (and hear how it helped my cousin kickstart her weight loss effortlessly) read my full review in this post on hormone balance supplements.
4. Consume more anti-inflammatory foods and drinks
As we saw earlier in this article, pro-inflammatory foods can increase cortisol and lead to insulin or leptin resistance.
This means that every bite you take can literally throw off your weight loss hormones, keeping you in a constant state of struggle.
Why not make things easier on yourself by eating more anti-inflammatory foods?
And you don’t have to change your entire diet overnight either.
Start small by adding these 5 anti-inflammatory foods to your regular routine:
- Pink salt (or unrefined sea salt).
- Liver-friendly cooking oils (like coconut, olive or avocado oil).
- Raw nuts and seeds (such as almonds, flax seeds or hemp seeds).
- Green veggies (such as cucumbers, spinach or green tea powder).
- Filtered water.
By eating these foods regularly you will:
- Support the liver, which is important for reversing estrogen dominance.
- Increase your intake of trace minerals like iodine, selenium, zinc and chromium…which support the function of your hormone-producing glands.
- Give your body the healthy fats that it needs to make hormones.
- Support detoxification so that you can eliminate toxins from your body.
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels and say goodbye to insulin resistance.
- Improve communication between the brain and gut, which improves leptin resistance and other hormonal issues.
For more tips on the 5 foods mentioned in this section read this post on the top 5 hormone-balancing foods to eat every day.
5. Do regular, low-intensity exercise
Exercise is an important aspect of reversing hormonal weight gain.
But…exercise also creates stress and raises cortisol.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When your body is in balance, you can recover from exercise easily.
However, if you are generally fatigued or have any hormonal imbalances, then strenuous exercise can actually work against you.
So, to make things easier on yourself stick to doing low intensity activities 4 to 5 times a week.
This could be walking, yoga, tai chi, dancing or even gardening.
Regular, low-intensity movement supports calorie burn, increases flood flow, supports detoxification and reduces stress/cortisol levels.
6. Get sufficient sleep for faster weight loss
It may not seem like it, but while you’re sleeping your body is busy doing the most important work for your well-being. Here’s what I mean…
You see, in order to reset your weight loss hormones your body needs time for R&R (Rest and Repair).
Rest and Repair can’t occur when you’re awake because you’re already busy thinking, executing, planning and eating.
So, your sleep hours are when your body puts all the good stuff – the smoothies, anti-inflammatory foods and supplements – to use.
Give yourself enough sleep time every night, so that your body can do the hard work for you.
That’s hard work that you won’t have to worry about 🙂
7. Consume more cruciferous veggies to improve estrogen-related weight gain
Since estrogen dominance can be a major contributor to weight gain, eating more cruciferous veggies can really help control excess estrogen.
Cruciferous veggies (such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale) contain a compound called I3C.
When you eat those veggies, your body converts the I3C into DIM (diindolylmethane), which is an antioxidant that helps the body get rid of excess estrogen (source).
Does progesterone cause weight gain?
When progesterone levels are too low relative to estrogen, the body is in estrogen dominance.
Since estrogen dominance creates stress and inflammation, weight gain occurs more easily.
So, from this perspective, progesterone can (indirectly) cause weight gain. (Go here for more tips on how to reverse estrogen dominance naturally).
How do I get rid of hormonal belly fat?
Hormonal belly fat can come from one or more of the following: high cortisol levels, low thyroid function and estrogen dominance (which can occur even during menopause when estrogen is supposed to be naturally low).
So, the best way to get rid of hormonal belly fat is to follow the steps we covered in this article: reduce inflammation through food, take the supplements outlined throughout this post and give yourself sufficient sleep/rest.
Alrighty! Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of hormonal weight gain, the next step is putting together a diet plan that works for you.
You can use this in-depth guide to learn which foods, drinks and supplements make the most sense for your daily routine.
20 Easy Weight Loss Hacks You’ve Probably Never Heard Of (That Will Double Your Results!)
How to Lose Weight After 40 (Without Deprivation)
11 Adaptogens to Use for Hormone Balance and Weight Loss
Hormonal imbalance is common in midlife. But you don't have to settle for common. Join 1900+ women...
...and learn how to harmonize your hormones through simple food, supplement and self care strategies!
This article gave me hope for the thinner me to shine back through this overweight body.
glad to hear that 🙂
Thank you so much for your advice, I had almost given up hope! I wasn’t aware this was what was going on with me, but this makes so much sense.
So glad this gave you clarity 🙂
Interested in the suppplements
Menopause did a number on me,so glad to have a place to start for a healthy new routine.thanks for a very comprehensive article.
You’re welcome. Glad this article helped!
I’ve been following these guidelines for over a year now. My cholesterol levels have dropped dramatically, but I can seem to lose the weight. I’ve lost 10 pounds, but still have the large belly. The rest of my body looks okay, I just constantly look 6 months pregnant at 47 years old. What more should I be doing?
If these general guidelines haven’t produced the full results you’re looking for, then I suggest scheduling a private consultation. A private conversation is the best way to help you figure out what other factors could be at play here.
I need to know if I can use this I have here postive breat cancer and taking Arimdex to keep the estrogen protien out of the breast I need to lose 60 to 80 pounds nothing is working
I answered this in your other message.
I was looking into the 28 day meal weight loss plan but I cannot eat pork or beef. Do you have a customized menu plan I could use? Does the meal plan include a plan for three meals a day?
You won’t have to worry about pork or beef in that plan. And yes, all meals are covered as well. For customized plans, please book a one-on-one consultation here.
What about Birth Control Pills??
They can also affect hormones and weight. That’s a separate topic that needs its own article for sure!