Hormones and weight gain: what you need to know

Ah … hormones. If you’re a woman of a certain age (or man, for that matter), you probably have a love/hate relationship with them. When hormones are balanced, you feel calm, centered, and like your true self. Off balance, hormones can throw you into a state of irritation, fatigue, mood swings, and all-around unsteadiness. What’s more, hormones and weight are closely connected: if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, hormone imbalances can throw your efforts off-track, no matter how diligent you are about counting calories or how hard you hit the gym.

Hormones and weight management

Let’s take a look at the hormones responsible for maintaining a healthy weight, and what we can do to ensure problematic hormone imbalances become a thing of the past!


You’ve probably heard of leptin, although you may not know exactly what it is. Leptin is all about appetite. It’s also all about fat — retaining it and losing it. Your fat cells create leptin, which then tells the brain just how much fat is hanging out in your body. Low levels of leptin signal hunger, while high levels result in feeling satiated.

As you gain weight, and tip the scales toward obesity, your brain stops registering leptin levels, and slowly but surely, leptin resistance takes hold. This is an issue because developing resistance to leptin can lead to more serious health conditions — heart diseases and diabetes being two such problems.

What to do about leptin imbalances

To keep leptin levels balanced, make sure you’re exercising regularly. A mix of cardio and weight-bearing exercise is best. You’ll also want to focus on getting good sleep, as leptin needs proper rest to do its job for your body and mind.


Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. Your tummy produces it, and it’s responsible for preparing your stomach to process what you eat. When balanced, ghrelin levels are high when you have an empty stomach, and low when it’s full. Stress can disrupt ghrelin levels, causing you to overeat. If you tend to binge eat at night, you’ll want to get a hang on your ghrelin levels.

What to do about ghrelin imbalances

To keep ghrelin levels balanced, be sure to manage stress. Proper sleep is also key. Sleep deprivation raises ghrelin levels, causing you to overeat. You’ll also want to focus on foods that make you feel fuller longer. Think quality sources of protein and healthy fats.


We’ve all heard of cortisol: It’s the stress hormone. And we’re all inundated with stress these days, which makes cortisol notable and newsworthy. Cortisol is the fight-or-flight hormone, and when we have a lot of it surging through our bloodstream, we operate from this mode of heightened stress.

There’s more to cortisol than just the stress factor. It’s also linked to insulin secretion. When cortisol levels are too high, more insulin is secreted, which often results in the accumulation of belly fat as well as an increase in appetite.

What to do about cortisol imbalances

To keep cortisol levels in check, make sure you’re getting really good sleep. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) Healthy sleeping habits are paramount when it comes to healthy cortisol levels. Stress management is also key. Do whatever decreases your stress levels — yoga, walks in nature, aromatherapy, taking baths, swimming, massage — whatever it takes to keep unhealthy stress levels at bay.


This may be a foreign word to you. It’s not a well-known hormone, but it is an important one. Adiponectin is a hormone that helps regulate certain metabolic processes that control how the body uses glucose. It also has an effect on insulin sensitivity. When adiponectin levels are too low, you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as a body mass index (BMI) that’s a little too high for optimal health.

We all have different variations of the ADIPOQ gene, which is the gene that produces adiponectin. That means we’re all going to produce different levels of adiponectin. Some of us will have too much, some too little, and some just the right amount. So, don’t beat yourself up if weight issues are a problem for you. The answer might lie in your ADIPOQ gene.

What to do about adiponectin imbalances

Always remain active and eat a whole-foods diet that’s high in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Healthy exercise habits as well healthy eating habits improve insulin sensitivity, which will help balance adiponectin levels if you’re vulnerable to an imbalance.

Hormones involved in PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS, is a hormonal disorder that disrupts fertility. It’s more common than you might think, affecting 6-21 percent of women in their childbearing years. PCOS often results in insulin resistance, making weight gain and even type 2 diabetes a serious concern.

Signs of PCOS include ovarian cysts, high levels of male hormones, infertility, mood swings, irregular periods, trouble losing weight, low libido, abnormal hair growth on the chin and stomach, and even male pattern baldness.

What to do if you have PCOS

Pay close attention to what you’re feeding your body. Your diet may need an overhaul, and eating a clean diet full of organic fruits and veggies is key. The ketogenic diet, a diet high in healthy fats, has been helpful for women with PCOS. It’s low in carbs, which is good if you’re experiencing insulin resistance. You’ll also want to get proper rest, as sleep is crucial for women with PCOS. In fact, many women with this hormonal disorder need 9 hours (or more) of sleep each night.


Hashimoto’s disease is a serious autoimmune disease that’s characterized by weight gain, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and infertility. It affects the thyroid gland, causing a cascade of hormonal issues related to leaky gut syndrome — hence, the inevitable weight gain.

What to do if you have Hashimoto’s

Eliminate gluten and possibly all grains from your diet. Avoid sugars and any type of processed food. Eat foods that heal your gut. These include bone broth, organic fruits and veggies, seafood, sprouted seeds, beans and legumes, probiotic-rich foods, wild-caught fish, and coconut oil.

As you can see, keeping your hormones balanced to maintain a healthy weight is not always a simple feat, but it can be done. It takes careful attention and diligence to maintain balance. Happy hormones equal a happy life, so do seek the help and support you need to be happy, healthy, and whole.

Need help with your health and weight-loss goals? At Elite Physique, we believe an equal balance of nutrition, activity, rest, and confidence is the foundation for achieving a healthier you. Our personalized weight-loss program is designed to address the underlying factors that often make weight loss difficult, including hormone imbalances. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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