Weight loss on your mind? Focus your attention on hormones, the most powerful molecules in the body. These chemical messengers control every process and function. Often, they’re also behind the reason why you can’t seem to shed those pounds.
This doesn’t mean calories are not important! Losing weight happens when you burn more calories than you take in, but it’s only part of the equation. Without balanced hormones, you’ll be more likely to hold on or re-gain the weight.1
Remember, hormones regulate processes like metabolism, appetite, and fat cell growth. So why not keep them in mind? By looking at the bigger picture, you can approach weight loss from every side.
1. Ghrelin: The Hunger Hormone
Ghrelin is in charge of appetite. Secretion increases right before meals, so you can thank it for that grumbling stomach! It also acts on the brain’s dopamine reward pathway, explaining why food may feel like a prize.2 3
2. Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
When you’re anxious or stressed, levels of cortisol go through the roof. This “stress hormone” activates lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme that converts triglycerides into free fatty acids, or FFA. With more FFA, insulin can’t break down fat properly. Hello, weight gain!6 7
Cortisol also makes it hard for you to differentiate between hunger and emotion. In turn, you’ll be more likely to eat your feelings.8
3. Estrogen: The Female Sex Hormone
Estrogen is what makes you a woman. It’s also known to do bounce around during “that time of the month.” However, if the hormonal dance continues, weight gain is sure to come.
When estrogen is too high, fat cells called adipocytes will flourish. It’s a reaction that’s linked to dairy and meat, both of which are often full of antibiotics and hormones. No wonder a high intake is associated with excess estrogen.9 10
How To Manage Weight Gain Hormones
1. Manage Stress
Stress relief is one of the best ways to control these weight gain hormones. Make time for things that make you feel good, whether it’s a hobby or yoga. Avoid unhealthy stress busters like smoking cigarettes or drinking too much. Remember, stress might be state of mind, but its physical effects are mighty.
2. Get Enough Rest
Sleep and weight go hand in hand. If you don’t snooze for long, both ghrelin and cortisol will increase. Do your hormones a favor and rest for 7 to 8 hours each night.11
3. Stay Physically Active
Exercise has just too many benefits. It’ll reduce stress, regulate sleep, and most importantly – stabilize hormones. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.[ref]How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[/ref]
4. Eat A Plant-Based Diet
Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains don’t just fuel the body with nutrients. They’ll keep estrogen in check, too! But this doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian. If you eat dairy and meat, buy from local farmers that don’t use hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMO).
After you’ve lost weight, don’t give up these habits. Adopting them for life is the key to long-term hormonal balance.
|↑1||Losing Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Lockie, Sarah H., Tara Dinan, Andrew J. Lawrence, Sarah J. Spencer, and Zane B. Andrews. “Diet-induced obesity causes ghrelin resistance in reward processing tasks.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 62 (2015): 114-120.|
|↑3||Meyer, Retsina M., Anthony Burgos-Robles, Elizabeth Liu, Susana S. Correia, and Ki A. Goosens. “A ghrelin-growth hormone axis drives stress-induced vulnerability to enhanced fear.” Molecular psychiatry 19, no. 12 (2014): 1284.|
|↑4||Broussard, Josiane L., Jennifer M. Kilkus, Fanny Delebecque, Varghese Abraham, Andrew Day, Harry R. Whitmore, and Esra Tasali. “Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction.” Obesity 24, no. 1 (2016): 132-138.|
|↑5||Broom, David R., Rachel L. Batterham, James A. King, and David J. Stensel. “Influence of resistance and aerobic exercise on hunger, circulating levels of acylated ghrelin, and peptide YY in healthy males.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 296, no. 1 (2009): R29-R35.|
|↑6, ↑8||Daubenmier, Jennifer, Jean Kristeller, Frederick M. Hecht, Nicole Maninger, Margaret Kuwata, Kinnari Jhaveri, Robert H. Lustig, Margaret Kemeny, Lori Karan, and Elissa Epel. “Mindfulness intervention for stress eating to reduce cortisol and abdominal fat among overweight and obese women: an exploratory randomized controlled study.” Journal of obesity 2011 (2011).|
|↑7||Boden, Guenther. “Obesity and free fatty acids.” Endocrinology and metabolism clinics of North America 37, no. 3 (2008): 635-646.|
|↑9||Gavin, Kathleen M., Elizabeth E. Cooper, Dustin K. Raymer, and Robert C. Hickner. “Estradiol effects on subcutaneous adipose tissue lipolysis in premenopausal women are adipose tissue depot-specific and treatment dependent.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 304, no. 11 (2013): E1167-E1174.|
|↑10||Genkinger, Jeanine M., Kepher H. Makambi, Julie R. Palmer, Lynn Rosenberg, and Lucile L. Adams-Campbell. “Consumption of dairy and meat in relation to breast cancer risk in the Black Women’s Health Study.” Cancer Causes & Control 24, no. 4 (2013): 675-684.|
|↑11||Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, et al. The National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health. 2015;1(1):40–43.|