Your hormones impact so many things—from your mood and energy levels to your weight.
Your hormones fluctuate monthly but also throughout the course of your life as you go from puberty to adulthood and then into menopause. Hormones can become imbalanced due to a variety of factors, including perimenopause, menopause, or lifestyle choices.
When you are deficient or dominant in any one hormone, it’s easier to gain weight. This is particularly true for women who are experiencing hormonal imbalances caused by the natural aging process.
If you’re someone struggling with weight loss, you might benefit from understanding your hormone levels and trying these natural ways to balance your hormones.
Understand Your Estrogen Levels
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics (breasts and hips). There’s an interesting connection between estrogen and weight gain in menopause.
During menopause, levels of all your hormones tend to decrease, including estrogen and progesterone.
Your doctor may have told you that your estrogen levels are plummeting, which is why it’s confusing to hear that estrogen dominance can cause weight gain in menopause.
While estrogen levels decrease during menopause, if your progesterone levels are decreasing more than your estrogen, you can still have estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is really about the ratio of estrogen to progesterone—if you have too much estrogen compared to your progesterone (no matter how little it is) you can gain weight and store more fat around your middle.
The typical thought process is that menopause is an estrogen deficiency disease. Basically, your ovaries stop producing it, which is true. But if you’ve been on any hormone replacement or if you have lifestyle habits that expose you to environmental estrogens, then no surprise—you could have estrogen dominance.
Exposure to environmental estrogens, which are estrogen-like chemicals in our environment, can cause issues. Some of these are things we ingest, like pesticides, hormones in animal products, and plastics—all known as “endocrine disruptors.”
How to balance estrogen for weight loss:
To avoid estrogen dominance, you want to keep a fine balance between your progesterone and estrogen.
Integrative Medicine Doctor Sara Gottfried, M.D., recommends eating a pound of veggies per day, as she states the fiber will help remove any excess estrogen from the body.
Gottfried also recommends that women should aim for 35 to 45 grams of fiber intake per day, increasing their amount slowly so as not to cause stomach upset.
You can also naturally balance estrogen dominance by:
- Reducing your red meat intake
- Eliminating excess sugar or processed foods
- Exercising daily to promote detoxification
Understand Your Cortisol Levels
Cortisol regulates your body’s response to stressful situations.
Unfortunately, we are so inundated with a constant stream of modern stressors, like the need to communicate across a variety of channels, that our bodies are creating a surplus amount of cortisol.
According to lead cardiovascular researchers at the University Medical Center in the Netherlands, having excess cortisol puts you at increased risk of heart disease, and it also causes you to store visceral fat around your internal organs, which often appears as excess belly fat.
Related: 5 Ways To Increase Your Metabolism After 50
How to balance cortisol for weight loss:
Simply put, you need to reset your body’s response to stress.
Gottfried recommends slowly weaning yourself off excessive caffeine or switching from coffee to tea. If tea isn’t your favorite choice. You can also do other things to lower your cortisol levels, such as practicing mindfulness.
This idea may seem vague, but it’s really straightforward: slow down, breathe, and pay attention to what you’re doing.
So often, we get distracted and rush from thing to thing, and this task-switching can significantly raise stress levels.
Instead, try paying attention to one task at a time.
Other ways you can naturally lower your cortisol levels include:
- Taking a magnesium supplement or B vitamin
- Consistently get better, longer sleep
Understand Your Leptin Levels
Leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells, and its primary function is to tell a part of our brain (the hypothalamus) that we’re satiated or full.
Our modern diet is saturated with a type of sugar called fructose, found in many processed foods (everything from pasta sauce to salad dressings).
When too much fructose floods your body, your body stores it as fat. This leads to an excess of leptin; when one has too much leptin, it’s possible to become leptin resistant, meaning your body no longer can tell if you’re full or not—and you keep eating and gaining weight.
PS – do not get this confused with the naturally occurring fructose in sugar. Natural sugar combined with fiber is used differently in the bloodstream and is generally not a problem. Fruit can (and should) remain part of a healthy diet.
How to balance leptin for weight loss:
A huge component to balancing your leptin levels is getting enough sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your leptin levels are lower, and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat. Harvard studies show that sleep deprivation reduces leptin levels and actually increases your body’s desire for fatty or carbohydrate-rich foods.
If you suspect a leptin imbalance is to blame for your weight gain, make sleep a priority each and every night—we should all be prioritizing sleep anyway for its myriad of health benefits. But if weight loss is the kick in the pants, you need to start catching more zzz’s, then let that be your motivation.
Other ways to balance your leptin levels include:
- Take an Omega 3 supplement or eat more Omega 3 rich foods such as fatty fish, grass-fed meats, and chia seeds
- Decreasing your fructose intake by eating little to no added sugar
- Exercising regularly
Understanding Your Insulin Levels
Insulin is a hormone created by your pancreas which helps regulate glucose, or blood sugar, in your body. If you’re overweight or storing too much visceral fat around your organs, your body’s glucose regulator (insulin) gets thrown off balance, and you may have a harder time losing weight.
