We're often led to believe that losing weight is solely about calories in versus calories out. That doesn't always tell the full story, especially if your hormones aren't balanced.
Your hormones play a huge role in helping or hindering your weight loss efforts. They can affect everything from your appetite to where you’re most likely to store fat.
If certain hormones are out of whack, it can make it difficult to lose weight.
Being stressed and busy can mean that stress hormones such as cortisol are constantly being released.
High cortisol levels are linked to overeating and weight gain, especially around the belly. Often, you'll be craving high carb and sugar-rich foods, especially if other hormones are also out of balance.
Managing stress, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy sleep pattern can help avoid high cortisol levels.
Oestrogen and Progesterone
Oestrogen levels can be affected by factors such as body fat, intense exercise, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
If your oestrogen levels are high, it can make it harder to lose weight. It can also be a factor in insulin resistance.
Low levels or wildly fluctuating levels of oestrogen can also affect weight, especially around the menopause.
Progesterone is another sex hormone that has an impact on weight. It can be easily depleted by factors such as stress, birth control pills and during peri-menopause.
Ideally, you want to have a healthy ratio of oestrogen and progesterone — if one is higher or lower than it should be, it can quickly affect the other. Oestrogen dominance and low progesterone can have a lot of similar symptoms and it’s common for them to go hand-in-hand.
If your sex hormones are out of balance, you will notice other unpleasant and debilitating health problems, including headaches, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and menstrual problems.
Every time you eat or drink something that’s sugary or rich in carbs, your blood sugar spikes.
This triggers insulin production and makes it less likely that the calories will be stored as fat as insulin takes the glucose to the cells to be used in metabolic processes.
Refined carbs such as white pasta and white bread are common culprits for blood sugar spikes.
Swapping these for whole grains with a low GI, allows the sugar to released more slowly into the bloodstream, allowing for the insulin to be released at a slower pace. Your blood sugar remains stable for longer, without going through the highs and lows, from eating high sugar foods.
According to studies, eating a lot of refined carbs and sugar the short term can paves the way for insulin resistance that can lead to Diabetes.
Leptin and Ghrelin
Leptin and ghrelin are two gut hormones that are linked to appetite.
When your leptin levels are balanced, you feel full after meals. If you're still feeling hungry even after eating a big meal, leptin may be at least partly to blame. Leptin levels can be balanced out through diet and exercise.
For some people, it may need a bit more than this, especially if you've been eating a lot of unhealthy foods for years and are experiencing Leptin resistance.
According to studies, leptin resistance is more likely to occur if you’re overweight. Even if you have higher levels of leptin in your body, it doesn’t have a lot of impact. It’s thought this might be due to the inflammatory chemicals pumped out by fat cells, which impede the effects of leptin and encourage you to keep seeking out high-calorie foods.
Ghrelin is also an important hormone for keeping appetite in check. Ghrelin stimulates appetite. Under normal circumstances, ghrelin levels fall after eating and rise again when you're hungry.
This balance avoids overeating but it can quickly be tipped the wrong way, especially if you're overweight. Not eating enough protein and going overboard on sugary foods and drinks can also affect ghrelin levels.
Adiponectin, a hormone found in fat tissue can support weight loss. It’s helpful in boosting metabolism.
In a study published in Nature Medicine, mice who were injected with adiponectin lost weight, even though there were no changes to their appetite or the amount of food they ate.
Your thyroid plays a key role in your metabolism. If you have a sluggish thyroid, it can be a culprit for weight gain and fluid retention. It can also contribute to lots of other issues, including tiredness, dry skin, sensitivity to the cold, and depression.
Blood tests can flag up thyroid imbalances so it’s important to get this ruled out if you’re struggling to lose weight despite a healthy lifestyle.