Why Am I Gaining Weight? Are Hormones to Blame?

Why Am I Gaining Weight? Are Hormones to Blame?

If you’re gaining weight for no obvious reason, it could be linked to hormone fluctuations. These can occur due to age, menopause, or a medical condition. Changes in hormone levels can affect major body functions, including the way you gain and lose weight.

How can I spot signs of hormonal weight gain?

If you’re noticing some unwanted extra weight and haven’t drastically changed your diet or exercise routine, keep an eye out for these symptoms that may point to your hormones being the culprit.

  • A thirst that isn’t satisfied even when you drink water
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent sweating and/or tremors
  • Constipation
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Depression
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Acne
  • Insomnia
  • “Brain fog,” or an inability to think clearly

The areas affected by hormonal weight gain may look different depending on where you are in your life. For example, premenopausal people tend to gain weight around the hips and thighs and postmenopausal people will gain it in the belly area.

Which hormones cause weight gain?

There are five hormones that may be causing you to gain weight despite your best efforts to keep it off. Some may seem obvious, while others may be closer to having a “silent but deadly” reputation.

  1. Estrogen. The key role of estrogen is to regulate the menstrual cycle, but it can affect other body systems. Having too much or too little estrogen isn’t a direct link to weight gain, but the imbalance can hurt the body’s ability to manage certain systems normally, which could lead to weight gain:
  • Energy expenditure
  • Metabolism
  • Food intake
  • Body fat distribution
  • Inflammation
  1. Insulin. Insulin’s job is to help cells in your body absorb glucose from your blood. If you’ve developed insulin resistance, your body can’t make good use of the insulin produced and blood glucose levels increase. This results in the body sending excess glucose to fat cells, resulting in weight gain. Even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, you could still have insulin resistance which makes the hormone less effective. Chat with your doctor about testing your insulin if you suspect you may have developed insulin resistance.

  2. Leptin. This hormone helps control appetite and satiety, aka when you feel full. Its job is to alert the brain when energy stores in the liver and body fat decline. Leptin levels increase with the amount of body fat, but there is evidence that some obese people may be resistant to leptin. Leptin resistance or having too little leptin can interfere with the benefit it provides:

  • Regulating food intake and body weight
  • Promoting an appetite suppressant
  • Controlling energy expenditure
  1. Cortisol. Produced by the adrenal glands, it is the stress hormone that controls the processes linked to our “fight or flight” response. It also helps regulate blood sugar, metabolism, sleep cycles, and inflammation—talk about responsibility! Higher than normal levels of cortisol are linked to abdominal obesity. When your body maintains high cortisol levels for a perceived threat, your body performs the following processes that can increase weight gain:
  • Increase in appetite to maintain calories
  • Cravings for carbohydrates or sugar for fast energy
  • The desire to binge eat
  • Difficulty maintaining a regular exercise regimen
  1. Ghrelin. Also known as the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. It also tells the pituitary gland to release growth hormone, which destroys fat tissue and supports muscle growth. (We’ll take more of that, thanks!) Those who are obese typically have lower ghrelin levels than thin people but may be more sensitive to it. This suggests that the hormone may help in regulating weight, rather than weight gain. Ghrelin sensitivity could lead to overeating.

Conditions that may cause hormonal weight gain

If you have any of the conditions below, it’s possible they could be linked to your weight gain. If you’re concerned about gaining weight due to your condition, chat with your healthcare professional to decide on a strategy that’s best for you.

Endometriosis. While a direct link between endometriosis and weight gain hasn’t been found, having excess estrogen can lead to the following factors linked to weight gain:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased appetite

PCOS. Weight gain and obesity are common among those with PCOS versus those who do not have it. A large amount of this weight gain is associated with the hormonal abnormalities of the condition that can trigger insulin resistance, a known risk factor for obesity.

Hypothyroidism. This condition develops due to the thyroid being under-active and not being able to produce enough thyroid hormone. Without enough of the hormone, you may develop a modest amount of excess weight. There is some thought, however, that the condition is secondary to obesity. For people treated for this problem, researchers reported a decrease in lean body mass, as opposed to fat mass. Controlling thyroid hormone levels caused a release of excess water, which implies that weight gain may be caused by water retention.

Insomnia. Classified as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting productive sleep, insomnia can be either a temporary or long-term condition. Causes include stress, irregular sleep habits, depression or other emotional disorders, inactive lifestyle, or travel across time zones. Symptoms of other conditions, like night sweats in menopause, can also cause insomnia. Research has shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are prone to weight gain. Sleep loss is linked to the following factors that can cause excess weight:

  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Lower levels of leptin
  • Higher levels of ghrelin
  • Higher levels of inflammatory markers
  • Salt retention

Menopause. The hormonal shift that takes place during menopause triggers changes that make weight gain common. The effects of low estrogen levels in menopause that contribute to weight gain include:

  • Decrease in lean body mass
  • Slower metabolic rate
  • Need for fewer calories to maintain a normal weight
  • Body fat redistribution, with more in the abdominal area
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Genetic factors may also play a role, if your parents or other close relatives carry extra weight around the abdomen, you’re more likely to
  • Other factors, such as lack of exercise, unhealthy eating, and not enough sleep—those who don’t get enough sleep tend to snack more and consume more calories

Ways to manage hormonal weight gain

As you can see, hormonal weight gain has a lot of possible causes, so if you’re struggling with it, you are not alone!

It’s important to identify which hormones are affecting your weight first. If you have an imbalance caused by an underlying condition, getting the correct diagnosis and treatment is key. Generally speaking, any weight loss goal requires some lifestyle changes. Consider the following strategies:

  • A change in diet to reduce calories
  • A daily program to maintain activity levels
  • Behavior strategies to encourage commitment
  • Adequate nightly sleep

If you’ve been through menopause and want to prevent weight gain, consider adopting the habits below:

Get active. Physical activity, both aerobic and strength training, can help shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if you increase muscle mass, you’ll burn calories more efficiently.

Eat a little less. To maintain your current weight in your 50s, you may need about 200 fewer calories per day than you did in your 30s and 40s. If you want to lose weight, you might consider cutting additional calories. Talk to your medical professional to ensure you’re still getting adequate calories and nutrition.

Consider your sweet tooth. In the average American diet, added sugars account for nearly 300 calories a day. Try to avoid added sugars in things like sauces, beverages, and snacks. They often lurk in unsuspecting places.

Limit alcohol. The average glass of wine has 125 calories, hard liquor ranges between 90-100 calories, and mixed drinks jump as high as 500+ calories! If you’re looking for an easy way to shave calories without cutting out snacks, this is it.

Get support. If you surround yourself with friends and family who support your efforts to eat healthily and increase your physical activity, it’ll be easier to stick to it.

In addition to the diet and lifestyle changes you can make; you can also support your hormones with Semaine supplements!

·  The Daily Hormone Balance – Happier, healthier hormones and fewer cravings—which will help stabilize blood sugar levels—with the added bonus of smoother skin and more stable moods.

·  Menopause Essentials – Bring a natural balance back to your hormones as your body changes and experience fewer hot flashes and night sweats, more stable moods, and better sleep.

Fluctuations in weight are normal throughout our lifetimes for a number of reasons. Hormones can play a major role in weight gain and loss. Focusing on your hormonal health can be a great way to also address weight concerns and get your system back to functioning in a healthier way.

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