The focus of what causes weight gain has changed over the last few years and we are starting to realise that it really isn’t just about the calories. Hormones and weight gain are closely related and in this article we’ll look at the hormones which can cause us to gain weight and make it difficult to lose.

Hormones are little chemical messengers that are created in the endocrine glands. These messengers control most of our bodily functions, from our hunger levels to reproduction, and even your emotions and mood.

Let’s start with Insulin, the hormone which delivers the glucose from your bloodstream into your cells to use as energy. Eating too many refined carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods can make our cells become resistant to insulin and our pancreas secrete more to enable our blood sugars to be balanced. If too much insulin is released and our body can’t use it as energy then the excess is stored as fat.

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Resistance to insulin can also cause imbalances with our leptin, the hormone that tells us when we are satisfied, and lead to binge eating. Add to that the fact that high insulin levels can adversely impact ghrelin, your hunger hormone, so you’re unable to recognise when you’re hungry.

Being able to regulate your appetite, recognise when you’re hungry and when to stop eating is so important when trying to lose weight and keep it off in the long term.

Oestrogen balance is essential for maintaining a healthy weight.

When our oestrogen levels are high (known as oestrogen dominance) it can cause toxic fat gain and for weight to be carried around your hips in the classic pear shape.

hormones and weight gain_2

Who is affected?

Pre-menopausal women are much more likely to be affected by their hormones and weight gain as oestrogen levels fluctuate as your body changes and progesterone levels decline. The double whammy is the more fat cells we have, the more oestrogen we produce makes it even more difficult to lose weight with this imbalance.

Thyroid affects…

Another hormone which affects weight gain is the thyroid gland which regulates your metabolism.

People who have an underactive thyroid, don’t produce the thyroid hormones our body needs and can struggle with weight gain and difficulty losing weight. This is because they have a low Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the rate at which your body burns calories. The rate continues to fall as calories reduce when you are dieting and this makes it even more difficult to lose weight.

The role of Cortisol

During stressful times, it doesn’t just affect us mentally but physiologically as well, one of which is weight gain. Our stress response is governed by secreting hormones that are relative to the level of stress.

When our adrenal glands are overworked they secrete chronic levels of the hormone cortisol and this can cause fat storage and intense food cravings which promotes weight gain.

Long term stress means both insulin and cortisol remain elevated and the extra glucose stores as fat.

Diet and lifestyle changes are the first step in long term weight loss, and balancing your hormones and the weight gain associated with them.

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