In addition, if you tend to eat sugary foods throughout the day, you keep your insulin working overtime, trying to clear the sugar from your blood. Insulin stores extra sugar as fat.
How to balance insulin for weight loss:
One small step you can take is to start the day by drinking filtered water with two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This will help you regulate your blood sugar first thing in the morning.
If apple cider vinegar sounds too harsh for you, ease into it or at least drink 16 oz of water every morning before you eat or drink anything else.
This acts as a natural body flush. (I like to add lemon to my water for added health benefits.)
Other ways to naturally balance your insulin levels include:
- Getting enough protein with every meal
- Eating smaller, healthy meals more often
- Eating low-glycemic carbs (fruits, beans, non-starchy veggies)
- Eliminating added sugars from your diet
Hormone Balancing Summary
The bottom line is this: if you’ve been struggling to lose weight but can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong, your hormones may be to blame.
You can ask your doctor, nutritionist, or chiropractor to test your hormones, as well as use the above information to try different techniques to bring suspected problem hormones back into balance.
It’s your body, and you should know everything you can to not only lose weight but feel happy, healthy, and whole.
READ THIS NEXT: Strength Training for Women Over 50: 11 Best Moves
Fittcube on December 6, 2022 at 5:18 AM
Great and informative article. Need more articles like this
Jenna on November 27, 2022 at 6:48 PM
Thank you so much for this article! As a teen, there seem to be so many websites like Women's Health that focus on the wrong reasons and ways to lose weight seemingly to turn a profit. It's overwhelming and hard to find reliable information. I really appreciate how Get Healthy U has articles like this along with recipes and videos that are actually geared toward helping others start a healthy lifestyle. You guys are so positive and encouraging. Thanks again!
Lucy on November 8, 2022 at 7:22 AM
Thank you for sharing this information. Being in my early 50s and having symptoms I am told by drs that its stress, its my Hashimoto (take meds - which is not the sure for that) and basically this is life. I work out with GetHealthyUTV 5x a week - look forward to those workouts as my 'happy time'. Lost weight, toned up but still not feeling well - dry skin (and all the other things that come with Menopause). I will look at adding vitamins and eating more vegs.
Chris Freytag, CPT on November 10, 2022 at 2:41 PM
Amazing :) Thanks so much for being a Get Healthy U TV member and I love to hear what you said about how you look forward to doing those as your "happy time."
dipshierus on September 29, 2021 at 8:12 PM
I am so done with Doctors. Just useless. All are so compromised and distracted they have no clue what they are doing anymore. They need therapy. The blind can't lead the blind.
Jane Lamason on September 23, 2021 at 7:49 PM
I love this post. When I started going through menopause also really struggled, weight gain, hot flashes, dreadful sleep. I found the best thing that worked and helped me bring my hormones into line was to cut out all added sugar. All I allowed myself was raspberries. A girl has enjoy something! Sugar to me was also things like rice, pasta, bread. After a few days of withdrawal I started feeling better. It seems unbelievable but the hot flashes that were coming so often stopped dead. I haven't had one since. Sleep improved, my tummy disappeared, my sking improved. I think I was lucky and found what worked for me but it is probably a good place to start if you feel you have the will power.
Paulette on March 21, 2021 at 2:36 PM
Have a endocrinologist doing tests pituitary was larger fory age want to lose weight my guilt and overeating doesn't help what'sy is a safe hormones
Donna Murphy on February 20, 2019 at 6:55 PM
I am at a loss and even my Natureapath can't help. Went from 110 lbs to 165 due to menapause. Dr. put me on thyroid med, progesterone and testosterone. Went down to 145 due to thyroid med. However, can't lose any more weight. I am vegan, no grains and recently even cut out healthy fats. So vegan, no fat, no grain, no sugar diet. Only way I can lose is if I go on a 35 calorie a day diet. Literally wud have to starve myself. So frustrated and depressed.
Chris Freytag on February 25, 2019 at 2:45 PM
Donna - It sounds like you have some serious allergies and food sensitivities but know that you are not alone. I am sorry to hear that you are struggling with food and what to eat, but definitely start with speaking with your doctor. Your doctor may have some great advice. However, I know that with myself and clients that I work with who are going through menopause, activity and exercise is key! Do you exercise or spend some time working out every day? My advice on that piece is to start easy and see what your body is able to do. It will also help with your energy levels. Hopefully a small dose of exercise can help with burning a few extra calories to help with some weight loss.
fiona on December 11, 2018 at 3:49 AM
Oliv, you mentioned taking 'liquids' are you taking any hormones? many thanks
fiona on December 11, 2018 at 3:46 AM
Leah! thank you that is so encouraging. All I can say is me as well, 49, same weight all my life then got fibroids, surgery 3 years ago and now 18 lbs gained weight, not much energy and drive, sleeping 10 hours a night easy.
Susie Bills on December 9, 2018 at 4:06 PM
Hi Ladies, I have struggled with all the above issues too. I have found that balancing my hormones with Homeopathic Bioidentical HGH Gel has been a life saver for me. The weight is gone and the libido is back :) I am happy to answer any question any of you have on this topic. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org . Have a great day!